Fat City Is Not an Option

By Dave PelzJanuary 21, 2002, 5:00 pm
Dave Pelz

After hitting a fat shot (hitting too far behind the ball), most golfers say they got too anxious and 'looked up.' Not only do they say that, they believe it.

When I measure their swings and ball positions, however, I usually find they are playing the ball too far forward in their stance and are making swing compensations with their hands in an attempt to hit the ball cleanly from that incorrect ball position. They go to 'Fat City' not because they look up, but because their balls are positioned too far forward in their stances.

The problem is, these same golfers can hit good shots after a few adjustment swings on the practice tee, after they have a chance to get their compensations and timing correct. But what happens as a result of practicing with poor ball position is that they develop habits of knee dips and wrist flips as they attempt to make solid contact with a ball theyve placed two to three inches in front of where it should be. Then, when they get into pressure situations on the golf course where the first swing counts, the ultimate result is usually the same - poor wedge shots hit fat under pressure.
Be sure you understand the situation:
  1. Good wedge swings produce good shots only when the ball is positioned correctly in your stance.
  2. Play the ball too far forward and youll either hit it fat or be forced to learn 'hand-powered' swing compensations that will make you generally less consistent, and specifically, worse under pressure.
  3. Play the ball too far back and you have about a two-inch margin of error, from which you can still hit playable shots with non-compensating swings, although they will fly a little lower than you desire.

Perfect Contact

You can never learn a non-compensating wedge swing without first learning proper ball position, because only the correct position allows a non-compensating swing to produce solid contact and good shots. Remember these important rules for ball position:
  1. For chip shots, position the ball back in your stance, off the back ankle. You want to hit the ball with a descending blow, trapping a minimal amount of grass between the clubhead and the ball, creating a low, running trajectory.
  2. For all distance-wedge and pitch shot swings from normal lies, when you expect a normal trajectory, position the ball in the exact center of your stance (centered between your ankles, not your toes). Your front foot should be turned toward the target by about 30 to 45 degrees, so the ball should appear to be somewhat back in your stance.
  3. In the bunker, you want to contact the sand behind the ball. Scoot the club under and past the ball, and use the sand to blow the ball out. To hit behind a ball from a good bunker lie, first aim to the left and open your clubface, then position the ball forward in your stance, inside the heel line of your front (toward the target) foot.

Placing the ball in the center or behind the center of your stance in the sand is terrible, because it forces you to move your natural swing bottom (divot) backward, which can be accomplished only by collapsing your wrists or leaning backward and creating a reverse weight shift (neither of which will work consistently).

Most golfers start with the ball too far forward on their wedge shots, particularly chips and pitches, and too far back in the sand. Nearly 80 percent of our Scoring Game School students, even some of the Tour pros, come to our schools with the ball ahead of the swings natural low point on 30-yard pitches and chip shots. Thats why so many of these shots are hit fat. The results worsen when the shot is important: Under pressure, hand and wrist muscles get stronger and tighter, inhibiting the players ability to manipulate them (to compensate for the bad ball position), so they cant accurately control where the divot occurs.

As a result of several years of testing at the Pelz Golf Institute, learning how golfers can best avoid 'Fat City' wedge results, we have developed the following two solutions.
  1. Learn to position your golf ball perfectly in your stance (back ankle for chip shots, mid-stance for pitch shots, forward on lead foot instep for sand shots) and then make pure, non-compensating swings, OR
  2. Close your eyes and take a practice swing next to your ball, and make sure you take a divot. Then move into your address position and position the ball where it will be hit before the start of your divot (assuming you can then swing the same as your practice swing).

Of course, your best short game solution is to come to a three-day Pelz Scoring Game School, a one-day Scoring Game Tour clinic, or watch my Dave Pelz Scoring Game Show on The Golf Channel Academy every week. Barring any of these, just close your eyes and learn to position the ball so you hit the little (golf) ball before you hit the big ball (Earth). Because 'Fat City' is not an option!
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Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.


Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.


Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”

Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)

Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”

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McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:18 pm

The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.

McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.” 

And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.

“I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.” 

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Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 12:44 pm

No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.

Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.

With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.

“This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”

Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson.