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:
- Good wedge swings produce good shots only when the ball is positioned correctly in your stance.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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!