The Fat Shot In Golf: What It Is, What Causes It

Illustration of a fat shot in golf
In a fat shot, the golfer's club contacts the ground prior to contacting the ball. Illustration by William Glessner

A "fat shot" happens when the golfer's club hits the ground prior to making contact with the golf ball. That's not something the golfer ever wants to do (except with bunker shots), and it leads to grass or even a chunk of turf/sod coming between the clubface and the ball. That kills much of the energy of the shot, resulting in the ball traveling shorter distances. The more severely "fat" the ball is hit (meaning the more turf is between the club and ball), the shorter distance the ball will travel.

With irons, a fat shot results in the club really digging down into the turf, producing a much deeper and larger divot than normal - a big, fat divot, which might be the origin of the term.

In addition to resulting in a terrible shot, hitting the ball fat can also be jarring to a golfer's hands, wrists and arms, depending on just how "fat" (how badly the club digs into the turf) the shot is.

A fat shot is the opposite of a thin shot. And while a thin shot, for very skilled golfers, might sometimes be played intentionally, a fat shot never is, and the results of a fat shot are rarely good.

Other Names for a Fat Shot

How do golfers talk about fat shots? By calling them "fat shots," for starters. Golfers might talk about "fatting it," or say, "I fatted that one" or "I caught that one fat" or "I hit it fat."

There are also several other terms used to denote a fat shot:

  • It might be called a heavy shot ("I hit that one heavy");
  • a chunk or chunk shot ("I chunked it" or "I'm chunking a lot of shots today");
  • or a chili dip ("Nice chili dip, partner" or "I chili-dipped that one").

A really bad fat shot might result in the golf ball barely moving, or not moving at all, and a big chunk of turf might wind up on top of the ball. That is embarrassing.

(But every golfer has done it!) This is called "laying the sod over it" or "laying the turf over it."

What Causes a Golfer to Hit It Fat?

A noted above, a fat shot is caused by hitting behind the ball: Your golf club contacts the ground before it contacts the golf ball. Another way of saying the same thing: Your swing is bottoming out behind the ball.

But what causes that?

A couple basic things to check first: Make sure you aren't sitting back on your right side (for a right-handed golfer) with too much of your weight behind the ball - that you aren't leaning away from the ball in the downswing. Make sure your back shoulder isn't too low at address and that your aim isn't out to the right. And make sure the golf ball isn't positioned too far forward in your stance.

Check the Mishit Tip Sheets feature for a checklist of possible additional causes of fat shots.

Ways to Stop Hitting Fat Shots

Hitting it fat a lot lately and need a practice drill to eliminate the fat shot? One we like is described by Gary McCord in Golf for Dummies (buy it on Amazon):

"If you continually hit (fat shots), jam an alignment stick or old club shaft into the ground. Get your nose to the left of the stick, which moves the bottom of your swing forward. Doing so allows you to hit down on the ball from the right position. Make sure that your head stays forward in this shot. Most people who hit an occasional (fat shot) move their heads backward as they start their downswings, which means that they hit behind the ball."

A similar approach to stop hitting the behind the ball (one using an object to block the club from bottoming out too early) is demonstrated in this YouTube video. And you can find many more YouTube videos addressing ways to stop hitting it fat.

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Kelley, Brent. "The Fat Shot In Golf: What It Is, What Causes It." ThoughtCo, Jan. 1, 2017, thoughtco.com/fat-or-fat-shot-definition-1560843. Kelley, Brent. (2017, January 1). The Fat Shot In Golf: What It Is, What Causes It. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/fat-or-fat-shot-definition-1560843 Kelley, Brent. "The Fat Shot In Golf: What It Is, What Causes It." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/fat-or-fat-shot-definition-1560843 (accessed November 19, 2017).