Mishit Tip Sheets: Fixing Common Faults in Golf

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Faults and Fixes for Common Mis-Hits

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Over the following pages, golf instructor Roger Gunn examines five common mis-hits in golf: the fat shot, thin shot, topping the ball, shanks and skyballs (hitting under the ball on drives).

For each of these mishits you'll find a checklist of faults and fixes - quick tips for diagnosing and correcting your problem.

You can navigate through each page by using the page numbers below or the previous/next arrows on the sides of the image above. Or click the "show all" link below to view as one page.

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Fat Shots

Fat Shot Impact
The club strikes the ground prior to striking ball to produce a fat shot. Illustration by William Glessner

(Editor's Notes: A fat shot occurs when the club hits the ground too soon, creating a cushion of dirt and grass in-between the clubface and the ball, essentially deadening the shot. The tips below are written by instructor Roger Gunn from the perspective of a right-hander; lefties should reverse the directional elements.)

Diagnosing Fat Shots

Grip
Not normally a factor with fat shots.

Set-up
Your weight might be too far to the right and/or your right shoulder might be too low at address. Your aim could be too far to the right.

Ball Position
The ball might be too far forward (toward the left foot) in your stance.

Backswing
You might be taking the club too far inside, away from the target line. Your posture should remain the same without leaning toward the ball or lowering your head.

Downswing
You might be too far to the right on the downswing. Keep your posture without lowering your head toward the ball. Shift your weight! You should have some 80-percent of your weight on the front foot at impact.

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Thin Shots

Thin Shot Impact
Thin shots occur when the clubface contacts the ball near its equator or a little below. Illustration by William Glessner

(Editor's Notes: A thin shot occurs when the club makes contact with the ball near the ball's equator or slightly below, or when the leading edge of the clubface strikes the ball first (called blading the ball). This usually results in a shot whose trajectory is very low, whose distance can be greater than intended, and, often, whose ball flight is unpredictable. The tips below are written by instructor Roger Gunn from the perspective of a right-hander; lefties should reverse the directional elements.)

Diagnosing Thin Shots

Grip
Not normally a factor in thin shots.

Set-up
Your shoulders could be pointing well right or well left at address. This puts the bottom of the swing in the wrong place.

Ball Position
Look for a large deviation from the norm. A driver's ball position should be around the front heel, moving progressively farther back until it reaches the middle of the stance with short irons (photo).

Backswing
The club may be deviating from its gentle arc on the backswing, tracking a path that's either too much inside or too much outside. Posture should remain constant without raising up.

Downswing
No effort should be made to lift the ball into the air by pulling your arms up through impact. Check to make sure the circle of your swing is in the right place by making practice swings to see if you can hit the ground slightly after the ball. (Irons are design to strike the ball with a descending blow - see Hit Down, Dammit! for more on this concept.)

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Topping the Ball

Topped Shot Impact
Topping the ball happens when the clubface contacts the ball above its equator. Illustration by William Glessner

(Editor's Notes: On a topped shot, the ball runs along the ground without getting airborne. This is caused by the club making contact above the equator of the ball. A top can also be thought of as an extreme thin shot, and the checklist is essentially the same for each. The tips below are written by instructor Roger Gunn from the perspective of a right-hander; lefties should reverse the directional elements.)

Diagnosing Topping

Grip
Not normally a factor with a top shot.

Set-up
Your shoulders could be pointing well right or well left at address. This puts the bottom of the swing in the wrong place.

Ball Position
Look for a large deviation from the norm. A driver's ball position should be around the front heel, moving progressively farther back until the ball is near the middle of the stance with short irons (photo).

Backswing
The club may be deviating from its gentle arc on the backswing, tracking a path that's either too much inside or too much outside. Keep your posture constant without raising up during the backswing.

Downswing
Don't try to lift the ball into the air by pulling your arms up through impact. Check to make sure the circle of your swing is in the right place by making practice swings in which you try to hit the ground slightly after the ball. (See Hit Down, Dammit! for more about the importance of striking the ball with a descending blow on iron shots.)

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Shanks

Shank Shot Impact
The club and ball come together at the hosel to produce a shank. Illustration by William Glessner

(Editor's Notes: On a shank, the ball takes off obliquely to the right, and often along the ground. There will often be a mark from the ball on the hosel of the club. The tips below are written by instructor Roger Gunn from the perspective of a right-hander; lefties should reverse the directional elements.)

Diagnosing Shanking

Grip
Not a contributing factor.

Set-up
You might be set up too close to the ball, or be too tall in your setup, or you might have too much weight on your heels.

Ball Position
Having the ball too far forward or back in your stance should not be a factor. But as mentioned, standing too close can be.

Backswing
Watch out for pushing the arms and club away from you in the backswing. The arms should just go with the turn of the shoulders. Also, leaning toward the ball or toward the target with your head can cause a shank.

Downswing
Watch out for pushing your arms away from you in the downswing. Leaning toward the ball (dropping down) or toward the target with your head can also cause a shank.

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Skyballs

Skyball Impact
A skyball occurs when the clubhead reaches impact too low relative to the teed ball. Illustration by William Glessner

(Editor's Notes: A skyball occurs when the club slides beneath the ball when teeing off, with the ball caroming off the top of the clubhead and going straight up. The tips below are written by instructor Roger Gunn from the perspective of a right-hander; lefties should reverse the directional elements.)

Diagnosing Skyballs

Grip
Not normally a factor.

Set-up
Stand taller when hitting a driver. Your stance should be wide with the ball toward your left heel. Your shoulders should be parallel to the target line with the back shoulder some five inches lower than the front shoulder.

Ball Position
You could have the ball too far back in the stance.

Backswing
Your backswing might be too much "up" and not enough "around." The club should be over your right shoulder at the top and not over your head.

Downswing
Keep your taller posture without leaning toward the ball. It should feel like the clubhead is swinging more level to the ground and not so much up and down.

For more advice on skyballs, see Stop Skying Your Driver: How to Avoid Pop-Ups Off the Tee.