Hitting a golf shot sweet is one of the best feelings in sport.
But a lot has to go right for you to hit the perfect shot and one of the most common issues golfers suffer from is what’s known as hitting the ball fat.
A fat golf shot is when a golfer miscues his swing and chunks the ground with their club before they hit the ball.
Hitting your shot fat, or chunking the ball can be costly on your scorecard, as the ball will travel only a short distance after you’ve made impact with the ground, costing you vital yards on the fairway.
It is one of the most frustrating issues that curses a lot of golfers but there are some quick fixes which we’ll be taking a look at and how you can get back to hitting the ball more consistently.
What Causes Fat Golf Shots?
A typical golf swing works in a pendulum motion. In order to connect with the ball properly, the bottom of the arc of the swing should land a couple of inches behind the ball. This means you’re striking the ball on your downswing and taking a divot after you’ve hit connected with the ball.
Take a look at how the PGA pros do it, notice how the clubface hits the ball first, and then strikes the ground.
Typically, when you hit a fat shot, your downswing comes down a lot shallower onto the ball, meaning that your club will connect with the ground a couple of inches before the ball, preventing you from striking the ball flush.
The diagram above shows the swing arc of two different golfers. Line A shows the swing arc of a good golf shot, connecting with the ball on the downswing, and bottoming out behind the ball. Line B shows the arc of a fat golf shot which hits the ground first and bottoms out before or underneath the ball.
This shallow swing trajectory can be caused by a number of factors, from where you place the ball in your stance, to how you distribute your weight through your swing. We’ll take a look at a few of these now and provide you with a remedy on how to fix each.
Depending on the type of shot you’re playing or what type of golfer you are, there is no right or wrong way to position yourself over a golf ball.
Most players will be coached to have the ball slightly further forward (towards your leading leg) in their stance. This is to keep the club central to your body, to help you connect with the ball at the right point in your downswing.
But many golfers will hit the ball fat because they address it too far forwards in their stance.
If the ball is too far forwards, your swing arc will bottom out before you reach the ball meaning you’ll strike the ground too early.
The quick fix is to simply move the ball back towards the central position of your body. Don’t bring it back too far though, as then you’ll do the opposite and thin the ball hitting it too early in your downswing, making a horrible connection causing the ball to spray off low and fast.
Top tip: Don’t widen your stance either. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart on your address. Widening your stance reduces the distance between your body to the ground, but your club will stay the same length, meaning that as you bottom out, the length of the club to the ground will be disproportionate and cause you to strike the ground too early.
Often golfers who hit the ball fat find that they place too much weight on their back leg during their takeaway and on their downswing.
Laterally moving backwards on your downswing and pushing your hips out behind you will move your weight in the wrong direction, favouring your back leg. This will move your swing arc back a couple of inches, causing you to to come down much sooner and narrower on the ball, chunking the turf too early.
The fix for this is a little more difficult and will feel awkward at first, but once you’ve mastered proper weight transfer, you’ll see yourself hitting infinitely better golf shots.
Throughout your backswing, you’ll want to ensure your weight is evenly distributed across both feet. The more you favour your back leg on your takeaway, the more your swing arc will come down too soon. Try to keep your body still and your weight centred over the ball.
The best golfers will transfer their weight through the shot. Take a look at this slow-mo of Justin Rose. Note how Rose’s weight stays over the ball throughout his backswing, and then transitions to his front leg on impact and follow through.
Ultimately you want to move the majority of your weight onto your front leg on impact, turning your hips and pelvis into the shot, which will deliver your hands before you make impact with the ball.
Transferring your weight onto your front foot ensures your swing arc bottoms out at the correct point, allowing you to make a good connection with the ball at the right time.
If your head and body are moving too much during your swing, then you won’t hit the ball correctly.
You’ll notice how still Rose’s head and body are still in the above gif during his backswing, rotating only his shoulders and torso. On the downswing he then winds up his hips and twists into the shot, rising upon impact.
One big problem with many golfers who hit the ball fat is that they crunch down into the shot. Crunching up your body on your downswing means you’ll move your body closer to the ground and your club will strike the turf before the ball.
You want to do the exact opposite. Stay upright, but keep your head and body as still as you can until you make impact with the ball where the natural motion of your swing should cause you to rotate your pelvis into the shot, straighten your legs, and rise up opening your chest after impact.
Plus don’t bend your knees too much when you address the ball. This will again shorten the distance from you to the ground, meaning you’ll have more chance of chunking your shot.
Fixing Fat Shots - FAQ
What is thinning a golf shot?
It’s the opposite to hitting it fat. If you hit a shot thin, you strike the ball too early in your downswing, usually with the butt of your clubface striking high up on the ball. The ball will then fly off at a low trajectory and much more limited trajectory than usual.
How much turf should my divot take?
If you’re taking a deep chunk of ground out after you’ve hit your shot then you’re doing something wrong. Taking too much turf shows that you too low to the ground, try to stand up over the ball more, straighten your legs and grip higher up on your club.
Should I hit the ground before I take a shot out of a bunker?
When playing out of the sand, the tour pros advise you hit a couple of inches behind the ball. This allows you to loft the ball over the lip of the bunker, get more spin on the shot and stops you from topping the ball.
Hitting fat shots isn’t a difficult problem to solve.
It’s purely a case of adjusting your swing arc by working on your weight transitioning and movement over the golf ball to help you connect with the ball better before you strike the ground.
Don’t forget to also re-assess how you address the ball too! Is your stance too wide? Is the ball too far forwards?
Small tweaks to your game can lead to big results on your scorecard.