Power Shots

Shape Your Long Ball

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Here are two photos that illustrate two very different impact positions. Obviously the one on the left isn’t good. In fact, it’s bad—very bad!

The most obvious error is that my hands are well behind the ball, and I’ve stayed on my right side. My weight hasn’t transferred forward at all. While it’s obvious that my impact position is incorrect, you’d be surprised how frequently I see golfers look like this. Why? Because they either don’t trust or don’t know that by hitting down on the ball, they’ll get it airborne. They feel the need to lift the ball or “help” it up in the air. What happens instead is that they hit up on it, around the ball’s equator (or even higher) and hit thin shots or just flat out top it.

To sustain your line of compression, I want you to look more like the photo at right. Notice how my hands are ahead of the ball and my weight has shifted to my left side? These two factors tell me that I’ve hit down on the ball. I’ve compressed the ball, and my solid contact will produce the proper trajectory and control. Also, from a power standpoint, the good impact position brings the clubface into the ball with the correct amount of loft, while a player who “throws” the club at the ball is effectively adding loft to his club at impact, turning 6-irons into 7-irons and so on. And more loft equals less distance! A good way to practice this is to make rehearsal swings where you focus on using your body to swing the club through impact to a full finish as opposed to using your hands to “flip” the club at the ball. Your hands, or the grip end of your club, should beat the clubhead to the ball. This is sustaining the line of compression!

If you’ve ever found yourself in a situation like the one I’m in here—behind a tree, with the green about 140 yards away—you know that you’ve got a couple options. Option 1 is to play it safe—be smart and punch it out. And although you may have to do this on occasion, it eliminates the chance to have an easy two-putt par, and quite frankly, it isn’t any fun.

The other, more daring and more powerful option is to blast a shot over the tree and onto the green. If you can pull that off, you’ll improve your chances of making par. Hey, you might even make a birdie.

Here’s how to do it: Before you even consider trying to pull off a shot like this, you have to have a decent lie, and there has to be a “window” for you to hit the ball through or, in this case, over.

Fortunately I have both. In fact, it’s a little bit of a flier, where the ball is sitting up and there’s a little grass between my club and the ball. If you have that, then address the ball as you see here, so it’s in the middle of your stance and your hands are about even with your belt buckle. If they’re too far ahead (or if the ball is too far back in your stance), it’s impossible to hit it high. Then make a balanced, powerful, full swing.

The key to this shot is to pick a club that has enough loft to get the ball over the tree so you can swing down and into the ball. You can’t try to help this ball up in the air. If you do, you’ll probably catch it thin, which will produce a lower ballflight. A confident swing through impact will launch it over the tree, so it hopefully lands on the green.

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