Divots Tell an Important Story

By: Joel L Nelson

It's simple physics. Newton's third law of motion states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. So if you want your iron shots to go up (i.e. fly toward your target) you must hit down on the ball. But just pounding the ball into the ground is not very helpful advice. So how do you know if you're hitting down on the ball correctly, or if you're just punishing your ball? The answer shouts at you from the ground, in the form of your divots.

If you've watched the PGA Tour professionals on T.V. you know that each iron shot from the fairway, especially anything from a six iron to a wedge, will yield a divot large enough to sod a small yard. If you're like most golfers, your divots mean you've hit it fat again. So what makes one man's birdie opportunity another man's chunk? Very simply put, one man (the pro) hit the BALL first (the action), then drove the bottom edge of his club into the fairway, resulting in a high flying shot (the opposite reaction) and a nice divot. While the average golfer hit the GROUND first (the action) and ended up with a fat shot that went nowhere (the reaction). When you hit the ground first, you have no chance to make solid contact on the ball with your club. You are actually making contact with dirt and that dirt is then being asked to move the ball. Not a good way to accomplish your goal of a high flying, pin seeking, iron shot.

So how can you fix that? Actually, measuring your ability to hit down on the ball is as easy as measuring if your divot starts before you contact the ball or after. The easiest way to do that is to set up for a shot on the practice range the way you would normally set up, but push two golf tees into the ground about one foot above and one foot below the ball. If you're set up correctly you could draw a line from the "top" tee, through your ball to the "bottom" tee and that line would be perpendicular to your target line. Now, hit a practice shot and the tees will show you the line your ball was on, then determining if your divot started before or after ball contact will be easy to see. Keep working until you find your hitting the ball first, then the ground. You should find that when you do that, you hit a sweet iron shot.

If you don't take divots it may mean you are hitting thin, meaning you hit the ball first, but you are not driving your club down into the ball. That means that the opposite reaction in that case is a "skulled" or very low shot that has no backspin and one you cannot control. If that's your problem try this same practice drill, but concentrate on staying "down" throughout your downswing and try to learn to take a divot after contacting the ball.

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