Whether you are new to golf or have been playing for a while, you’ve likely heard someone say that you should hit down on the golf ball or hit “more” down on the golf ball. But what are they really saying? This good, albeit ambiguous, tidbit of advice can be confusing to those who don’t fully understand the fundamentals of the golf swing.
To execute an effective, predictable, and repeatable golf shot, especially with our irons and wedges, we need to make sure that we are striking the ball correctly, which means hitting down on the golf ball. But why exactly is that? And how do we actually do it?
Golf as a game is oftentimes counter-intuitive, and learning to swing the club correctly is no exception. It could be quite easy to make the mistake of thinking that in order to get the ball in the air, the club should strike the ball at an upward angle, thus giving the ball flight. If the clubface was flat, then this logic would be valid. But golf clubs are not flat.
All clubs, except certain putters, have some degree of “loft”; that is to say that each club has a different angle at which the ball will release towards its trajectory.
Because of this, if we hit up on the golf ball. Then we are likely going to contact the ball with the bottom of our club, which has absolutely zero loft. Resulting in a topped shot that either bounces and then rolls out a few yards. Or even worse, depending on how high up on the ball we hit, a ball that gets buried in the turf. Take it from me — neither outcome is enjoyable when you’re the one who hit the shot.
Loft and Swing Plane
Clubs such as drivers, fairway woods, and long irons generally benefit from a slightly upward swing plane at impact. This is because they do have so little loft; this is why when we are using these clubs, we need to move the ball forward in our stance. Moving the ball forward will impact the ball on the clubs way upwards in our swing, effectively creating loft.
But for short irons, mid irons and wedges, this will not work. Because the degree of loft on these clubs is too high. The way we move the golf ball with short irons, mid irons, and wedges is by hitting down on the golf ball and compressing the ball into the ground.
This is a crucial concept to understand. And it is absolutely essential that you fully grasp this idea if you ever want to improve your game beyond the level of a beginner.
Compression occurs when the golf ball becomes trapped between the clubface and the ground. The energy generated by the swing is transferred into the ball. Which has nowhere to go except for towards the trajectory determined by the angle and loft of the clubface at impact.
So we aim with our stance, orienting our feet parallel to our intended landing zone. And then we hit down on the golf ball, which compresses the ball between the ground and the clubface. Thus propelling the golf ball towards our target line. But how do we physically do it? And how can we ensure that we always do it correctly?
If you ask somebody how to hit down on the golf ball, the most common advice you will get is to simply move the ball back in your stance. This, like many other old adages in golf, is absolutely incorrect. Your ability to transfer your weight from your back foot to your lead leg through impact will be severely hindered. Which will cost you not only power but also accuracy.
If the ball is too far back in your stance, you will need to compensate in your downswing. Likely leading to a poor shot and possibly even injury. Not to mention you risk developing a bad habit that will need to be corrected eventually.
So, what do we do to correctly make consistent downward contact with our iron and wedge shots? Let’s take a look at a few drills and see how to hit down on the golf ball consistently. Which is guaranteed to result in us having lower numbers on our scorecards.
Stop flicking your wrist through impact
If we want to hit down on the golf ball, then we need to make sure that we are contacting the ball correctly at impact.
This drill will help you fix your technique through impact by solving one of the most common problems people encounter when they first begin trying to consciously hit down on the golf ball. Which is that they are flicking their wrists through impact, trying to create launch.
Subconsciously, we might think we need to help the ball into the air. And so new players flick their wrists in an effort to scoop the ball up and get it airborne.
In reality, though, it is the job of the golf club manufacturer to get the ball into the air; all we can do is use the club as intended, which, with short irons, mid irons, and wedges, means hitting down on the golf ball and utilizing compression to propel our shot forward along the target line.
For this drill, you will need a few things which can be improvised if necessary. You will need to have an alignment stick. If you don’t have an alignment stick, you can use any stick or even another golf club.
You will also need something to elevate the alignment stick approximately an inch to an inch and a half off the ground. Place the alignment stick about a foot in front of the ball perpendicular to the target line, ensuring that it is elevated; if you use another club, ensure that the club’s shaft end is running perpendicular to the target line.
Lock Your Wrists
Now, if you struggle to hit down on the golf ball, then when you approach impact, your wrists may cock forward in an effort to lift the ball. Should this be the case, your club will always finish above the alignment stick because your swing plane at impact will be upwards.
Make a special effort to focus on keeping your wrists locked through impact. So that you will be able to hit the alignment stick one foot in front of the ball.
Make sure there is no ball in place at first. When hitting down on the golf ball, the golf club should contact the ground just in front of the ball. It should leave a small shallow divot where compression occurred.
With a correct strike, the clubhead should be just starting up on the swing plane about a foot beyond the ball. And so when we start locking our wrists and catching that alignment stick, we know we have the right idea.
Forward Shaft Lean
To successfully hit down on the golf ball. You should have a certain degree of what is known as forward shaft lean. That means that following impact, your arms should be in such a position as to allow for the natural loft of the club to contact the ball ahead of the impact zone.
If you strike the ball with the shaft leaning backwards, you are once again going to top the ball, and if your shaft has no lean following impact, you will have a difficult time transferring your weight, which will likely lead to a weak or chunky shot.
A good idea is to lean your shaft forward slightly prior to your swing. The following drill will help you make sure you have the correct forward shaft lean through impact, which will allow you to consistently hit down on the golf ball.
Shaft Lean Drill
So, what you want to do for this drill is set up like you normally would and place a ball at your back ankle but keep your aim at where the ball would usually be. Now take a few swings and focus on not striking the ball at your back ankle.
Once you are doing this correctly, take another golf ball and place it where you normally would for a shot, with the other ball still right behind it on your back foot. The idea is to swing through and contact the front ball without touching the ball behind it.
For you to hit the front ball, without touching the back ball, you will have to maintain the proper forward shaft lean and swing mechanics through impact and hit down on the golf ball. With a bit of practice, you will get the hang of it in no time.
The Low Point
Another way to understand the concept of hitting down on the golf ball is to visualize the golf swing. Now, before you make your swing, the golf club is level on the ground. And as you move the club backwards away from the ball, the clubface becomes open relative to the position of the golf ball. And as you swing through, the face of the club will become closed relative to the ball.
So during every swing, the golf club will reach its height at the top of the backswing. And it’s lowest point or “low Point” at impact. To hit down on the golf ball, the trick is to make sure that the low point is occurring slightly ahead of the golf ball. Causing us to hit slightly downwards on the ball at the moment of impact.
So the first thing you should do for this drill is to ensure that you have the correct ball position. Assuming you have a long iron, that should mean that the ball is roughly in the middle of your stance.
For this drill, you will need the assistance of your golf bag. So what you want to do is take your stance over the ball, and position your golf bag, or an alignment stick, right behind you, touching your back pockets.
Now throughout your swing, the aim is to maintain your posture. Which is critical to ensuring that the low point of our swing will be true to where the club sits when we setup. As you rotate through the shot, you do not want your pockets to come above or below where they were when you set up.
Practice rotating around the swing plane without raising or lowering your back pockets in relation to the aid. You will ensure that you have the correct posture through impact. To be able to strike with the low point of your swing contacting the ball slightly ahead of the impact zone and thus hitting down on the golf ball.
Now you know how to hit down on the golf ball…
To successfully and reliably move the golf ball with irons and wedges, we must hit down on the golf ball and use compression to drive the ball forward towards our target.
It is important you understanding loft, compression, swing plane, ball position, shaft lean, the low point. This plus our posture will allow us to grasp and understand the fundamentals of how we should be swinging these golf clubs. And what our objective is when we are hitting an iron or wedge shot.
By incorporating these drills into your practice regimen. I guarantee you will, quite quickly, begin to develop the feel for compressing the ball.
Remember, it is not your job to get the ball airborne; that is the golf club’s job. Your job is just to aim and swing the club correctly.
By following these tips, you will certainly see dramatic results and lower scores. When you start hitting down on the golf ball. You will be amazed at how much further and how much more accurate your iron and wedge shots become. Trust me, you will never go back to your old swing again.
We hope you enjoyed this guide on how to hit down on the golf ball. If you did we hope you check out some more of our other articles. Such as our guide to proper wrist hinging in your swing or fixing slices in golf.