Are You A Digger Or A Picker?
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to feel a little pain in my fingers of my right hand if I really get down into an iron shot and dig a deep divot. Early stages of arthritis I guess.

I’ve sure hit my share of irons shots in my life. Aggravating that is that our turf in this part of south Texas is pretty firm, even when it’s wet from rain.

So, I’ve begun to try to re-train myself to pick the ball a little more cleanly with my irons to reduce the wear and tear on my body so that I can play this great game that I truly love . . . for the rest of my life.

I see it as “preventive maintenance” for my golf game. Making a change like this is not easy, but I’m getting there. As I work on this transition, it’s interesting that I’m seeing some side benefits of this more clean contact in addition to the reduced stress on my hands.

First, I’m finding that it is much less distressing to me as I roam from course to course, with various densities of turf, and from dry days to wet days. That’s a huge advantage. Picking the ball a little cleaner make the texture and density of the turf under the ball much less a factor on my trajectory and distance.

Secondly, I’m hitting the ball a little further, particularly with the short irons and wedges. And my distances are much more consistent with my wedges and short irons with this improved trajectory.

Third, the quality of contact with this very slightly descending blow is much improved, and I’m getting lower flight patterns with the shorter irons and wedges, of which I am a big fan.

Mr. Hogan always said that unless you knew how high the ball was going to fly, you had no way of knowing how far it was going to go. Simple, but very true.

The biggest difference I see between the better amateurs and tour players, and the rest of the golf community, is the quality of the flight of the ball. Good shotmakers do not hit high arcing irons shots; their swings produce a ball flight that has a more boring trajectory and flies the same way every time.

So how am I achieving this new crisper, cleaner impact ? I’m focusing on three things:

1) I have moved the ball a little further away from me at address to promote a shallower swing path.

2) I think about keeping my hands lower through the impact zone, closer to my body, so that the club can rotate around my arms with a minimum of unhinging of the wrists. My arms and the shaft never make a straight line in other words.

3) I keep my body core rotating strongly through impact into the followthrough, so that my chest is facing left of the target line at finish.

If you think a shallower swing path and cleaner impact might be right for you, give these tips a try.

I’m sure liking what it’s doing for my game.
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[ comments ]
duffy says:
"Good shotmakers do not hit high arcing irons shots"

That's interesting. I was actually surprised to see how high and arcing the shots of professionals were when they started showing flight path with that "tracer" technology.
Steve S says:
Terry, I suffer from an extreme case of arthritis and have been picking the ball off the turf for the very same reason-pain on the divot! My irons are all hybrids with very wide soles and the divot I take is minimal to say the least. The only real bladed irons I use are the 48*, 54*, and 60* wedges that I use from 80 yards and in with less than a full swing. I re-read your previous article on Impact-Hitting it thin to win and have been trying to hit the equator of the ball with some good results. I do have a set of bladed irons - I just might try my 8 iron using your suggestions above and in your previous articles and see how I do .
Thanks for the tips.

Jim says:

I couldn't agree more. I have shallowed out my swing path a lot from being a huge divot digger to very little divot on short irons due to working on my swing and changing my angle into the ball. It really does help when you vary conditions like bent fairways to bermuda. I think it is very hard for amatuers to do since they are just trying to make any contact whatsoever. Great article for the better player though because it really does change your game.
wedgeguy says:
As for the "tracer" technology, I have a hard time believing what I'm seeing here, as very often the tracer makes it look like the ball takes off with a draw trajectory, then falls to the right, like a fade. I can't imagine how the laws of physics can be manipulated like that. Also, however, the perspective of this view appears from ground level and to the right of the target line, so that is distorting as well. But it is fun to watch, I'll admit.
new2golf says:
I change my swing from flatter to more upright depending on the shot I want to hit as well as the turf conditions . Flatter goes farther for me as well, and I use flatter a lot in wet conditions . I use upright more when I'm shaping a shot because I find it easier to over-cook a shot shape with a flatter swing. These are also my reasons for refusing to get a club fitting.

As for the draw/fade shot that we sometimes see with the "tracer" view, this can be explained via physics. The shot shape changes because the spin axis of the ball is not a constant during the flight of the ball. The spin axis rotates and so the lift created by spin changes accordingly.

-Greg, part-time golfer, full time rocket scientist employed at NASA Johnson Space Center.
Mike says:
Dang ! I guess my line about golf not being rocket science just got blown away !

Stick around Greg, we may need your help with more myth bustin' !
wedgeguy says:
That's interesting, Greg. Like Mike says, stay tuned as I'm sure we can use you here . . . . a lot!
New Zealand Golf says:
I take a huge divot every time I play my irons and I like it. It gives me an sense of style.

Tim says:
I think people watch a lot of TV golf. Pros will take out nice slabs of earth as they come down hard on their irons to create a lot of work on the ball. Unless you have this sort of control I think taking out a divot any bigger than a dime or any divot which comes out behind the ball is probably just a miss hit.
Tim Horan says:
I can see great benefits of a shallower swing path and lower hands but therein "lies" a problem. Lowering the hands and flattening the swing will change the shaft angle at attack and the lie angle that some of you will have spent $ in getting right will now be wrong.

That difference will be evident in accuracy.

For right handers (left kickers the opposite will apply)... shots will tend to fire left due to the heel of the club connecting with the ground first.
There is also the probability that due to the flatter swing the shot will also draw or hook away.

I guess what I am warning against here is ditching the programme too soon. Assess the feel and trajectory first, if need be have one or two clubs adjusted as necessary and then see how you feel about it.
wedgeguy says:

You are correct, and my opinion is that our "fitting" process has locked too many golfers into long and upright irons, from which most will never hit quality golf shots that often. This, like any changes, should be done in small doses, and if any of you make the changes I discuss and find the heel digging a little, have your irons adjusted a degree or two flatter. Proper fitting is key to better golf, but beware of fitting a poor swing path, as you will be trapped there. The tallest guys on Tour are not playing their irons overly long and upright!!!
BMcDonald says:
Am I the only one who can raise his hands to both sides of the question? As my swing changes based on club. When hitting with the 1 iron through 7 iron, I pick the ball as I seem to get more of a flat ball flight that really takes off. And from my 8 iron through 60* LW I take a "dollar bill sized divor" producing a much higher arcing shot. Which I find very accurate from 100 yards in. I guess my question is, Is this bad practice? Could that be the reason I tend to be less accurate off the tee and during my long second shots? Should I pick through all? Or vice versa?
bossanovawitcha says:
/bump BMcDonald question
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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