Divot Patterns

It has often amazed me how a golfer's personality tends to shine through in the manner in which they practice. Some are neat and tidy while others seem to be all over the map! Good golfers however, always seem to manage their practice sessions and the turf they have at their disposal. Creating good divot patterns when you practice might not be the key to you shooting under par, but you'll look good and might even make a few friends while you're at it...

The Excavator

The Excavator

The excavator tends to:

  • be a more experienced and often, better player
  • clear cut any and all life forms from the rectangle where they've been hitting irons
  • make it very difficult for the turf they use to grow back in a timely fashion
  • cause the practice tee to be uneven and wavy
The Roamer

The Roamer

The roamer tends to:

  • use up as much space on the practice tee as is humanly possible
  • be a type AA personality
  • not be too bad for turf growth and management
  • makes it very difficult for the golfer using the space behind them
The Striper

The Striper

The striper tends to:

  • be an experienced, better golfer
  • is efficient with turf usage - they get the most out of the space they use
  • make it easy for the turf to recover and fill in
  • use an alignment aid to help both their golf and divot patterns
  • is a friend to superintendents everywhere

This video with Chris Young, head superintendent at Berkeley Hall, will help you get the picture...

If you feel this article and video could be a help to golfers and superintendents where you play and practice please share it with them. This is a must share for all excavators and roamers you know.

Thanks for tuning in.

Golf Impact Errors

The Moment of Truth

Impact is the most important part of the golf swing! The ball spends an average of 1/2000 of second on the face of the club, yet it is during this time that it receives it's all-important travel itinerary.  How high; how far; what curvature; spin rate; and ultimately what destination is all determined in that fraction of a second.

The above picture is an ideal impact position.

  • The weight is comforably on the front foot
  • The handle is leading the clubhead into the ball and  the clubhead is travelling slightly down for a ball-first, divot-second strike
  • The head is over the ball with the weight in front of the ball leading to body curve

There are only three errors a golfer can make at impact and here they are:

Head and Weight Back

In this example the head has worked back behind the ball too much and the weight remains on the back foot.  This  golfer scoops the ball off the turf and tends to hit weak, high fades and slices with the occasional pulled shot.  Should a divot occur it is most often before the ball is impacted.  This is a typical what I would call "weekend warrior" swing.

Head and Weight Forward

In this example the golfer has found a way t0 "squeeze" the ball and actually strike it fairly well, however, due to the upper body being positioned in front of the ball, direction is a major challenge.  Divots are quite deep and this golfers' tendencies will be to hit pull draws with the occasional push or flare.  There is not enough body curve in this mid-level impact position.

Head Too Far Back with Weight Forward

This impact position is invariably the demise of the better golfer.  Here the golfer has found a way to attack the ball from the inside while still delivering a downward blow to the ball, yet there is too much of a good thing.  The head hangs back while the hips drive to the target, dropping the clubhead too far to the inside and encouraging the hands to flip through impact.  This golfer will tend to play well with good timing, but should things get nervy they will hit blocks and quick, sweeping hooks.

Analyze your shot pattern on the golf course and start to get an idea as to which of the above categories you fall into.  Get in front of a mirror and work towards improving or tempering certain elements of your impact position.  As you do this remember feel is very seldom real when it comes to golf.  Create the correct look in the mirror and then absorb what that 'look' feels like and take that out to your next practice session.

Additional Resources:

Impact - I Suck At Golf

Golf Swing Impact Position

Golf's Contact Zone

The Science Behind Superb Wedges: Part I

For years golfers have asked me how to hit low, spinning wedge shots and I've never been able to give them a confident response.  After the research I've put in over the past few weeks I can give them a certain answer - and perhaps even explain a few other interesting shots we encounter on the course.

In polling better golfers regarding what really good pitch shots look like, the response has almost unanimously been that they tend to be lower with more spin.  Edoardo Molinari, the European Ryder Cup golfer and former US Amateur champion was kind enough to help with the research for this article and he stated,

I've watched Tiger, Mickelson and Ernie hit hundreds of 50 yds shots, I've played with them and they all seem to deloft the club without taking much divot.

Which I agree with by the way - the best pitchers always seem to have a knack for nipping the ball off the turf without much divot and then firing the ball in there low and spinning.  The problem with this shot has always been how to hit it low, yet make it spin at the same time....

If you hit down on the ball you'll be able to hit it lower, but hitting down more only lowers height and does not, as is commonly believed, make the ball spin more.  So that option is out.  If we take a more lofted club to spin it more then we may get a little extra spin (although that's not a given), but now the shot will fly too high.

Here is where we need to get a little technical and talk about the forces and angles the club is imparting on the ball at impact.  TrackMan uses a term spin loft and it refers to the vertical difference between where the clubhead is travelling at impact (attack angle) and where the clubface is angled at impact (dynamic loft). My research shows that good wedge players have a narrower spin loft (dynamic loft minus attack angle). Let's get a better understanding of these important factors:

Attack Angle (angle that indicates if the clubhead is travelling up or down, relative to the ground at impact)

In studying hundreds of 50 yard pitch shots on TrackMan over the last few weeks I have found that good pitchers tend to not take very large divots.  Yes, they always contact the ground, but the club 'bruises' the turf more so than cuts it.  This would indicate that the attack angle is shallow - it is down but not hugely so.  Now hold on for the following part, because this should not change the way you think about a club striking a ball: my research shows that the attack angle should be shallow enough so that the sole of the club (bounce) actually makes contact with the grass/ground before the ball.  And this occurs even on ideal hits.....

Dynamic Loft (the angle of the face/loft at impact)

Really good pitchers have the ability to deloft the club without hitting down more.  This means that the hands are in front of the ball at impact and the loft on the clubface is often more than 10 degrees less than the static loft. For example in much of the testing a 54 degree wedge would apply 41-44 degrees of dynamic loft to the ball.

Spin Loft (dynamic loft - attack angle)

This is a very important factor as it contributes to, but does not solely determine, how much spin and loft each shot will have.  If you hit a pitch shot with 42 degrees of dynamic loft and you have an attack angle of -3 degrees (the minus indicates a downward hit) your spin loft would be 45 degrees.  Common wisdom indicates that a broader spin loft (eg. 50 degrees) would create more spin and height, yet my research indicates that when it comes to chipping and pitching a slightly narrower spin loft (without much downward hit), coupled with clean contact between ball and face increases the golfers ability to hit low spinning wedges. An easy way to narrow your spin loft with pitch shots is to take a lesser lofted club.  My students have had tremendous results by using the lob wedge less and getting a little more accustomed to hitting a variety of  shots with the pitching wedge.

Friction Launch (the amount of grip between face and ball and how that effects launch conditions)

This type of strike on the ball leads to a scenario where the friction between the face and the ball is far higher than normal.  This increased friction leads to a lower launch and trajectory with a substantially higher spin rate.  This grip between the ball and face is what I call 'friction launch' and just like the term spin loft it addresses the friction and launch of any shot.

As golfers we've all hit that pitch shot that comes off the face very low and the moment you strike the ball you know it's going to grab as soon as it hits the green. Your playing partners are yelling bite and as soon as the ball gets near the hole it comes to a screeching halt!  You have just experienced high friction launch.

Please check back in a few days for the follow up post The Science Behind Superb Wedges: Part II where I'll discuss friction launch in detail and show the results of much of the research I've done.

To get a much better look at the data be sure to read Part II HERE

Divots in Golf

I believe that divots -- at least with irons -- are integral to great ball striking. It’s been my experience that most golfers are not aware of the importance of divots, or what a good divot should look like. Here is a detailed description of what makes up a proper divot:

Read More

Golf Impact Drills

In order for a golfer to improve their ball striking they must get into a better impact position.  Here are a few tried and trusted impact drills to help you get to where you need to be: (Use a seven or eight iron when a club is required in all of the drills below)

  • The first drill is the down slope drill.  Simple enough!  Just watch for allowing your upper body to sneak down the hill as well - try to ensure your head remains over the ball.  At address, make sure you maintain a regular ball position.

Downslope Drill

  • The impact bag drill.  Another fairly straightforward exercise here, but the benefit lies in the details.  When the club impacts the bag be sure to get the shaft to contact the upper part of the bag before the club head gets there.  This will ensure that the handle leads the clubhead.  Also, save your joints, club and impact bag by not whaling away at the bag too hard.  You just want a feel to carry over to the real deal.

Impact Bag Drill done Correctly

  • The 'hip press' drill.  This is a great drill that will give you a very good sense of body position at impact and also provide you with an amazing stretch.  If you slice or fade the ball this is for you! Set up to a ball without a club and your hands on your hips.  While maintaining your head position over the ball drive your hips as far toward the target as your body will allow.  Your back heel should come off the ground slightly as you feel the back leg straighten.  It will feel like you are pointing at the ground with the big toe on your back foot!  Hold for five seconds and release.  Afterwards try this with a club in your hands.

Hip Press Drill

  • The towel/line drill works wonders for compressing the ball and taking those ideal 'bacon strip' divots.  It ensures that the golfer shifts the weight onto the front foot at impact.  Practice as pictured, making sure the towel provides a slight amount of elevation and all the ensuing divots occur forward of the line of golf balls. 

The Towel/Line Drill in Action

To get a little more sizzle on your shots, irons or woods, try the above drills!

I look forward to the Open Championship tomorrow.  Golfweek has a great slideshow that captures the vibe.  The weather looks good and the rough looks brutal.

It seems that the two Scottish greats, Monty and Sandy Lyle are feuding over who should be Ryder Cup captain first and who cheated! Shame on ya wee laddies!

I look for Padraig and Rory to perform nicely! Here are the latest odds. 

Enjoy!

Divotology

Divots are one of the greatest tools that golfers have available to help them analyze the physics they are imparting on the golf ball. 

Here are some simple pointers and facts about what your divots should look like: (speaking as a right hander)

  • A post impact divot indicates a descending, downward blow on the back of the ball.  This is imperative for good ball striking. I encourage all golfers to take divots with all full swings off the ground other than the driver.
  • A proper divot should begin just forward of where the ball touches the ground.
  • The deepest point of a divot should be three inches forward of where the ball touches the groundBobby Clampett in his book, The Impact Zone, states that it should be four inches, but that would mean the divot should be eight inches long and I haven't seen many good divots that are eight inches long.
  • The optimal length of a divot is six inches, but this is often effected by turf conditions.
  • There should be very little dirt showing in the divot, with just the 'green' or leaves being stripped from the stems of the grass.  Leave the roots behind so the grass can fill back in! Once again this can be effected by turf conditions.
  • The correct line for a well struck straight shot should be slightly to the left of the target (for right handers).  This is due to the fact that the divot occurs after the hit and at that point the club has already started to move back to the inside.
  • The entry and exit points should be square.  We want dollar bills, no trapezoids!

A Good Divot

In the above picture notice how the tee has been pressed into the ground.  This indicates that the ball was struck prior to the start of the divot - just as it should be!  I also like the fact that the roots are still visible in the dirt.

Firstly, take divots! Secondly, work to refine them, so that they take on the correct shape and direction!  When that starts to happen, you are playing some special golf!