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Clubhead Lag -- the clubhead lagging behind the hands through impact -- is the most important fundamental in the golf swing.

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Hit down on the golf ball, dammit!

Hit down on the ball!Let’s explore the mechanics of the golf stroke: A vast majority of you have already heard that in order to properly strike the ball you have to hit down on it, but do you exactly know why and how to do that?

Take a look at the picture below:

 Hitting down, front view

In order to strike the ball with maximum power, you must use the full leverage provided by the leading arm and the club. Poor players break their left wrist prior to impact resulting in an important loss of power mainly because the lever used is half the length as it should be.

This said, the Golf swing is nothing more than a circular motion of the club and leading arm assembly (also called the Power Package) operating on an inclined plane. The center of the club-head orbit is the leading shoulder. Thus, we conclude that the low point of ANY swing is exactly below the leading shoulder joint!

When you strike a golf ball with the driver, you hit the ball almost in the low point of your swing. But you still must hit down on the ball in a attempt to take an “air divot” behind the ball!

Using a mid iron, you place the ball somewhere between your feet and behind the low point if your swing. Therefore you will hit the ball first then take a divot until you reach low point.

This is why you take pretty deep and large divots with your short irons and less deeper ones with long irons or fairway woods.

Did you noticed that the angle of approach of your club-head hitting the ball then going to low point is pretty steep? Yet, you must aim this way on the golf ball, from wedges to driver!

Hitting down on the ball is vital to produce good swing dynamics and to use the full leverage of the leading arm plus club which in turn translates into power. This leverage is obtained by maintaining a mandatory flat left wrist and a bent right wrist (for right-handed players). You will also notice a very different sound and a solid feel because of the compression of the ball.

If you don’t know that you’ve hit down on the ball, assume that you don’t!

Stay tuned: on the next post we’ll talk about the “out” component of a geometrically perfect golf swing which I’m sure not much of you are aware of!

31 Responses to “Hit down on the golf ball, dammit!”

  1. Troy Vayanos Troy Vayanos says:

    I think it’s a concept most beginner and weekend players still don’t get. I see it is every weekend golfers trying to lift the ball into the air.

    The club is designed for the purpose of working best by hitting down into the grass. Golfers need to work with the club and it’s technology instead of fighting it.

    Great post!

  2. Alex S Alex S says:

    The golf club does not travel in a circle so this image while good is a bit over simplified. In fact the more circular the motion the club is the worse. Things that orbit in a wide circle away from the centre of rotation are harder to move and accelerate due to Moment of inertia.
    Club head moves on an ellipse where it is steep and narrow (close to the body) in the downswing before angles release, arc widens and then shallows out as it approaches the ground.

    • Of course Alex,

      the drawing doesn’t represent the club head orbit during the swing:
      The circle drawn here is here to show that the center of the swing is the left shoulder and to emphasize on what’s happening in the impact zone.

      Many beginners intuitively (and mistakenly) think that it is located somewhere in the center of the body or in the hands.

      Once you realize that its correct location is at the left shoulder, the full leverage of the arm+club forming a line IN THE IMPACT ZONE can be exploited.

      From there it is easier to understand why you must hit down on the ball and how a ball-first turf-second contact is achieved.

      And of course, as you know, during the backswing, the primary lever assembly (arm+shaft) is transformed as a flail as the left wrist cocks. At that moment, the club head indeed draws an ellipse and not a circle but the center of the swing is still the left shoulder.

      Notice also that this swing center will move during the swing as the left shoulder turns during the backswing – but this is of very little interest because it goes back in the correct spot in the impact zone and this is what we really focus on.

      In the impact zone, the primary lever assembly (left arm+shaft) line up again and the drawing makes it full sense here.
      It’s a wonderful tool to understand what’s happening and what’s must be done in the impact zone to play golf like a pro!

      Check the pictures here where you can see a live example of this: Proper Divot Location – Well ahead of the ball!

  3. Lag is King Lag is King says:

    Hogan’s book, “5 Lessons, Modern Fundamentals” was the golf manual for generations. Now it’s the Golf Machine principles that are taught from Hank Haney teaching Tiger all the way down to beginners. That’s just the way it is now. If you want geometric answers they are there. Incredible stuff. Real answers to golf’s questions.

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  5. Exactly where do these trolling geeks come up with this stuff?

  6. Gary V. Gary V. says:

    Just came across your website a couple of days ago. What you are saying makes a LOT of sense to me. You mentioned a new ebook coming out…..any time frame for availability. Also, do you have any videos out or can you recommend one/some? Thanks!

  7. Mark B. Mark B. says:

    Hi John,
    Great Website, I have a question, If you make contrct with the ball then make a diviot in front of the golf ball is it safe to say there was lag in the club.

    • Well, if you have lag in your shot you also certainly have maintained a flat left wrist and maintained the radius of the swing (a line from the left shoulder to clubhead) wich is a good condition to perform a ball-turf impact.

      Without lag, clubhead decelerates. It is then very hard to avoid flipping the wrists.
      This changes the center of the stroke from left shoulder to the hands. At this very moment the hands are almost always not yet to the ball as the clubhead passes the hands.
      Your brain, sensing that you’ll miss over the ball wont’t allow that and will lower something (body, arms, whatever…) … and boom you hit it fat.

  8. Joshua Joshua says:

    Hi John,
    What you teach has the symptoms of The Golfing Machine. Are you a student of this method?

    • Yes, TGM got my attention because my golf level tremendously improved through the understandings of what TGM explains.
      And don’t get me wrong, I’m not a TGM evangelist but as far as now, I haven’t found something else as much logic and sound than that on the planet golf!

  9. wakey 123 wakey 123 says:

    If I`m understanding this correctly,and I only stumbled across this website yesterday,The whole premise of this way of hitting a golf ball is to hit DOWN AND OUT and COMPRESS the golf ball.hence it has to be struck before the low point.Hopefully someone will correct me if I`ve misunderstood.

    • Hi Wakey123
      This is right.

      The way you place the ball relative to low point has a lot to do with the club at hand. But with any club you must go to low point.

      If you don’t go to low point, the geometry of the circle changes and the radius of the stroke will be shortened leading to a loss of leverage and distance.

      • wakey123 wakey123 says:

        Hi John
        GREAT site.I`m a returning golfer(just restarted playing)used to play off 6,but always felt like I wasn`t doing it right(if you know what I mean)always knew there had to be a better more reliable way of moving the ball without Flipping and Steering it,which I now believe is what I was doing,Your site has helped rekindle my desire to get better and now I have a clear definition of what I need to be doing I can`t wait for the snow to clear and get out golfing.Have a Great new year and THANKYOU.

  10. Eric Eric says:

    Great article…Based on the diagram, I’m having trouble understanding how the low point of the club can be below ground level if it is obviously resting on the ground at address. What move is required to lower the position of the swing arc to below ground level, and how much is it supposed to lower? It would seem that an ideal swing would have the low point be at ground level with the ball to the right of this position with no divot taken at all.

    • Hi Eric

      Understanding this concept is vital to your golf game and improvement regardless of any technique you may use for your golf swing.

      The ball is resting on the ground alright. But it is not necessarily located in the bottom of your swing arc.
      I remind you that the center of your swing arc is located at your left shoulder. It means that the bottom of your swing arc (or low point) is ALWAYS located in front of your left shoulder (check here: http://www.golflagtips.com/proper-divot-location-well-ahead-of-the-ball/ ) for ANY shot and ANY club.

      The “ideal swing” you are talking about with low point at the ground level with the ball located at low point too and no divot is intended to be used with the Driver. And the Driver has been made by your manufacturer for that use with no compensations: No hooked face, no leaning forward of the shaft when it is soled.

      Properly hitting an uncompensated stroke with a wedge requires that you comply with the design of the club (it has been built to comply with the geometry of the stroke we are talking about!): Soled on the ground, your wedge will lean forward with the butt end pointing to your left shoulder (your swing center).
      As low point is still in front of your right shoulder, your wedge requires that you dig into the ground to reach low point if you want to hit a perfectly uncompensated golf stroke.

  11. Hi Craig!

    Nice to hear from you.

    I was never fully able to reconcile how much out and how much down I had to really hit. I finally understand now thought

    This is a very important point for everyone reading: The vast majority of Golfers have no idea how much DOWN and OUT they really need to go.

    This is mainly because it is easier to focus on going FORWARD towards the flag.

    The average golfer strikes the golf ball with this mindset:
    FORWARD: 90%
    DOWN: 10%
    OUT: 0%

    He should have those intents:
    FORWARD: 5%
    DOWN: 60%
    OUT: 35%
    which, I admit, is shocking and “violent” (especially with the Driver ;-) !) until you really get a feel for it!

  12. Craig Vogel Craig Vogel says:

    Hi again,

    A quick update I think I figured some things out in my swing. I before I was telling you about how I lean my upper body way to the right and I lose the lag right at the bottom of my swing (also the lower body slides too far forward). Well I think I have finally found the solution.
    It has to do with the 3-D impact: I have always noticed when I try to hit down on the golf shot I pull it to the left. This is do to the fact that when I hit down I shift plane lines and come over the top (I am not sure why).

    The solution is for me to hit down and out simultaneously. I always seem to emphasize one over the other. Before when I was hitting with my torso leaning to the right it was because I was hitting out but I was retracing my backswing arc ie I wasn’t hitting down. For some reason I find it difficult to do it both. Now that I am focusing on hitting out and down as much as possible the results are far more consistent and the shots far more powerful.

    I was never fully able to reconcile how much out and how much down I had to really hit. I finally understand now thought :)

    Anyway thanks for the help


  13. Hi Craig

    Hitting down with the driver is a concept that deserves a post on its own.
    But basically, people struggle with the driver because low point and the ball overlap.

    If you were to play the ball on the ground instead of on a tee and provided you perform a geometrically perfect stroke, there would be no divot. The ball would be picked up clean.

    This alone gives the false idea or feels that there is no “down” or “out” with the driver but only “forward”. This provokes clubhead throwaway.

    The Air Divot image is an effective way to make a player understand the intent of going down and out especially with the driver.

    Consider this: you can hit down as hard as you want, unless you rip off your left arm out of its shoulder socket it won’t stretch beyond the radius of the primary level assembly (left arm + shaft).

    So, even with an enormous effort to go DOWN, you can even easily hit UP on the ball with the driver by placing it AFTER low point. Funny huh?

    Remember that the effort stops at both arms straight, not at the ball!

  14. Clive Clive says:

    Except the emu is not extinct! Nor is hitting down with the driver.

  15. craig craig says:

    Hit down on the ball with a driver? What is an “air” divot? Hitting down on the ball with the driver led to the extinction of the emu. Don’t you have a better description of how to hit the driver?

  16. Yes TGM is fascinating.
    When I discovered it 3 years ago I was scratching my head and thought it was waaaay too obscure and inapplicable…
    I’m glad I persevered!

    The thing I appreciate a lot is that this is not a method:
    You keep your very own swing, your preferences, your personality (Jim Furyk style if you wish!) BUT you do it by respecting the physics and the geometry required for the shot at hand!

    Isn’t that realist and cool?

  17. Interesting John! This TGM is fascinating to say the least. For my over analytic mind it’s kind of fun. Even practice has gotten more focused.

    I’m definitely gaining ground, even if my responses don’t sound like it :)


  18. You ask yourself the right questions Mike:

    The drawings are exaggerated to magnify what has to be seen.

    This is why the ball position is so extreme.
    It is usually placed a few inches prior low point for iron play.

    Nevertheless the principle stays perfectly true: you could very well place the ball as seen there but if you truly go to low point, be prepared to take a divot the size of your shoulder’s width – ouch!!!

    “I always thought that it was “in” to square (impact) to back to “in”. ”

    No sir, you share the vision of a vast majority of amateurs out there who think the center of the circle of the Swing is in the middle of their shoulders…(hint: read the article again to find it’s true location!)

    The only way the clubhead travels DOWN & OUT, hits the ball and immediately goes UP & IN is if you place the ball exactly AT low point – a Drive for example.

    You also mix the target line and the plane line.
    For example, an in-to-out stroke refers as a plane-line looking right of the target-line. This will produce a swing path that will cross the target line: in-to-out RELATIVE to the target line.

    This has nothing to do with the motion of the clubhead on the plane which is always DOWN & OUT to low point independently of the plane orientation RELATIVE to the target-line.

    Understanding all the above geometry is key to know what needs to be done with a club in your hands.

  19. For some reason, seeing the ball looking back on that circle is throwing off my conceptual view of this. It looks like it is back in the stance.

    I always that it was “in” to square (impact) to back to “in”.

    The above looks in to out.

    Can you clarify John?


  20. Love the title of this article DAMMIT. Hitting down on the golf ball to get it up is one of the most confusing things in golf. Thanks for the great graphical insight!

  21. Clive Clive says:

    Hi Michael,

    You may want to check out the “Hit Down Dammit!” website at -www.hitdowndammit.com-. It will teach you everything you need to know to learn to hit down.

  22. Hi Michael,

    Could you be a bit more specific about the flaws in your game?
    Your question suggest that you may hit the ball thin or that your divots (if any) start well before the ball.
    Could you confirm that?
    Also, knowing your handicap can help us giving you the right medecine!

  23. I need to learn to hit down on the golf ball. Please help.

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Aiming-Point Location Driver to Wedges

Aiming-Point: Too far forward

Aiming-Point: Bad location with the Driver

Aiming-Point: Good location with the Driver

Divot Location demonstrated with a Hitting stroke - Swing Sequence

The eye of the Hitter - 3 - Follow Through

The eye of the Hitter - 1 - Address

The eye of the Hitter - 2 - Startdown