Along with topping the ball, hitting the ball fat is one of the most frustrating things any golfer can do, both beginner and experienced.
While it is true that beginner golfers tend to struggle with this error a lot more than intermediate golfers, fixing it is one of the easiest things to do in the game but also one of the most important.
If you are struggling with striking the ball and you tend to hit the ground before the ball, your main priority must be to change this habit as it will impede on every part of game. There is no use in worrying about if your ball is drawing or fading when it’s barely moving more than a few metres off the tee!
As all of us who play the game will find out, fixing a fat shot is relatively easy and can be achieved through a basic understanding of the swing and a couple of easy to remember tips.
While there are some generic causes and fixes to hitting the ball fat, it is always important to remember that every golf swing is unique, so a fat shot can result from a multitude of factors other than the ones discussed in this article.
For this reason, it’s always better to try and ‘work backwards’ by identifying what in your swing is causing the issue (see our guide on best swing analyzers to identify where your problem lies) and then correcting that part instead of going straight to trying to fix it.
How To Stop Hitting The Ball Fat
Most Common Causes
Swaying on the golf swing is never good. Any good golfer or teaching professional will tell you that too much movement of the body towards or away from the target on the backswing is a recipe for inconsistent ball striking. What swaying does is shift the arc of your swing so that the low point is either in front of or behind your ball, thus when you complete the downswing you either end up thinning the ball or hitting straight behind it.
Another common cause of fat shots is setting up too low. This is typically seen when your left arm (for right hand players) remains too bent through the backswing, so that when you initiate the downswing and the weight of club straightens out your arm, the club bottoms out well before the ball. It’s not uncommon to see beginners compensate for this movement by ‘standing up’ at impact, but this response tends to exacerbate the problem, as it leads to even more movement in the swing and is guaranteed to result in more inconsistent ball striking.
Following on from the issue at setup, very new golfers tend to think that they need to bend their legs a lot when hitting the ball. We’ve all seen someone at the driving range who is basically squatting because they are bending their knees too much. In truth, a correct setup should have very little bend in the knees – just enough to be visible – as it does help to create some power and allow the body to rotate.
The final beginners blunder that results in hitting the ball fat is incorrect positioning of the feet. If your right foot is pointing to the right, when you make your backswing your weight will naturally shift towards your right-hand side and it suddenly becomes hard for you to shift it back to the left on the downswing, resulting in hitting the ground before the ball.
Fortunately for all, most of the causes of fat shots revolve around the setup, so fixing them involves changing your static position when addressing the ball and not necessarily your swing itself.
A good setup will have the ball placed somewhere between the inside of your left heel and the midpoint between your two feet, but the exact position will always depend on the club you are hitting. Take some time to experiment will varying ball positions for your different clubs and try to keep these positions constant when you’re out on the course. A quick fix for when you’re hitting it fat during a round is to shift your ball back slightly in your stance so that you are more likely to strike it before the ground.
Next you want to make sure your feet are not spread too far apart and that your knees are slightly kinked and your torso slightly bent over in a position that feels comfortable for you and that allows you to rotate through the ball. Finally, check that your right root isn’t point way out right.
Once you’ve mastered the setup and ball positioning, you can head out to the range and work on improving your ball striking. A great way to do this is to push a tee all the way into the ground about one inch behind your golf ball, and to make a full swing as you normally would. Now compare where the divot is in relation to the tee in the ground. A good strike should result in the space between divot and tee being just more than one inch and fatter strike will result in a shorter and shorter space.
Sometimes it even helps to pick out a specific point or even dimple on the back of the ball and aim to hit that little dimple so that you force yourself to hit the ball first and play through the ball.
Frequently Asked Questions
I don’t feel like I’m making any of the mistakes outline in the article but I’m still hitting it fat – what’s going on?
If you’re not falling foul to any of the basic setup problems then it’s probably your swing causing the fat shots. A bend left arm or ‘chicken wing’ will cause inconsistent striking so maybe try making a few swings with a small soccer ball between your arms to help feel connected and to help make solid contact.
If you have any more questions, please feel free to leave them below!
This article is part of our golf instruction series in our beginners guide to golf.