All too often the pleasure of walking up to the result of a beautifully struck tee shot is quickly replaced by the misery of thinning your approach over the green or worst into a hazard. There is no doubt the thinned golf shot is one that immediately dents your confidence. It leaves you feeling foolish and perplexed at how inconsistent your golf game really is!
The reality is that you may just get lucky with such a shot, because when you play a thinned approach it usually travels in a straight line and often further than you intended. Where your ball finishes is really in the lap of the gods and you may end up with either a good “bad one” or in trouble. Let’s just say it’s particularly ugly when you thin a chip close to the green, first you see the ball fly over the green, then the fringe and finally into deep rough or a bunker. The bottom line is that this is one shot you need to remove from your repertoire, it’s just too costly to have a golf swing prone to thinning the ball.
I’m sure you are all too familiar with the thinned shot hit on a winter’s day, where you feel the shaft shudder and a definite sting in your hands. It’s definitely true to say newer clubs are more forgiving but I certainly remember as a child some very painful thinned shots. Today the club heads are thicker, and perhaps the feeling isn’t as painful, but nevertheless the sheer frustration is just as great!
This article concentrates on how to avoid thinning the ball in the future by explaining the necessary corrections you can easily start to practice on the range before building into your full swing. First tough, before we jump into the specifics it important to clarify that apart from being called a thinned shot, some people call it a bladed shot, some also call it a skulled shot. Either way it’s definitely an exasperating mis-hit and only luck determines how penal it will be in each circumstance. Whilst it’s fair to say you haven’t topped the ball, an altogether more agonizing shot, as described here in “How To Stop Topping The Golf Ball” it’s equally safe to say you haven’t exactly hit the ball like you know you can.
In many situations the sight of the ball scuttling along the ground is instantly followed by an analysis of what occurred just seconds before. You can almost hear the golfer’s thoughts as they work overtime to fathom out how they can swing so well one moment and not the next. Unfortunately this is an all too common occurrence and typically the golfer needs to prevent themselves from thinning the ball again by investigating their own core swing fundamentals. All of which are addressed in the instructional advice and tips described below.
Fortunately you will soon know how to stop thinning balls. In time you will learn how to compress the whole of the golf ball and not just hit half of it. The following tips explain exactly what is meant by hitting the ball thin, the main reasons it happens, the exact causes for this mis-hit, and several cures to prevent this from happening again. Then finally you are presented with a set of drills to practice elements of your swing that are making you thin the ball. Successful repetition of the drills will allow yourself the opportunity to swing naturally and consistently without any conscious thought of any swing mechanics.
The good news is that you will shortly hitting balls out of the sweet spot, but before that happens we need to define exactly what a thinned golf shot is and how it is caused.
What Is A Thin Golf Shot?
A thinned shot is one where the leading edge of the club face strikes below the equator but not at the very bottom of the ball. If you hit above the equator you will top the ball and send it only a few yards forward. Ideally the ball should hit the middle of the club face, as you drive the ball forward allowing the loft of the club to do the lifting. Unfortunately as we are all too aware this doesn’t always happen and thus I would like to draw your attention to 11 different causes for thinning the golf ball.
What Causes A Thinned Golf Shot?
To prevent you from thinning it’s important to firstly understand what is causing it to happen. There are a number of reasons as to why you are hitting thinned golf shots, all of which are explained in full detail below.
Each one addresses why the leading edge of your club is striking the ball on its equator or below, but not at the bottom. They clarify what’s preventing you from hitting crisp shots off the fairway with a descending blow that creates a divot after the ball.
So let’s highlight and clarify several swing fault causes related to thinning you may have never considered. Only when you understand these causes can you move on to work out a remedy.
Here are the 11 reasons why golfers thin their golf shots.
1. You raise up during your backswing or downswing
During your backswing or downswing it is important not to raise your body otherwise you will be likely to thin the ball. The leading edge of an iron will thin a ball if a player slightly straightens their hips during their swing. Refrain from lifting up during the backswing because in doing so you pull your swing arc up a fraction and this is enough to significantly alter the point at which the ball is struck. Thus it is crucial to try and keep a consistent height throughout your golf swing. Try not to move your head up and be aware that your spine angle needs to be the same at address and impact.
2. You sway during your golf swing
Once you swing in a manner that alters your swing arc you are likely to mis-hit it on occasion. One way to change your swing arc is by simply swaying while you swing. This results in the lowest point of the arc moving an inch or so before the golf ball. Thus you will strike the ball on your upswing with a tendency to hit it just below the equator causing a thinned shot, or worst above causing a topped shot.
3. You swing too flat or steeply
A swing that is too flat can create a position at impact where it is difficult to make a solid contact. Equally this can happen if you are swinging too steeply whereby you are making a limited should turn and lifting the club too abruptly.
4. You hit from the top
The natural tension you build up in your backswing should be the driving force for a solid downswing. Overriding this with an emphasis on starting the downswing with your arms and hand is recipe for disaster and is known as hitting from the top. This leads to a number of common swing faults including thinning the ball.
5. You look up too early to see where your ball has gone
Most golfers are guilty at some stage of looking up to see where their ball has gone before actually hitting it. Unfortunately this can lead to thinning the ball because in moving the head up to look the body also rises up at the same time. As the body moves up, the clubhead finds itself on a new swing plane, one that will typically be an inch higher than intended. Thus the net result is the leading edge of the club hits the ball further up and nearer its equator than planned, leaving the golfer to ponder if only they had kept their head down than they would have never thinned their shot!
6. You are incorrectly transferring your weight
Too many players thin the ball due to poor weight transference. This is a situation where they are left leaving their weight on their back right foot as they try to lift the ball. The worst example being where one swings with a reverse pivot. This happens when the player’s weight is on their left side at the top of their backswing. Thus from this position they can only swing down and incorrectly transfer their weight away from the target to the right. The end result is a steep downswing that leaves the player susceptible to a thinned shot.
7. Your grip is turned around to the right
You can easily prevent a proper release through the ball at impact by having your grip turned around too much to the right. This makes it difficult for you to keep the club close to the ground after you have hit the ball. It’s recommended you refer to this article on “How to Grip a Golf Club Correctly” if you feel your grip is causing you to thin the ball.
8. You aren’t taking divots
Generally a low handicap player will consistently take a divot and this is because they commit to hitting down on the ball with a descending blow. Typically a larger divot is taken with the clubs with the greatest loft because the player is hitting down more. A beginner is often afraid to take a divot and believes that they should be hitting the ball flush off the fairway. This leads to an array of thinned and topped shots because there is too small a margin of error for someone who has just started playing the game.
Remember you need to commit to hitting down, and make a descending strike on the ball. Forget about trying to lift the ball up, let the loft on the club do the work. The ball will roll up the clubface when you hit down on it.
9. You have tension in your golf swing
Tension will cause you to shorten your swing arc resulting in the club being pulled away from the ground by a matter of a few millimeters. This is enough for you to thin the ball. As tension creeps in we begin to lose our tempo and start to rush our golf swing. By rushing we swing too hard and too quick. This leads to the arms bending at impact and in effect contracting them and narrowing the width of the swing arc. You will find yourself swinging with your grip behind the ball, thus increasing the chances of the ball being hit below its equator but above the ground.
Crucially the left arm should be straight at impact with a slight bend in the right arm. Make sure you don’t stick your right elbow out towards the target at impact, this “chicken wing” position should be avoided. You need to keep the arc as wide as possible and this can be achieved by keeping your left arm straight.
10. You swing with your ball too far forward
By setting up with the ball too far forward in your stance you will find you can only actually hit the ball on your upswing. In moving the swing arc forward you produce a divot behind the ball and only catch the ball as you move past the bottom of arc.
11. You don’t rely on the club’s loft to get the ball into the air
Remember the loft of your golf clubs will automatically lift the ball into the air. Many beginners forget this. Please resist from pulling up your arms during impact as a way to get the ball in the air. This can easily happen when playing fairway and long irons because you subconsciously believe these clubs have insufficient loft. This is a beginner’s trait but it can haunt an experienced player as they start to get in the way of themselves and simply don’t let the club do the work it was designed to do.
You only have to bend you arms a touch and you will automatically narrow the swing arc. This simple action will make you thin the ball because the club head hits the ball around the equator due to a reduction in the width of the swing arc. Thus the key lessons to learn are to trust the loft on your clubs and start to stretch your arms if you in anyway feel you are bending them.
Having learnt the reasons why you are thinning the ball you are now in a good position to use the following 6 cures to fix this fault.
How To Cure A Thin Golf Shot
Thankfully there are ways to cure your thinned shots. The following 6 cures will show you how to hit down and through the ball. As ever it is important to keep a good posture and ensure your left arm extends through impact with your elbows together. Learn to make this happen so as you can guarantee the clubhead will make impact in the same position each time at the bottom of the arc.
1. Keep a constant body height during your golf swing
As mentioned above raising your downswing or upswing will lead to you thinning the ball. This can be cured by ensuring you are rotating around the spine. Additionally work to keep your weight on your right side during your backswing and prevent yourself from straightening up by flexing your knees.
2. Ensure your golf swing has an arc as wide as possible
Create a wide arc by learning to take the club back low to the ground for the first foot of the takeaway. At the same time maintain a straight left arm and make sure you don’t collapse your wrist at impact. Working on maintaining good posture also leads to a wide golf swing arc.
3. Make a divot after the ball and not before
The concept of taking a divot can be an alien one for many beginners. Instead they look to hit it flush with not much success and in doing so they top and thin the ball. Thus I recommended you learn to cure your thinned shots by striking the ball on the descent so as you create a proper divot after the ball. A good tip is to remind yourself of this fact particularly with your fairway woods and hybrids as they also should also be hit with a downward blow.
4. Make sure the ball is positioned no further forward than your left heel
Position the ball no further forward than the left heel so as you avoid hitting on the upswing that can lead to thinning. Read this article “Proper Golf Stance Setup Tips” for advice on how to set up properly.
5. Keep your eye on the ball
You can cure your thinned shots by making a conscious decision to keep your eye on the ball and your head down. Only through the momentum of the follow through should your head come up. This way you won’t come out of the swing too early.
6. Check your weight transference
If you feel your left knee and shoulder dipping during your swing it means you have more than likely moved your weight to your left side. In this position there is no where to go and you have to transfer the weight to the right thus leading to a thinned shot as you raise the swing arc and your left side together. If you can correctly cure your weight transfer so as it is on the right side at the top of your swing you will reduce your chances of thinning the ball.
Having learnt what a thinned shot is , what causes it and 6 cures you can now move onto the next step to ingrain these corrections into your full swing. Thus make sure you add the following drills and fixes into your practice routine.
Drills and Fixes To Stop Thinning Golf Shots
These drills can be used to fix your problems thinning the ball. Learn to burn them into your subconscious so as they naturally become part of your swing.
1. How to avoid swinging with a flat swing plane
If you are tending to hit thinned golf shots due to a flat or rounded golf swing you should consider using this drill. Tee the ball up with a seven iron and about four inches behind it place another tee into the ground. Now if you swing with your flat swing you should find your club is catching the second tee behind the ball. Equally with the same swing you are likely to catch the second tee on your downswing. To improve your swing and make it steeper you should make a correction to your takeaway whereby you lift your club to avoid the tee behind the one you used to tee up your ball. Having lifted your club you should go on to make a full swing, over time by practicing this drill you will fix the plane of your swing so as it’s steeper and less likely to cause thinned shots.
2. How to swing on an upright plane
As mentioned previously a flat golf swing will make you prone to thinning the golf ball. If this is the reason you believe you are hitting poor shots along the ground you should consider using this drill to help you swing more upright. Set up as if you were going to hit a ball with your back just several inches from a wall. Now slowly start your takeaway keeping a careful eye on your clubhead. You can confirm the fact that you have a flat swing by hitting the wall fairly early on in your swing. Compare this to a golfer with a good upright swing plane where they will almost be able to complete their swing without touching the wall. Use the wall to alter you swing plane and recognise by what degree you need to change your flat swing.
3. How to take a divot correctly
It is important to hit down on the ball and create divots. Doing this will compress the ball and create a far better ball flight. One way to practice this is by playing half shots. Take your club back to a 9 o’clock position and follow through to a 3 o’clock position and simply concentrate on taking divots. I recommend mentally picking out a blade of grass in front of the ball and force yourself to drive down through the ball so as you cut right through the ground below the grass blade you are concentrating on. Once you have mastered this you can try some full shots to see whether you can take the same sized divots you did with you half swing.
4. How to hit the golf ball with a descending blow
It is paramount you make a descending blow so as you strike the ball properly. By learning to hit down on the ball with a good angle of attack you will quickly be able to say goodbye to your thinned shots. Try this drill. Take a stance with your weight evenly distributed, then pull your right foot back a foot and lift this foot so as you are are perched on your toe Next more your right foot slightly towards your left left. In effect you have made your stance narrower and all of your weight is on your left hand side . This setup forces you to strike down on the ball and in doing so create a divot. After several shots this way go back to your full swing and try to replicate this action of hitting down.
5. How to stop from swinging too steeply
Just like a flat swing can cause you to hit thin shots, one that is too steep will also cause this problem. The steep swing starts with the club being lifted and a limited amount of shoulder turn. This action results in a sliding motion, one that makes it difficult for the golfer to make full contact with the ball. You can correct this by concentrating on taking a wide swing with your arms and making the effort to have your back face the target at the top of your swing. In doing so you will wind up your body rather than sliding and consequently decrease the risk of thinning.
I recommend you also look at the drills on how to stop topping the ball as the difference between a topped and thinned shot can be fractions.