There are many areas where I take issue with common instructional tips, but the thought behind “Hit Down on the Ball” is near the top of the list. If you look at the players on tour hitting divots and hear announcers declaring how they are hitting down, it is easy to see how this whole issue has been brought forward.
The problem is how golfers “interpret” the information. There are many moves in a professional swing that allow players to take a divot, but the main thing we should note is that they take a divot with the clubhead coming into the ball “On Plane.” As you can see in the photos, my body is rotating ahead of the clubhead with the club coming on a path that was established at my address position. With the club behind the body and on plane, a tour player will reach impact with the right arm still bent and under his left arm. As the tour player is applying power “through the ball,” the right arm extends and the club will take a slight divot.
You’ll hear that 70 percent of the amateur world hits the ball with cut or slice spin, and I believe that figure is correct. The main culprit is that the amateur swings the club from a more outside-in swing path. This outside-in path is usually caused by the upper body, mostly the hands and arms, starting down to the ball too quickly, producing a path that is now above swing plane. If you look at the photos, you can now note that a club coming into the ball from above swing plane is on a more descending approach angle than the club coming into the ball from on plane.
So my question is, if 70 percent of the golfers are coming into the ball from the outside, aren’t 70 percent of the golfers swinging into the ball with too much descent or downward angle of the club relative to the ball? I know from playing ping-pong and tennis, when you swing into the ball with a descending racket or paddle; you produce cut spin, which is NOT powerful. So the blanket statement for all golfers to hit down on the ball cannot be good because they will try to hit more from the outside.
Most of the top players who have written about the game will tell you that the goal is to deliver a blow into the “back” of the ball. In order for you to hit into the back of the ball you need to create a more shallow approach, not a more descending approach. The “divot” is overrated, and you have to know how to take a divot as a result of a proper swing. Having the goal reversed — trying to take a divot thinking that is going to produce a good swing — generally leads to more slices and swing problems.