Why You’re Hitting Behind The Golf Ball (and How to Stop)

Hitting fat, hitting heavy, chunking the ball, grounding the club, whatever you call it, hitting behind the ball can cause huge issues in your game.

Hitting behind the ball causes a divot to get between your club and the ball, resulting in an ugly mis-hit which tends only to jump 5 or 10 yards forwards. Hitting behind the ball can happen to anyone but is especially common with high handicappers.

In this article, we will identify the most common issues which cause you to hit behind the ball and give you the solutions to these problems.

Table of Contents

Why am I hitting Behind the Ball?

There are many factors which can affect your shot and cause you to hit behind the ball such as; 

  • Your position over the ball.
  • Movement during your swing.
  • Improper weight distribution and/or transfer.

Some are easier to spot than others.

Ball Position

The best place to start is the scene of the crime. Look at where the ball is positioned in your stance. Your problem could be the ball is too far forward in your stance (closer to your lead foot). The ball should be in the center of your stance for iron shots or even a bit further back for shorter clubs.

For your driver, keep the ball in line with your front instep and for fairway woods, a bit further back than this – about halfway between the center of your stance and your front foot.

Head and Hip Movement

The next issue to look for is how your body is moving during your swing. Many amateur golfers tend to allow their heads to move forward during their downswing.

Moving your head forward causes your weight to shift incorrectly, changing your position over the ball before the club makes contact, causing it to hit the ground.

Similarly, if your hips start to rotate before or during contact, this will yield the same unwanted result. During your swing, your head should stay in place over the ball, and lower body movement should be at a minimum before impact.

Bent Leading Arm

Another culprit contributing to ‘fat’ shots is your leading arm (left for right-handed players, right for left-handed).

Your lead arm should be kept straight throughout your swing as if it is bent at the point of impact. Bending the lead arm will shorten your swing and cause you to miss the ball and hit the ground instead.

Concentrate on keeping your arm straight, but not tense, at the point of impact.

Dropping the Back Shoulder

Similarly to a loose leading arm, dipping your back shoulder can give the same issue from the opposite side of your body. Allowing your back shoulder to drop causes you to make a scooping motion towards the ball, rather than hitting right through. The scooping motion causes you to take a divot and lose the shot. It’s crucial to maintain an upright position with your upper body to avoid this.

Incorrect Weight Transfer

Failing to transfer your weight through your swing correctly can cause a disconnect between you and the club, causing you to hit the ground instead of the ball. On your backswing, your weight shifts to the back foot, if you cannot transfer your weight back through the ball to your front foot, then the ground will end up between you and the ball. 

Releasing the Club Early

Also known as ‘casting’, releasing the club too early disrupts your swing plane, causing you to hit across the ball rather than through it. Not only is this an issue by itself, but it also promotes the hip movement we spoke about earlier. Practicing your swing will help to encourage a natural release of the club rather than letting it go higher up in the downswing. Make sure to let the club follow it’s natural swing path and avoid ‘steering’ the shot as this will prevent the club from doing what it is designed to do!

How to Stop Hitting Behind the Ball

Now that you have diagnosed your issue; it’s time to do something about it. Most points that make you hit the ball heavy can be remedied with minor changes to your swing or set up.

Correct Weight Transfer

As we’ve already discussed, transferring your weight incorrectly, or not at all, can be a significant stopping point for your progress as a golfer. Managing weight transfer is a fundamental component of your swing and needs to be mastered for your handicap to drop. 

On your backswing, your weight should shift to your back foot. As you start your downswing, your weight should move back forwards, returning to the initial distribution at the point of impact with the ball.

From the point of contact into your follow-through, your weight should continue forwards and end with the majority of your weight on your front foot to ensure a smooth golf shot.

Keep in mind that your weight distribution has its own effect on the shot you are taking:

  • Weight centered; gives the standard shot as designed for the club.
  • Weight forward; de-lofts the club and promotes a higher angle of attack.
  • Weight back; adds more loft to the club and helps to get under the ball.

Knowing where your weight is for the shot is essential so you know how much to transfer and what you should feel at the point of striking the ball.

Proper Rotation

Once your weight transfer is locked in, you should turn your attention to how your body is moving during your shot. A common issue is allowing your upper body to slide with your swing. Instead, aim to rotate around the center of your body, while keeping your chest facing down at the ball in the same spot.

A sliding or swaying motion will hinder your swing, throwing you off balance and affecting your strike. Correctly rotating will give you an efficient swing path and ensure you hit the ball every time, not the ground.

Shot Set-Up

Your set-up is the starting point for every shot and is essential to get right as any changes here can have negative effects right through the rest of your shot. Your set-up should be identical for every shot type and on the tee, fairway, and rough, these will be largely the same except for ball position for your driver, fairway woods, or long irons. 

The best way to practice golf at the driving range begins with working on your set-up. There are a couple of ways to practice your set-up which will give you the muscle memory needed for success on the course:

  1. Place a club across your toes to aid with alignment, this will give a reference point for where to place the ball.
  2. You can go a step further by placing two clubs in a cross shape. Stand with your toes against the horizontal line and place the ball at the top of the vertical. This will guarantee you hit the ball from the same spot every time!

Note: To replace clubs for these drills, I would recommend investing in a pair of alignment sticks to minimize the intrusion on your shot and also to avoid stepping on your shafts!

Once you are on the course, take a few practice swings before each shot and make sure the ball is placed where your club is at its lowest point of your swing. The practice swings will help you make sure you are in the sweet spot and increase your striking prowess!

The Follow-Through

We have spent most of this post talking about the shot result and your backswing, but we have neglected one of the most important parts of your swing; the follow-through.

Not following through ends your swing prematurely, moving the bottom of your swing further back and making you catch the ground and hit a heavy shot. To avoid this, focus on your movement after striking the ball and ensure you are doing the following:

  • Follow your swing and allow the momentum to turn your body towards your target.
  • Keep your front foot planted and pivot your back foot to aid proper rotation.
  • Check your belt buckle is pointing at your target on the finish.
  • Ensure the majority of your weight is on your front foot.

Using these tips, your follow-through should become natural and smooth for every shot. Remember; if your follow-through is off balance or inconsistent, your shot will be as well.

The Takeaway – Why You’re Hitting Behind the Golf Ball…

From your position in relation to the ball, right through to the end of your swing, many factors can cause you to hit behind the ball. You can avoid this by making sure you do the following consistently:

  • Practice your set-up so the ball is in the same place in your stance for every shot. With enough practice, muscle memory will kick in and you won’t even have to think about this.
  • Maintain proper weight distribution, posture, and rotation through your swing to allow smooth weight transfer and a clean strike.
  • Don’t neglect the importance of a good follow-through. Just because it is post-impact, it doesn’t mean this part of your swing won’t affect the shot!

I hope that this has helped to diagnose and fix your ball striking issues – good luck on the course!

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