Hitting Down on a Golf Ball: Methods + Drills to Practice

By Nick Heidelberger

golf iron shot with divot

With the exception of hitting a driver, which should be struck with a neutral or ascending blow, players should hit down on the ball with every club in the bag. The shorter the club — wedges and short irons — should be struck with a steeper blow than longer clubs like fairway woods and long irons.

Drills to Hit Down on the Golf Ball

It’s one thing to know that you should be hitting down on the golf ball, but it’s another to be able to do it with ease. There are many factors that influence a descending blow, including ball position, balance, and weight transfer throughout the swing.

Practice these two simple drills to ensure you hit down on the ball, and enjoy crisper iron shots and lower scores.

Active Trail Knee

One common flaw among players who fail to consistently strike the ball cleanly is that they have too much weight on their trail leg through impact. Ideally, top ball-strikers will have about 80% of their weight on their lead leg at impact. With your weight moving toward the target, you’ll move the bottom of your downswing slightly forward, just past the ball. That will result in hitting the little ball first, then the big ball.

To practice this move, use Christopher Toulsen’s Active Trail Knee drill. Simply take your normal backswing, then begin your downswing by having your trail knee fire at the target. This will push your weight to your front leg and pull your momentum forward, leading to a crisper strike. Practice this feeling a few times, then start hitting shots and feel the difference.

Balance and Stability

Another common cause of poor contact is early extension, when a player stands up during the downswing before impact, extending their hips towards the ball. This move causes anything from fat to thin shots, but rarely results in a crisp strike.

To fix this move, Laird Small demonstrates his Toes Up drill for better balance. Use a 2x4 that’s slightly wider than the width of your stance. Take your stance so your heels are on the ground and your toes are off the ground, with the middle of your feet on the 2x4. Now set up to the ball and begin your swing. You’ll notice this forces you to shift more weight into your trailing hip on the backswing, and forces you to move your hips back during the downswing and through the strike.

Practicing this drill will train you to stay in your posture with your weight back through the strike. As an added bonus, it will help you increase club-head speed, and therefore distance. That’s because by shifting weight back with your lead hip, you’ll simultaneously pull the club towards the ball quicker.

Bottom Line

If you want to engrain and repeatable, downward strike on the ball, and build some consistency in your iron play, give these drills a try. You’ll find that feeling of a perfectly struck shot more often, and will likely add some distance to your game.

Image: antpkr/iStock via Getty Images Plus

About the Author

Nick Heidelberger is the Editor of GolfLink and an active member of the Golf Writers Association of America (GWAA). He covers all things golf, from the professional tours to rules, equipment, style, and golf history. In the years prior to joining GolfLink, he worked for the New England Section of the PGA of America. Nick has a degree in journalism from the University of Idaho and has been an avid golfer for more than 10 years.