One of the most asked questions on a golf course is, “why am I hitting behind the ball?” Anyone that has played more than a round or two of golf has experienced the “fat” or “heavy” shot in which the club hits about an inch behind the ball. Sometimes we get away with it when the ground is hard and firm but in wet conditions it is basically a chilly dip every single time. So, why does this happen?
Understand that every swing is unique and there are a number of factors that cause amateurs to hit behind the ball. The most common reason is amateurs lift with their right side (trail side) going back and lift with their left side (lead side) going forward. This is the exact opposite of what the pros do. The backswing is actually created by driving with the left side while the right side should remain quiet and soft. That said, this feels weak and slow. When pulling or lifting with the right side on the backswing, it feels strong.
You’ve probably stood on a tee box and someone mimics pulling the cord of a lawnmower to emulate their backswing. When you lift with your right arm, right shoulder or right side on the backswing, you are naturally going to lift with the left arm, left shoulder or lift side on the downswing. This is the kiss of death for golfers. You are only sporadically going to time it out where you lift with your lift side (on the downswing) and drop your hands in sequence to hit the ball solid. More likely, you are going to lift with your left side, your hands are going to drop and the club is going to hit the ground behind the ball.
The only way to combat this is to not lift with the left arm, left shoulder or left side on the downswing. This is much easier said than done. It could take years to develop the habits to not lift with the left side on the downswing. In fact, if you don’t lift with the right side on the backswing and don’t lift with the left side on the downswing, you will likely be qualifying for semi professional tournaments and will never have to worry about hitting behind the ball.
There is no quick fix. You may find that during the hard and fast summer months you get away with it much more. This is simply because the ground is hard. If the ground is ever soft, you are likely a complete disaster. Those morning where there is dew on the fairway and you are trying to pick it clean you likely end up shooting a 45 on the front 9 and a 38 on the back 9 once it dries up. Think about keeping the right side soft and relaxed on the backswing and the left side soft and relaxed on the downswing and you will be able to have a much smoother swing that will lead to far fewer fat or heavy shots in which you hit behind the ball.