Taking a proper golf divot is something that is critical to crisp and consistent iron play, but if you don't know what a proper divot is, it's tough to know when things go wrong.
Below, we're going to take a look at the proper divot from the face-on view. Study the photographs below:
Note how, at impact in the first frame, there is no dirt being kicked up yet and the amount of shaft lean at impact. This is what it looks like when your divot starts after the golf ball.
In the above sequence, you can see how the divot doesn't start until long after the ball is already gone. In the first picture just after impact, the ball is in the air and no dirt has flown up as of yet.
In the picture on the right, you can see how the golf club is actually still working down long after the strike. The shaft is still stressed as it's working to the low point in the golf swing. The divot is bottoming out now, well in front of where the ball was at address.
WHY DO YOU NEED THE DIVOT IN FRONT OF THE GOLF BALL?
Having your divot start in front of the ball is vital for ensuring a descending angle of attack and clean contact. It is also ideal in most cases to learn to take more shallow divots for spin and trajectory control. If you are taking massive, deep divots, it becomes very difficult to control the distance of your irons. A shallow divot is one where the top layer of turf is removed, but you can still see the grass roots below.
Here is the look of the ideal divot. Note the square edges on all 4 corners and the depth. You can still see some of the grass roots here, proof that you didn't approach the ball too steeply.
If your golf divots are very deep and you're seeing a lot of dark soil at the bottom of the divot, it's likely too deep for consistent iron play. To learn how to shallow your divots and make sure they are in front of the golf ball, use the drill in this video. It can be seen in the image below:
"I was lucky enough to have a lesson with Chuck this summer. This was the first thing he showed me, because I really shove my right shoulder at the ball, making my divots very deep, even if in front of the ball. This should be required viewing for anyone working on the downswing/impact."
-Jason S. | Oct 16, 2012 | New Jersey
Here you can see an overlay showing the ball just before impact and the position of the left hand after impact. Note how much shaft lean this drill allows you to get.
This is one of the key reasons tour pros hit their irons so far, and this drill allows you to exaggerate this proper impact condition as seen here. It is critical for your divots to start after the front of the ball for crisp iron shots and consistency, and you need shaft lean in order to do this.
SHAFT LEAN - THE KEY TO GOOD DIVOTS
If you want to take a golf divot in front of the golf ball, it is critical that you have shaft lean. What is shaft lean? Take a look at one of my students below.
In the image on the left, you can see that this student was very "flippy" at impact, and his shaft was actually leaning AWAY from the target at impact. With some work on my impact drills, his impact position improved dramatically by his second lesson.
Now, he has the necessary forward shaft lean to take a golf divot after the ball.
GOLF SWING LAG & DIVOTS
Having lag in your golf swing is critical for having shaft lean at impact, which is critical for taking a divot in front of the golf ball. Lag allows more time for the hands to get in front of the golf ball before impact and, hence, produces forward shaft lean.
There are many great drills on this site for producing more lag (click here for lag video golf lessons). One of the best ones is from the video I did on "Shaping Your Golf Swing."
Below, you can see how much lag this drill produces. Having this much lag in your golf swing basically ensures you of taking a divot in front of the golf ball (click here for the instruction video).
Having lag like this makes it easy for your divots to start in front of the ball, but it can make your angle of attack very steep.
Improve by Hitting Irons off a Tee
Another good way to practice this is to actually hit balls off a tee. Take a 7 iron and place the ball on a tee but tee it very low such that the tee is barely above the level of the dirt (about 1/8").
Now hit full shots off the tee and try and make sure that the tee remains undisturbed.
Your golf divot should start about an inch in front of the tee, and the tee should not be clipped or broken. While this drill may seem simple at first, many golfers struggle with it, so don't take it too lightly.
Spend time with it until you get very competent with not clobbering the tee with the club and you will see your ball flight become more penetrating just like the pros. As you become better with the drill, you should find that you can practice within a very small area without tearing up a lot of sod.
Jack Nicklaus used to say that he could practice all day in an area about the size of a shoe box. That's a great visual if you're used to tearing up large chunks of turf on the practice tee.
You are seeking the ideal balance between launch angle, trajectory and spin for control with your irons, and striking down on the ball is the key to great iron play. In this video, you will learn how to get your hands ahead of the golf ball at impact to make your divots start in front of the ball every time.
"This video told me exactly what my problem has been all my golfing life...The previous video
on training the two arms separately started a breakthrough for me also just about the time I was ready to give up. Thank you! Thank you!"
-Ken M. | Oct 15, 2012 | 15 HDCP
"Agreed, one of the best videos on here. Good work, Chuck"
-Zac E. | Oct 16, 2012 | Brisbane, Australia
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Video Transcription: Taking a Proper Divot
Shaft lean is critical for a proper golf divot
Learning how to get your golf divots to start in front of the golf ball instead of even with it or even behind it is usually the ultimate goal for most amateur golfers who are used to hitting the ball really fat.
I'm going to give you a couple of quick tips today to show you how to take a proper golf divot, to start building the proper swing mechanics into your golf swing - to get the divots to start in front of the ball to get you cleaner contact - but also tell you one simple secret that most golfers who are better players know, and most amateurs don't.
Let's start with that. The trick to golf is that what controls the conditions at impact - when I say "conditions," I mean where the club face is pointing, what the swing plane and path is, how much shaft lean you have at impact - is primarily determined by the left hand and the movements of the muscles in the left side of the body.
Swing with the left - where do the golf divots bottom out?
Unfortunately, most golfers are very right-handed and very right-side dominant, and that's why they get into a position where they're fully releasing this right wrist. The club face has a ton of loft on it now because I don't have any shaft lean toward the target. Because this is a very dominant motion it's very common, and that's what most golfers learn to do.
The trick is that you've got to learn to move the left hand into the right position at impact, and the only way to do that is to simply train it independently, which is what Rotary Swing Tour does. We train each arm independently so that you learn how to control each movement correctly without the confusion and frustration of having some other dominant motion in there that wants to muck up all your hard work.
Golf divot in front of the ball
To learn how to get your left hand in the right impact position and take a golf divot in front of the ball, what you want to do is take your normal setup, put a ball in position, then with your left hand only, choke up on the club. Don't move your body yet. We're going to make it really simple at first.
Just make practice swings with your left hand only, until you see your divots bottoming out. You'll see I'm taking a little divot in front of the ball here. It's bottoming out about two club head widths, about five or six inches or so, in front of the ball.
What's happening here is that my left hand, or my left arm, is just swinging freely from my shoulder socket. That's what gets the divot moving in front of the ball. You can see that my divot is well in front of the ball at this point. The catch is, if I take my right hand...I'm going to do this same drill now, and I use my right hand only.
Golf divots with the right hand are behind the ball
Now you'll notice how much my divots want to bottom out way back behind the ball. Now you start to see the problem; unless you play the ball way back off the back of your stance, you're going to have a lot of problems getting clean contact, which means you've got to train the left hand to get into the right position. It's way easier when you let the right hand come off the club.
That's how you want to practice. You'll notice most good golfers, Tour players, you watch them all the time, they just practice on the tee while they're wasting time. They'll do it with their left hand. You're not going to see very many guys sitting up like this with their right hand.
The right hand has a very important job to do, but as far as making sure that your golf divot start in front of the ball, you need to focus on working on the left hand only.
Once you get to the point where your divot is bottoming out very consistently - in a minute I'll show you a close up of how that looks - where your divot bottoms out very consistently because your arm is swinging very freely, you want to work up to hitting little chip shots with it.
Keep the left wrist flat
At first it's going to be really tough. You're going to want to flip your wrist. Of course you want to go back and look at the Impact Alignment videos to see what positions you need to be in at impact. You need to get this left wrist into a nice flat position, and get into a good solid impact position using the left arm only.
One other critical key to this is that you have to learn how to produce lag in the golf swing. Of course there are tons of videos on the website that talk about how to produce lag, but you need to understand that if you don't have any lag coming down, and this right wrist is starting to release early, you're going to have no chance of getting your left hand into the right position.
They all have to work together as a system. You have to have lag, this right wrist has to bend back, and that allows you to have more time to get your left hand in front of the ball at impact.
Impact with left arm only (left) and both arms (right)
Work on this drill. I'm going to show you some close-ups and slow-mos of me doing this drill so you can see how the golf divots bottom out, and how to get this left hand into the right position at impact.