Why You Shouldn’t Try To Hit Down On The Golf Ball

Why You Shouldn’t Try To Hit Down On The Golf Ball

When I was learning golf, I got exposed to a lot of myths. One of which was the phrase

You need to hit down to get the ball to go up”

In this article, we are going to look at what actually gets the ball up in the air. We will also explore how that phrase of “hit down” may potentially be ruining your game.


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Down = Up

We have all heard that golf is a game of opposites – and this is true in many respects.

However, it is a myth that hitting down on the ball causes the ball to go up.

The angle of attack (whether the club is moving up, down or level with the ground at impact) has very little to do with the launch of the ball.

Take, for example, the following two scenarios.

golf impact showing ascending angle of attack, dynamic loft and ball launch angle

golf impact showing descending angle of attack, dynamic loft and ball launch angle

In both images, the dynamic loft (loft at impact) of the club remains the same. However,

  • In picture A, the club is moving upwards
  • In picture B, the club is moving downwards (hitting more down)

Yet, the ball launches up in both scenarios, disproving the idea that you have to hit down to get the ball to go up.

This is because the dynamic loft of the club is far more influential than the angle of attack regarding the launch of the ball. So, whether you hit down or up is largely irrelevant to the launch of the ball – it’s more a product of how much loft you are presenting at impact.


Why Hit Down On The Golf Ball?

So how and why did this phrase spread?

Well, although hitting up on the ball and hitting down on the ball both work to get the ball in the air, we cannot actually hit up on a golf ball if it is resting on the ground – because the ground is in the way.

hitting up with a golf iron can create a ground first (fat) shot

NOTE – it is possible to have a slightly ascending blow on the ball when it is resting on the turf, but a fluffy lie is required – and this is not the tour-player’s preferred method.

Also, with a ball on a tee, we are able to hit up on it as we have more distance between the ground and the ball. In fact, hitting up with a driver is beneficial for maximizing distance.

Trying to hit up on the ball when it lays on the ground is one of the biggest conceptual misunderstandings that the average/beginning golfer has. This concept alone can cause some seriously poor strikes and inconsistencies in one’s game.

In order to achieve the pro-like ball-then-turf strike, the clubhead needs to be moving down at impact.

descending angle of attack with a golf iron shot

We would say we are hitting on the downward part of the swing arc.


Why Not To Hit Down On The Golf Ball?

So, what’s all this fuss about? If getting the clubhead to move down at impact is what the pros do (with shots from the turf), why is the article titled “why you shouldn’t try to hit down on the golf ball”?

Take a look at the following picture of Tiger Woods at impact.

Notice the blur of his hands. Notice how they are moving UP through impact.

When you ask a golfer to hit down on the ball, they will often respond by trying to force the hands downwards through impact. Doing this can

  • Slow the club speed (as we reduce parametric acceleration)
  • Reduce our ability to square the clubface up – creating directional inconsistency
  • Reduce the width of the clubhead arc – creating strike inconsistency
  • Create less consistency with the swing path
  • Reduce our ability to release the club, causing a low launch and reducing the bounce of the club
  • Create a smaller margin for error regarding ground strike


Man Down

Another big thing with “hitting down” is that it can cause a player to dive their body towards the ground through impact.

Not only does this spoil what we call the kinematic sequence (the order of which our body parts fire), but it can ruin our ability to create speed.

When our center of mass (our body) accelerates towards the ground through impact, we lose the ability to create ground pressure. When we lose ground pressure, we lose the ability to rotate our body quickly.

Think about trying to punch someone really hard while floating in space (where there is no ground pressure) versus standing on terra-firma.


So, What Should We Do?

First, understand that hitting up or down is not the main reason for why a golf ball goes up –loft is the biggest influence.

Next, we need to learn how to get the clubhead to descend on the ball while the hands work up (actually, it’s a 3D thing where the hands work away from the ball through impact).

And yes, the club can descend on the ball as the hands work up (see below picture of Tiger Woods)

tiger woods hand path up angle of attack down

The yellow line shows the path of the top of the glove. The white line shows the clubhead movement.

Doing this can give us the benefits of increased speed and consistency (directionally and with our strikes).

I show you how to do this in the shallowing module of The Strike Plan. Strike Plan members can CLICK HERE (MEMBERS ONLY) to access this module.

Not a member??? If you want to learn more about the program, click the image link below.


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Perhaps hitting the ball offline is causing your game issues?

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  • Steve Ruis

    In my mind, the “weight shift” serves primarily to move the arc of the club head slightly forward so that it hits ball first, ground second. At setup, the ball is places so as to create this situation, but “best laid plans” if one is a little back or early, a thin shot results. The weight shift supplies almost no energy in the kinematic chain and must be coordinated to have this effect. I think it may be a good idea for expert archers but is a barrier to learning golf. If one were to do away with it and place the ball half a ball back from “normal” the same arrangement is had. Might this not be a better approach for average golfers?

    By the way, Moe Norman had quite the glide as a “weight shift” and was very proud of how his club head stayed on the target line for a long time. Again, it had to be coordinated, but the purpose seems to have more to do with the swing arc than any “ground force” function.

  • bill-courtney@excite.com

    Adam – like the content!

    One question – where do I focus my eyes in order to assist in creating the swing path that you suggest ?? Do I look at the back of the ball, middle of the ball or in front of the ball??

    • admin

      Hi Bill – for me, it’s less about where the eyes are focused and more about where your intention is. for example, you could be looking at the TV while you throw your keys to your wife off at the side.

      In The Strike Plan, I show you ways to shift your intention to change face strike, low point, arc depth and more (it’s in the 3D aim point module).

  • bill-courtney@excite.com

    Thanks Adam!

    I’m very visual – your aim point concept is very helpful to me.

  • Bill Courtney

    Adam – irons question!

    Is there a groove level on the iron face that helps to define the sweet spot? I’m thinking about defining a groove that should be part of the focus of my intention to hit the sweet spot. Assume that the first groove is too low on the club face and the 5th or 6th groove is too high?
    Any guidance would be appreciated.


  • Michael Collier

    I’m sorry however your pictures of club movement are not correct. Any time you change the AOA, the dynamic loft also changes. Simple physics shows you that in order for a club head to be moving in a downward motion at impact, the hands and shaft have to be ahead of the club head which in turn delofts the club face which in turn decreases dynamic loft. There is no way to hit up on the ball with the hands and shaft ahead of the club face. They either have to be in the even with the head or slightly behind. The point at which the club face passes the hands is the point where AOA changes.

    • admin

      1. the pictures are there to explain a point – the loft is the dominant factor when it comes to ball launch
      2. a club can be moving up or down with a clubhead that is ahead or behind the hands. Trust me, I’ve seen plenty of scoopers on trackman with negative angles of attack.
      3. “there is no way to hit up on the ball with the hands ahead of the face” – it’s not common, but very possible. You’re thinking of the swing too much like a single pendulum model, where the clubhead passing the hands is the only determining factor to angle of attack. In reality, the hands are attached to the arm, which can flex or extend (changing whether the hands move up and down), and the arm is attached to the shoulder which moves violently upwards and away from the ball through impact. The angle of attack is a product of how fast the club head is moving down/towards the ball vs how fast the hands are pulling up and away from the ball

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