Faults & Fixes: “Fat and Thin Golf Shots”

There are three main causes of “Fat” and “Thin” shots: Changes in the Radius, Off Plane Motion, and Ball Location.

Changing the Radius in the golf swing can, and usually does, change the delivery angle, or angle of descent, into the golf ball. The radius can be changed by bending the left wrist, the left elbow, raising the upper thoracic – which in turn raises the head.

Similarly the angle of approach into the golf ball will effect where the ball goes. Too far under plane shallows the angle of descent and too far over plane steepens the angle of descent. We call this Off Plane Motion.

Another cause, although less predominate then the above two, is Ball Location. Too far back can lead to thin shots and too far forward can lead to fat shots. Let’s examine how to “cure” these malfunctions.

Overcoming “Changes in the Radius”

Changes in the radius (the left wrist bending for example) can cause BOTH fat and thin shots. If the left wrist bends too early it can create fat shots and if it bends later thin shots. The right wrist bend controls the flat left wrist so the more bend a player has in the right wrist at impact and separation the less chance the player has of bending the left wrist which causes the club to move upward and the clubface to close.

Here are a couple of drills that are extremely effective in learning how to maintain a bent right wrist:

  • Hit shots with the right arm only while maintaining the bend in the right wrist. Place a 2×4 8″ behind the ball while using a short iron. Make a swing and miss the board. The board increases both the angle of ascent and the angle descent.
  • Another drill, using a short iron, is to address the golf ball in its normal location. Then place a second ball in line with the right ankle. Address the second ball with the club head, but without changing your original setup position with the body. Make a swing and strike the front ball without hitting the rear ball.
  • And finally, practice hitting “punch” or “knockdown” shots. This has proven to be one of the most effective ways to learn to hit shots with the handle leaning forward.

The other most common way to lose radius is a shortening of the left arm. This is most common with players that swing across the ball from the outside. Lee Westwood loses his radius through the bending of the left elbow. He manages this though by changing his body height, getting lower, through Impact and maintaining a flat left wrist.

A drill for this is once again hitting punch shots while keeping the body turning. If the body doesn’t turn sufficiently the player essentially “runs out of right arm”. The player should feel like they strike the ball and then continue turning the torso until the clubshaft is parallel to the base of the plane and on their heel line.

Overcoming “Off Plane Motion”

Plane issues: As described above, plane issues can also cause fat and thin shots. In an ideal situation the player should work more on their swing plane but some players simply have inherent tendencies that probably will not change.

For example, better players have a tendency to come into the ball from underneath plane. These players must play the ball farther back in order to strike the ball solidly with this shallow angle of attack. The higher handicapper has the tendency to come into the ball from outside the original plane. These players must play the ball more forward with this steep angle of attack. My advice is to give yourself options and then see which one you can more readily relate to. If you are having a difficult time with staying on plane then make a ball position adjustment, as well as a clubface adjustment, to get the ball going where you want it to go.

Find your personal “Ball Position”

Now let’s say your plane is pretty good and you have a flat left wrist but are still hitting it thin or fat. Start adjusting ball location until you hit it solidly. Remember however that any change in ball location also requires a clubface adjustment to hit the ball to target.