Hitting greens in regulation is always a good feeling. The key to doing so is a good long game, of course.
If you improve your contact by learning how to make the right kind of divot with a square clubface you’ll be on the right track.
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Ben Hogan coined the phrase that you got to dig your game out of the dirt. It was not only a comment about the importance of taking the proper divot but also about the importance of practice.
This blog post is all about how to dig it out of the dirt – improving your iron play by focusing on the divots you take, that is.
Before we dive in I want to tell you a statistic that might startle you.
If you want to shoot in the 90s you don’t have to hit any greens in regulation at all. You read that right.
Statistically golfers who hit in the mid 90s don’t have to hit a single green in regulation to achieve their score.
It all comes down to a decent short game and avoiding big misses.
So keep that in mind when you work on improving your iron shots.
If you are struggling with your long game your first goal should always be to avoid those big misses (out of bounds, shanked shots, water hazards etc.).
The Man Who Dug it Out of the Dirt – Ben Hogan
William Ben Hogan was a professional golfer who’s a legend and a myth today. He’s not only famous for his 64 tour wins and the nine Major Championship titles he earned but also for his thoughts and influence on the game.
His book “Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf” is arguably the most successful golf instruction book on this planet and a must read for every serious golfer.
Today there’s a myth and legend around the man that’s unbroken. Every day golfers around the world try to emulate Ben Hogans famous swing to drive the golf ball as powerful as he did.
One thing is for sure. The single most important ingredient to his success was his work ethic. Ben Hogan dedicated his life towards the game and reaped the rewards.
Of course you don’t need to be as obsessed as he was. But you can take him as inspiration to dig it out of the dirt yourself.
How to practice with divots
If you took lessons with a teaching profesional – he had you probably working on key positions in your swing. This is a good way for players who can dedicate the time to perfect every step of their swing. But you should also try to understand what causes the golf ball to do what it does (hook, draw, slice, fade etc.)
A great way to do so is to work on taking the perfect divot. If you draw a line on the ground where the ball lies you want your divots to start at or shortly after that line. You also want your divot to be relatively shallow and as straight as possible.
The slicers divot is usually pointing to the right, starting before the line and deep into the ground. You want to have the exact opposite.
An easy way to do so is to put two tees into the ground about two feet apart.
The imaginary line between the two tees should be perpendicular to your target line. Make sure you place the ball on the imaginary line with each shot. Once you try to carve out the perfect divot you’ll won’t be thinking as much about specific swing thoughts. You’ll be focusing on making better contact instead.
After a while you’ll execute better moves with better shaft lean at impact naturally just by working on making better contact.
Don’t worry about the length of your shots you are producing.
This drill is all about divots and your ball striking.[clearboth]
The Perfect Divot – Dollar Bill Divots
The perfect divot should have the shape of a dollar bill. In fact you might want to visualize that you are carving out the ground under a dollar bill.
Instead of visualizing you might also want to make it real.
If you place a business card right behind the ball you want to hit the golf ball first and flick the business card second right after that.
To hit any divot at all you must hit into the ground.
Ideally the low point of your swing should be just after the golf ball in your swing (hence the line in the drill above). Keep the picture to the left in your mind when you hit your shots.
Usually the higher handicapper doesn’t take a divot at all because he’s hitting upwards or he’s taking a fat divot by hitting the ground way before the golf ball. [clearboth]
Try to dig it out of the dirt yourself. You never know what you might find! Good luck and enjoy the game!
An interesting point of view: “It was not only a comment about the importance of taking the proper divot but also about the importance of practice.” Indeed you will find that Ben Hogan’ Secret has to do with strikng the ball but not as relating to contact with the ground ie the proper divot. Indeed it is about the moment of impact but you will see that in fact it has to do with what Alex Smith (1907) calls “getting the wrists into the stroke”, also referred to as “the snap of the wrists”. More recently Henry Cotton (1980) termed it “the Buffer Action”. A practical description of this is given by Walter J Travis (1920) and illustrated by Alex Smith (1907)
As a concept it helps to think of the swing as a swipe (as Alex Herd writes) rather than sweep. Best wishes with your golf Ronald Ross