Apart from just hitting the ball, a huge hurdle beginners face is using irons to get the ball consistently airborne. Pay a visit to any practice tee and you'll witness newcomers trying to scoop up the ball, thinking that this action will get the ball up in the air. The result: most shots are 'topped' and roll along the ground. To change this, what really needs to be understood is the concept of 'hitting down on the ball'.
Golf is a difficult game. Yet for so many who have never touched a golf club, it might seem incredibly simple. The object is merely to strike a ball that is, after all, stationary. Just how tough can it be? It's not like baseball or tennis where the ball is moving as you attempt to make contact. Neither is it like hockey where apart from the moving puck, physical contact also plays a part. (If physical contact is part of your golf game, changing your foursome should perhaps be a bigger priority!)
Why then, is it that in golf this stationary ball is so difficult to hit? Why do we even miss it completely at times?
Golf is difficult-deceptively so-due to our perception of how to get the ball above ground. We want the ball to go up so our natural inclination is to hit it upwards. The reality is that we actually need to hit down on the ball to get it airborne.
Part of this initial deception lies in the fact that the ball is round and our clubface (irons only) are lofted (angled back). On first look it might appear that our goal is to slide the lofted club head under the ball, striking its lower half on the upswing, and thus driving or lifting the ball into the air. However, it is critical to note that the irons have not been designed to get under the ball to lift it. They have been designed to strike the ball as the club head is descending on the downswing, or in other words, to hit the ball while the club head is still moving downwards. Thus the phrase 'hitting down on the ball'.
But what newcomers generally do is lift their arms to send the ball upward. Instead, the arms need to return to a straight position (similar to the address position) to hit down. With the lofted clubface, this action results in the ball soaring into the air as intended.
Certainly, on the surface anyway, hitting down at something you want to go up is not logical. Until your mind accepts it, your muscles may resist this action. But understanding why you hit down and accepting the mechanics of how that gets the ball up into the air is an important part of allowing yourself to program your muscle memory. Of course, good muscle memory in golf is essential. It enables you to stop worrying about your swing and concentrate on the game itself.
So hit down on the ball and enjoy the sensation of those beautiful shots soaring high in the air.
Deepak Acharya is a golf instructor and Golf Director at Gokarna Forest Golf Resort & Spa, Kathmandu. firstname.lastname@example.org