Which would you choose if you could hit a shot fattening or thinning?
If you’re like 99% of golfers my guess is you’d choose a thin shot. “Thin to win” is a common golf saying that couldn’t be more true.
Let me clarify. There are three terms that describe how you hit a shot of golf. Because let’s face it, golf is a game of misses and most amateur golfers don’t hit it in the sweet spot that often. Mishit shots are less common with golf equipment, but it is important to find the sweet spot as often as possible.
Keep reading to find out more about thin shots, common causes and the best ways you can fix it to improve your ball striking.
Golf Thin Shots Explained
As I mentioned in the intro, there are three ways to hit a golf ball: solidly (aka pure shots), fat shot, and thin shot. Each shot is determined by the point at which the ball contacts the club face. Paired with ball flight laws it’ll determine your overall distance and trajectory for each shot.
While golf clubs are more forgiving than ever, a thin shot isn’t something you can rely on. It’s vital to make necessary adjustments in your setup and swing to fix this issue quickly. Let’s review each of the shots Before getting into how to fix thin shots.
Fat Golf Shots
A shot that is fat is one where the leading edge touches the turf far behind the golf ball. This is the exact opposite of hitting it thin as you’re hitting it high on the face from an incorrect swing arc.
Fat shots can be the most frustrating as they go nowhere. Since you’re hitting the ball with the top part of the club, it’s missing the sweet spot entirely and your distance will suffer as a result.
You are likely left with a similar next shot to the one you just faced and likely don’t have a ton of confidence either. You might also find your golf club covered in mud, and your wrists may hurt if it is really bad.
A bad golf shot can be very frustrating. You should address it as soon as possible. Click here for more information about fixing fat golf shots.
Pure shots are those where the ball is hit near or on the sweet spot. Even if it’s a little left or right of the sweet spot (aka the center of the golf club) the ball will go the full distance. If you hit it dead in the center (aka in the screws) you’ll hit a high, straight shot that soars toward your target.
Unfortunately these shots don’t happen that often for everyday amateur golfers. To hit shots, you need to have a perfect swing, a solid grip, setup and much more. But it’s the ultimate goal you should have on every single shot.
Thin golf shots
The third type of golf shot is the one we’ll spend most of the time on today – A thin golf shot.
Hitting it thin means hitting the golf ball in the lower grooves, which are below your sweet spot. It’s from a strike that is too high on the golf ball and happens from a lack of compression.
It is frustrating to hit thin iron shots! If you hit this shot you’ll rarely hit a divot as your club barely grazes the grass and instead hits the top half of the ball due to an incorrect swing arc.
While it’s a frustrating shot it’s not nearly as frustrating as a fat shot since you’ll likely hit it close to normal distance. This is why so many golfers love to say “thin to win.”
The ball won’t have as high of a trajectory but it’ll still go nearly the same distance as a normal, pure golf shot. Plus, thin shots typically go pretty straight and don’t get you into a ton of trouble unless there are hazards long.
I think if you asked most golfers they’d say they’ll take a thin shot vs. a fat shot every single time. I say this from experience myself – a thin shot has been one of my misses for a long time. But if you hit it only “a little thin” it’s a shot you can play and still score well. Since most thin shots don’t hurt you as much on the golf course.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hit a groove low only to watch the ball end up in the fairway or on the green. While a thin shot is playable, it’s still not as reliable as hitting in the middle of the face.
What causes a thin, sloping golf shot? Let’s dive in…
Cause of a Thin golf shot
Remember that a weak shot is one where the ball is hit lower than the sweet spot. I’m sure you’ve asked, “Why am I hitting my golf shots thin?”
It can happen for many reasons, including:
- Bad setup
- Steady downswing
- Changing your posture
- Poor ball position
- Too soon?
- Be sure to leave weight behind on your trail leg
A combination of multiple issues can cause you to hit a wall in your swing.
How to Stop Making Thin Golf Shots
When you have a swing issue, the first thing to do is to fix your setup position. Many times, thin shots can be fixed with a few simple adjustments to the address position.
Check Your Attitude
First, ensure that your stance and posture are wide enough to allow you to create a solid foundation for your swing. You might lose your balance if your stance is too narrow.
Your stance should be wider when you use longer clubs (driver or 3-wood), and narrower when you use shorter clubs like wedges. Your irons should be in the right position.
If you’re hitting the golf ball thin, a common cause is a ball that is too far in the front of your stance.
This leads to hitting up on it as you can’t compress the ball. A lot of golfers play with the ball too far forward to help “lift the ball up” but remember, the loft of the club will do it for you. By moving it back toward the middle of your stance it’ll make it easier to hit down and through such a shot.
Tilt and Shoulder Alignment
Next, make sure that your shoulders are in line with the target. If your shoulders are right or left of your target it’s easy to bottom out at the wrong spot.
Sometimes your feet and hips are not square to the target, but your shoulders may be right or left. This leads to “crossing your lines” which changes your takeaway and/or downswing position. Make sure your shoulders are square to the target as they’re arguably more important than feet alignment.
Additionally don’t forget about shoulder tilt as well. You don’t need as much shoulder tilt when hitting from the fairway or rough as you do off a tee.
Because you must compress the ball to hit it off the deck, you will only need a slight amount of shoulder tilt. But with your driver you’ll need more to increase your launch angle and hit it off a tee.
Increase your Weight Transfer
Third, examine the weight distribution between each foot.
If you’re hitting it thin chances are your weight is staying on your back leg, causing you to hit up on the golf ball. This might be due to starting with too much weight in your back.
For most shots, you want to start with your weight 50/50 on each leg. This will allow you to transfer your weight correctly and then shift to the downswing leg.
Lastly, make sure your weight is transferring properly to the left side (assuming you’re a right-handed golfer). Otherwise you’ll hit up on the ball causing the dreaded thin shot.
If you need help with a proper weight transfer check out the Pressure Plate from Why Golf. This training aid makes it simple to feel the correct weight transfer indoors or on the driving range. With enough practice, you can feel the correct shift and improve your ball striking.
Maintain your Posture
You can also change your posture during the swing to make it more difficult to hit thin golf shots.
If you don’t keep your left shoulder down on the downswing your torso will change positions. This will cause your weight to drop, elevate the club, and hit the top of the ball.
You want to keep your posture straight throughout the swing.
It should be the same as it was at the beginning position, whether you are takingaway, transitioning, or downwing. To prevent your upper bodys tilt from changing, keep your head in the same place throughout the swing.
Make More Lag
You might also be at risk if you are taking a steep angle in the downswing.
Your body will react if you go too steep in your downswing. This can be done by changing your posture and hitting the shot. But if your body didn’t react you’d dig the club into the ground for a bad shot (and likely a painful one too).
If you’re getting too steep you want to focus on creating more lag so you have a more in to out downswing. When you’re coming from inside you will shallow the golf club and be in a much better position at impact.
To create more lag check out the Planemate Swing Trainer or the Lagshot training aid. These devices can help you retrain your swing to have a lower attack angle and more consistent ball striking.
Thin vs. Skull Shots
Lastly, it’s important to note the difference between a thin shot vs. a skulled shot. A thin shot can travel 80-100% of the distance you expected.
My 7-iron usually goes 170-175 miles. If I hit it a little low on the face it’ll go 165-170 and still a very playable shot.
But a skulled shot won’t go nearly as far. Skeleted shots can occur with fairway woods and irons, wedges, or even around the greens. These shots are as frustrating as a topped shot on the golf course.
Click here for more information about how to overcome a skulled shot
FAQs about ball striking
Do you have questions about hitting the fairway fatter or thinner and want to learn more golf tips to make your game even better? Keep reading to find out the most popular questions and answers.
What causes fat and skinny golf shots?
Two common causes can lead to shots that are either thin or fat.
First, many golfers tend to keep their weight too far back. This can affect the bottom of the swing. This can lead to flipping and hitting the ground first. This is why it’s crucial to master weight transfer in your swing.
The second reason is changing your posture, which can be caused by a steep downswing or poor weight transfer. You should make it a goal to keep your spine straight from start to finish in order to hit the ball pure.
How can I stop wearing my irons thin?
Concentrate on hitting the ball first, then the turf. If you’re hitting golf shots thin it’s from a lack of compression. These tips will help you hit your irons more effectively.
What happens if the ball moves too far forward or back when I use irons?
Ball position is key with irons, wedges, and anytime you’re hitting off the deck. If you hit a lot of shots thin it’s likely from a ball position that is too far forward. This can also lead you to many left misses.
However, it can lead to many fat shots if the ball is too far back from your stance. It can also make it more likely for it to miss to your right target.
Check your ball position regularly in practice so you’re set up for success on each swing.
How can you hit more solid iron shots than before?
To hit your irons more consistently it’s important to hit slightly down on the shot. This is a good tip. YouTube video from Scratch Golf Academy does a great job illustrating with a broom how to “sweep” the ball.
Adam points out that some golfers tend to get their hands too far in front, which can lead to an excessively steep downswing. While you want your hands slightly ahead at impact, it’s important to not over do it. Its easier to compress your hands and hit the ball with the sweet spots if they are slightly ahead.
You will need more compression if the ball is sitting up in rough (aka a fly lie). You can always check your lie during your pre shot routine to make any adjustments and hit the ball straight.
Final Thoughts on Thinning Shots
Although its better to hit thin shots on the green, its still better than hitting fat shots. This is something you need to do immediately. “Thin to win” isn’t the best solution for playing consistent golf.
Many golfers struggle to get the club head in the right place for their swing. But thin shots tend to work out better than chunked shots so they’re not always bad.
You can improve your swing and stop hitting the ball too thin by doing these things:
- Maintain spine angle
- Check your shoulder alignment
- For better contact with the leading edge, adjust the ball position
You can hit more shots in the middle of your face by using the tips and drills provided above. Soon, you will be able to make contact with the ball properly and can say good-bye to thin and skulled shots.