If you hit a bad shot, you obviously want to improve that shot the next time you try it. Since you can't see yourself and you don't have a teacher there telling you what to do to improve, you have to rely on different forms of feedback information.
There are basically four feedback mechanisms that give you information on the quality of your swing:
The ball's flight (direction, distance, and trajectory),The place on the club where the ball hit,The feel of the shot.The size and direction of the divot.
In this tip, I will concentrate on how to read your divot to give you some indication of what you did on your previous swing.
For example, if you are taking very thick divots, it would mean that your swing could be getting too high and, consequently, too steep and choppy. The correction would be to try to make a flatter, more rounded swing. This will shallow out your downswing and get rid of the deep divot. I am also sure the greens superintendent will become a better friend.
Then there are those of you who don't even take a divot when you hit an iron. If this is you, you probably hit a lot of thin shots because you are simply "picking" the ball off the turf by hitting too inside-out on the downswing with an arm swing only.
All of these players hit with their weight on their right side at impact. If you don't take a divot, then I would put a golf tee four inches in front of the ball and try to hit the tee on every swing. This will create a divot in front of the ball and make your weight move to the left leg at impact. Watch your iron game improve immediately.
Examine your divot after impact and see where it is pointed. If the outside of the divot is deep and the direction of it is going to the left, then you can assume you are swinging outside-in across the ball.
In most cases, this produces pulled shots and pull slices. This type of divot is always caused by starting the downswing with the right shoulder or right hand. I would fix this by simply thinking that you are swinging from 7 o'clock to 1 o'clock. This will create an inside-out approach to the ball and a slight hook.
If your divots tend to be toe-deep then you are, most likely, turning the club too early in the downswing. The fix would be to use your lower body more and your hands, arms and wrists less.
Generally speaking, most amateurs should try to create a long and shallow divot after impact. This divot should be even on both sides. It also should point at the intended target.
To practice getting a better divot, you might want to put two clubs on the ground aiming at the target. Just give yourself enough room to swing you club through that area. Just practice getting a better divot and watch your swing get better.
If all you want for Christmas is a better ball flight then I would start by making a better divot.
Dr. Jim Suttie, 2000 National PGA Teacher of the Year, is available for lessons at Suttie Golf at the Club at Twin Eagles North Naples and Cog Hill Golf Club, Lemont, Ill. For lessons and program information call 800-765-3838 or Jmsuttie@aol.com.