Your golf game: Getting rid of fat and thinned shots

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Dr. Jim Suttie, who has earned numerous achievements, including being named Golf Digest Best 20 Teachers in the U.S., is a golf instructor at the Cog Hill Golf & Country Club in Lemont.

Many golfers are plagued by fat and thin shots. There is probably not a more frustrating feeling than to get 130 yards from the green, and then cover the sod over the ball or skull one over the green.

These two shots are cousins because they are caused by the same reasons. So, if you hit the ground first and then hit the ball, you are probably moving your swing center all over the place. Let's assume your swing center is your head. Well, you can't move it up and down too much, and you shouldn't move it to the right and left too much.

The golf swing is a side-of-the-line hitting game, and requires only two motions: A turn of the body and an up-and-down movement of the arms.

The turn of the body is necessary because we are standing to the side of the ball. The up-and-down movement is required because the ball is on the ground. It is the synchronization of these two motions that create good golf shots. I have also seen fat shots caused by the swaying of the lower body. Sometimes the right leg collapses on the backswing, and a lower body sway is created. This makes it quite hard for the golfer to get his weight to the front leg on the forward swing. The result is a fat or thin shot.

Another common cause of these shots is a long backswing.

Golfers who have fast and long swings generally hit from the top, and start down too quickly with their arms and hands. This will cause the club to release early, and you will hit the ground before the ball or can even hit the ball too much on the upswing and hit it thin. You can cure this by trying to keep your swing short, and use your lower body to start the downswing.

I have often seen golfers move their upper body forward on the downswing. The result is always a fat or thin shot because the body is too far ahead of the hands and arms. To cure this, keep your head behind the ball at impact.

It is common to see golfers to swing their arms only from the top of the swing. This leaves the weight on the back leg, and causes the arms to pull in close to the body. This collapsed look of the arms after impact is often called the "chicken wing" left arm. I would say that over 50 percent of all golfers are plagued by this. To fix, move your lower body to the left to start the downswing, and then turn the hips out of the way to make room for the arms to extend through.

Another common cause of fat or thin shots is a very high swing. This high swing will cause a steep downswing and a narrow approach to the ball. If your divots are deep, you are most likely doing this. You can fix this by flattening out your backswing and coming down more inside-outside.

And, finally, a fat or thin shot can be caused by a swing pattern that is too flat. This swing comes from so far from inside the target line that it bottoms out behind the ball. The cure is to get a higher backswing in this case.

A good drill to eliminate the fat or thin shot is the line drill. Draw two lines in the bunker, one line that represents the ball and another line two inches in front of the ball. Address the back line, and try to make your divot hit the front line. When you do this, you will find it will train your hands to get in front of the ball at impact.

This is a necessary fundamental for every good swing.

(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, Fla. and Cog Hill Golf Club, Lemont, Ill. Suttie is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher and rated No. 15 in Golf Digest Best 50 Teachers.)