Shotshaping Formulas

How to make the shots you need to play your best

Shotshaping FormulasIt’s a “how-to” world these days. Everywhere you look, you’ll find someone, somewhere or something dedicated to what I like to call, “HTH” (How-To Hysteria). “How to bake a cake, how to wire a motorcycle, how to build an arboretum, how to fix a car”—we as a culture have become so fascinated by the “how-to” genre that dozens of magazines, Websites and even television channels have been developed to help you help yourself. Luckily, Golf Tips is no exception, as the authors in every instructional story provide you with the scoop on how to become a better player. In this particular feature, we’re going to follow suit and get into the nitty-gritty of how to become the ultimate shotmaker. Brace yourself—this is the stuff you’ve been waiting for. We’ve outlined eight different shots that you need to know to play your best, as well as the formulas for what kind of setup, grip, stance and magic move it takes to make them happen. But before we get started, here’s a bit of insider info: I’m a left-handed golfer! Even though I play from the other side of the ball (forgive me, my fellow southpaws), I’ve been able to prove the following formulas work by implementing them into right-handed swings for you to see. (Hey, if they work for me, they’re definitely going to work for you.)

Caution! These pages are full of powerful golf shot formulas and may result in exceptional shotmaking on the golf course. This may cause serious damage to the scorecard and/or your opponent, requiring him/her to pay more nassaus and skins in your favor. Use with care and consideration of others.

High DrawHigh Draw: How to hit a high draw for a few extra yards off the tee.
Body Position It may look like my ball is back in my stance from this angle, but check out my arms and shoulders. They’re well behind the ball. Play the ball a couple balls forward of normal with a widened stance. Be sure to add some tilt to the shoulders away from the target to encourage the needed upward blow into the ball at impact.
Grip As you can see by my grip, both my left and right hand are stronger than usual. This is crucial for ensuring that the clubface closes through impact as well as to impart the sidespin needed to hit a draw. Point the “V” formed by the fold between the thumb and index fingers of both hands toward the right shoulder for power.

Clubface Despite what you may think, a high draw doesn’t require a shut or closed clubface at impact. Keep the clubface square to the target as you normally would. The path of the clubhead is what makes the ball curve, not the clubface angle at address or impact. Tee the ball higher than normal, with the equator of the ball above the driver’s topline.

Magic Move The key to hitting the high draw is twofold: Be sure you hit the ball on the upswing and, secondly, from an inside swing path. The strong grip will help to square the clubface naturally, so don’t force the club to turn over. As you take the club back, take it back inside the target line and delay the hinge of your wrists until the club reaches near thigh high. This will stretch out and flatten your swing to help you hit a draw. Swing through the ball and allow your weight to favor your rear foot through impact.

100-YD Knockdown100-Yard Knockdown: Don’t let the wind mess up what should be a relatively easy shot.
Body Position To hit a knockdown shot (one that flies low with less spin), there’s very little difference in the setup than most think. Address the ball with your normal wedge stance (albeit you should use a 9-iron instead of a sand wedge, 8-iron instead of a pitching wedge and so on). Don’t feel like you need to lean forward to keep the ball low. The ball should be positioned in the middle of your stance.

Grip There’s no need to manipulate the grip for this shot. But if you do have trouble over-rotating the clubhead when you swing easy, perhaps a weaker grip can help. A slightly forward lean of the shaft is okay, but don’t feel like you need to hood the ball to keep it low.

Clubface The most important aspect of the clubface for this shot is choosing the right club. It’s best to add at least two clubs to keep the ball from generating backspin and getting caught up in the wind. Keep the clubface square to the target.

Magic Move The knockdown shot is really a normal swing with less effort! The proper way to execute the knockdown is to stabilize the body and minimize as much excessive movement as possible. This includes shortening your backswing and downswing by using what I call the 25/75 ratio. First, practice making some smooth swings at about 75-percent power (i.e., if you hit an 8-iron 140 yards, practice on the range until you hit it about 100 yards). Secondly, shrink your backswing and downswing by about 25 percent. Remember to keep the head level, and because it’s a slower swing, you need to retain back and knee flex to prevent dipping down and taking up a big chunk of turf. Swing through the ball normally, and watch the ball split the wind with forward roll.

Semi-Buired BunkerSemi-Buried Bunker: How to hit a semi-submerged ball in a greenside bunker.
Body Position A great rule of thumb for this shot is to remember that the lower the ball sits in the sand, the less spin and control you can put on it. In this case, with a semi-submerged ball, lower-body stability is key. Begin with a square body position, aiming your feet and shoulders parallel to the target and not way to the left (for right-handers). Widen your stance, put 65 percent of your weight on your forward foot and play the ball in the center of your feet.

Grip Use your normal grip and don’t tense up like many golfers do when they find themselves in the sand. Also, adjust the clubface angle before you take hold of the club, not after. You don’t want to twist your hands in order to open or close the clubface. In this case, the ball is sitting low, so square up that clubface.

Clubface The lie controls the clubface here. The more you open the clubface, the less sand you’ll pick up and the more bounce you’ll get from the club, making an open clubface ideal for a ball sitting high up in the sand. In this case, the ball is submerged, so you need to hit more sand in order to excavate the ball. Square that clubface to the target. It’s time to start digging! 

Magic Move The key to hitting this shot is to dig beneath the ball and let the sand lift the ball toward the target. To ensure the proper dig, swing the club on the target line and hinge the wrists sooner than usual. This will steepen your backswing, ensuring a steep, downward blow into the sand about an inch behind the ball. Be sure to accelerate and delay the release of the hands!

Chip With A HybridChip With A Hybrid: How to stick it close with a hybrid.
Body Position Start by assessing this shot like you would a long putt. Using your putting stroke, position the ball in the center of your stance, and because the hybrid is longer than your putter, choke down on the club as necessary, even if it means holding the club below the grip.  

Grip Use your putter grip (whatever style yours may be). Position your hands slightly forward of the ball. Again, choke down and make a few practice swings until it feels like you’re swinging a flatstick. You want minimal wrist movement, just like you do when making a putting stroke.

Clubface Because you’re standing closer to the ball than the club was intended for, you’re going to have to position the clubhead with the toe touching the ground and the heel up slightly in the air. Square the clubface directly at your intended target, and expect the clubface to close very easily through impact.

Magic Move Like putting, chipping with a hybrid requires a stable body through the stroke. The secret? Don’t forget to accelerate, but do so remembering that the ball will hop a few inches and then start rolling—a lot faster than it does with a wedge. It’s a good idea to hit this shot when facing an uphill sloping green because it will help you get the ball to the hole without factoring in the unexpected backspin that a chip with a wedge sometimes yields. Practice this, and you’ll see better results fast.

Thick Rough Pitch ShotThick Rough Pitch Shot: Hit the shot you need to get up and down.
Body Position The deeper the rough, the farther back in your stance you should play the ball. But stop moving the ball back once it’s under your right eye. Opening your stance will give the appearance of moving the ball forward, so it should look like the ball is in the middle of your stance. Place your hands above the ball.

Grip Because you have to negotiate the club through some rough, it’s critical that you increase your grip pressure in both hands. This doesn’t mean you should use a death grip, but it does mean you should hold the club slightly tighter than usual to help ensure that you get the clubhead through the thick grass.
Clubface With the ball in the rough, you’re going to need to dig. Aim the clubface square to the target—not open. Because your body position is slightly open, a squared face should give you just enough digging power without adding too much bounce to the sole. Bounce is your enemy with this shot. You want to hit down!

Magic Move We see this shot played out on the PGA Tour all the time. To be successful hitting a delicate pitch from the deep rough, you have to learn to cock the wrists early on the backswing and release them fully through the downswing. The goal here is to first extricate the ball and do so in the right general direction. Too many amateurs try and add spin, which results in holding the clubface open too long and effectively getting caught up in the grass. Instead, initiate an early hinge on the backswing and a fluid acceleration and release of the hands through impact. It doesn’t hurt to think of this shot as you would a bunker shot. You have to accelerate and hit down on it. Odds are you’ll hit a little behind it, but since you have a steep angle and you’re accelerating, the ball should pop out with some forward roll. It’s okay to abbreviate your finish, too.

3-Wood Punch3-Wood Punch: Hit the shot Tiger hits when the driver gets crooked.
Body Position Align yourself parallel to the target, with a normal stance. The ball should be positioned slightly back from usual, between the left ear and eye (for right-handers). Many golfers feel the need to narrow their stance, but you don’t have to. Maintain your normal 3-wood stance.

Grip Strengthen your left-hand grip. A stronger left-hand grip will lessen your wrist cock and effectively shorten your overall swing. (This is the first step to “punching” the ball.) There should be some forward lean of the shaft, so position the hands more toward the target than usual. Choke down a little, too.

Clubface It may seem logical that you want a closed clubface to hit the ball lower, but that’s not the case here. Due to the forward shaft lean, the clubface will look closed when, in fact, you have it squared to the target. Set the clubhead first, then the forward lean in the shaft toward the target.

Magic Move I’m not a big fan of what’s called an inside-out swing. After all, the swing is going to have to come back inside at some point, so for this shot I recommend what I call an “inside-to-inside swing.” Begin by taking the club back inside the target line and start to hinge the wrists when the club reaches about knee high. This will steepen your swing, helping you to hit a low, punched shot.

Mid-Iron FadeMid-Iron Fade: How to hit a high, soft-landing iron from 180 yards away.
Body Position Address the ball with the body aiming not parallel to the target, but slightly more to the left (for right-handers). The ball should also be positioned in a normal spot, somewhere between your left eye and left ear. The key here is to address the ball open to the target to encourage an outside-in swing path.

Grip Instead of weakening and strengthening your grip, try increasing the grip pressure of your left hand in order to delay the release of the hands through impact. If you adjust your grip completely, you run the risk of an awkward hinge and sensation. Instead, just squeeze a little harder and concentrate on keeping the back of the left hand facing the target through impact. Don’t grip the club, then twist the clubface open. Aim first, then take your grip.

Clubface With the body aiming more left than usual, open the clubface slightly to make sure you put some cut spin on the shot. The key is to not overdo it by opening the club too much. Instead, aim the clubface just a few yards to the right of the target.

Magic Move To hit a mid-iron shot that flies high and lands soft, remember that it’s the left arm that leads the right side of the body through impact. To start, take the club back on a slightly outside-in path and hinge the wrists earlier than normal. This will steepen your swing to hit a fade. Due to your strong left-hand grip pressure and the open clubface, the face will be open at impact, resulting in the desired shot! 

Seth Glasco is Director of Instruction at The Legacy Golf Club in Henderson, Nevada. For more information on Seth and The Legacy Golf Club, visit

Leave a Reply