Become a Shotmaker: Golf Shot Shaping Strategy

Dan Gold
Written by
Last update:

Five Shot Shaping Rules

If you are struggling with your golf game and wondering where you went wrong, it is time to analyze how you play the game.

Never Penalize a Straight Shot

Practice On the Range

All the videos and tips in the world can’t replace hands-on experience. If you play golf, visit your local range and take some time to practice your driving before you play a round. It’s tempting to just go out and start playing every day, but you don’t really know how you’re doing until you analyze your results from a round.

If you practice hitting drives on the range, you can also observe the results. Which shots went where? How do you determine your yardage? Do you know when you’re pulling your drives left? If not, visit the range before playing to get a feel for the conditions. Pay close attention to your tee shots and remember how far you hit each one.

Afterwards, take some shots to try to hit the ball in the same lines as you did at the range. Then, keep track of how far each shot went. You may see a result you were expecting, but this is your chance to pinpoint exactly where the results are coming from.

If you’re working on a specific area, pay attention to your stance. Are you more in balance and relaxed or do you fall off to one side?

Use Jack’s Method

It’s hard to improve your worst slice. Your weakest knock is often the most difficult to learn and correct as it pits your imagination against reality.

Here’s why. A slice is a ball curving to the right of the target. This occurs due to the fact that your left arm straight kick is stronger and tends to straighten out the shots.

Many golfers try to swing straight back, only to wind up the club in the air a bit (and thus right) and then swing it down to the ball. The slice continues because they’re still turning the club too much and they’re pulling the ball left.

This is a great example of the club being on its way down to the ball at the beginning of the downswing instead of coming into the ball from behind. What makes the downswing tricky is that your brain still thinks you’re going straight back.

Just as true for slicers as it is for golfers with other faults, the solution lies in practicing your downswing.

Commit to the Shot

An important sign of a great player is that he is ready to commit to the shot before he even tees off. The ability to commit to the shot mentally before you hit the ball is vital to playing great golf.

It doesn’t matter what the shot is. One of the trickiest parts of golf, whether it’s a tricky sand shot, a short approach shot or a long bomb, is deciding whether or not you want to take the shot.

The first decision is whether or not you are going to take the shot at all. Nobody in their right mind would take a 30-yard uphill shot into the wind if they’re hitting it into the trees.

You need to commit to taking the shot and plan your shot. Here are some questions you can run through:

  • “What is the best club to use?”
  • “How far do I think I’ll hit it?”
  • “What will the lie of the green be?”
  • “What is the wind? What is the distance to the flag?”
  • “What hazards are in play?”

Getting Mentally Ready

How you stand over the ball and prepare for impact will have a definite effect on the outcome of your shot. Before you swing, you have to feel balanced and relaxed. The way you stand prior to setting up to the ball and during the setup will have a direct bearing on your swing, your timing, and the outcome of the shot.

The number-one mistake we see with inexperienced golfers is to stand in an exaggerated position, with the weight shifted toward the heels. This places too much pressure on the hips and shoulders and is a setup that leads to a low, fat shot or a hooking of the ball.

In order to reduce the tendency to "hang back" in an exaggerated position, golf instructor Jim McLean tells his students to take a few practice swings and to count "one thousand" before setting up to the ball. This is an exercise that seems to work well for many golfers. Standing over the ball and holding the club in an exaggerated position for a long period of time tires out the lower body muscles. When you're tired, you tend to hang back, so the drill also serves to strengthen your setup by maintaining a posture that facilitates a fluid shot and good balance.

Be sure to keep your eyes on the ball and maintain a quiet, relaxed mood before making the swing. Taking deep breaths helps to release any tension that might affect the result of your shot.

How to Control Golf Ball Trajectory

Golf is a game of shots, but how do you put those shots together for a great golf game? Well, it’s all about knowing how to control golf ball trajectory. To understand the concept of golf ball trajectory, you need to know how a golf ball is made.

“Topline” is the term used to describe the direction a golf ball travels. Topspin occurs when there is a wide divot behind the golf ball from the golfer’s club in the direction of the golf ball’s flight.

An underspin trajectory comes from the left if your ball is hit with a clubface that points strongly to the left or from a clubface that points strongly to the right on an inside-out swing.

The opposite of an inside-in swing is an outside-in swing, and this also results in an underspin ball. The opposite of an inside-out swing is an outside-out swing, with an underspin ball resulting from either.

Golf ball trajectories are the reason that you should know how to shape your shots. They will help you understand how to play different kinds of golf courses and how to approach shots differently.

The type of angle of attack you should take for each shot is important for shaping the flight path of your golf ball.