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What Is a Penetrating Ball Flight?

by M.L. Rose
    While growing up in Texas, Lee Trevino learned how to hit penetrating shots into the wind.

    While growing up in Texas, Lee Trevino learned how to hit penetrating shots into the wind.

    Darren Carroll/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

    A well-hit shot with a low trajectory is called a “penetrating” golf shot, according to PGA Master Professional Don Trahan. The advantages of a penetrating shot, Trahan says, include accuracy and maximum distance. This type of shot is also ideal for hitting into the wind, because the wind can knock down a shot that has a higher trajectory. Simply hitting the ball low from short range is easy. If you’re in the rough, for example, and need to hit under a tree branch, just use a less-lofted club or play the ball farther back in your stance. For a normal shot, such as a tee shot or a long approach, you must use the correct technique to hit a truly penetrating shot.

    Tee the Ball High

    Trahan advises golfers to tee the ball higher if they want to hit it low. While this may sound counterintuitive, Trahan explains that the sweet spot on modern, large-head drivers tends to be high on the club face. Therefore, teeing the ball low with such a driver “makes hitting a solid, penetrating low shot off a low tee almost impossible.” Trahan suggests using your normal stance and playing the ball in your standard position off the tee. He further suggests tightening your right hand and forearm (for a right-handed player) to “create and control that longer, more level approach” and to “stay level longer through impact.”

    Playing Into the Wind

    To hit a low shot into the wind, PGA Hall of Fame professional Randy Smith recommends moving the ball slightly back in your stance and swinging a bit easier, while using a longer club than you’d typically select for your shot. Additionally, use more of a sweeping motion, rather than hitting down on the ball. “You want the arc at the bottom of the swing to be shallow instead of steep,” he says, “to send the ball out on a penetrating flight.”

    Backswing

    Josh Zander, PGA professional and former Northern California PGA Teacher of the Year, advises players who wish to hit a penetrating shot to focus on the backswing. He cites Ben Hogan's recommendation to visualize an imaginary pane of glass wrapped around your body, just below the shoulders. Take your club back and around your body while keeping it below the imaginary pane of glass. “This shallow swing path will produce a lower, boring ball flight,” Zander says.

    One-Arm Drill

    Before becoming one of the PGA Tour’s all-time greats, Lee Trevino developed a drill to help him hit low, penetrating shots. Trevino, who is right-handed, held a wedge with his left hand and placed a ball in the middle of his stance, with his weight slightly forward. He took the club back until his arm was parallel with the ground, then swung into the back of the ball, keeping his hand in front of the club head into the hitting zone. The drill “trains the left forearm to identify the feel of the handle staying ahead of the club head through impact,” says Jim Flick, award-winning golf teacher and Jack Nicklaus' coach.

    References

    About the Author

    M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.

    Photo Credits

    • Darren Carroll/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images