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How to strike golf shots like a tour player

Tour players seem to have a mystical ability to strike their shots like missiles. The sound from impact and the flight are the envy of many club players. So how do they do it? There is no such thing as voodoo magic, so here we will break down the mechanics of how to strike golf shots like a tour player, and look at some drills to help you master the mechanics.

If you’re looking for the basics of how to strike your irons well, you may wish to check out this post first. However, for the rest of you, let’s dive in.

Impact of tour striking

The golf ball doesn’t care what you do in your golf swing, it only cares about how it is hit. The mechanics during your swing are important, but impact is the only thing that really matters.

For this reason tour players have wide-ranging techniques, but as they approach the last 1-2 feet before impact you will see little variation in what the club head does. The mechanics through impact that are discussed below are what all tour pros have in common.

Ball speed and energy transfer

Ball speed is critical in striking it like a tour player. The fizz of the golf ball through the air is largely due to a high ball speed. Yet, if you ask most golfers to swing faster, they tend it hit the ball less distance, why? This is because they become less efficient in transferring energy to the golf ball at impact.

The common term used to describe the energy transfer is ‘smash factor’. Smash factor is calculated by dividing the ball speed by the club head speed. For example, a shot hit with a club head speed of 100mph and ball speed of 150mph would have a smash factor of 1.5 (150/100 = 1.5). If the same club head speed produced a ball speed of 120 mph you would have a smash factor of 1.2 (120/100 = 1.2).

With the current limitations on modern equipment, a smash factor of 1.5 is optimal with a driver. This optimal smash factor reduces as clubs get more lofted, due to a less direct impact (more energy going into vertical launch and spin).

The average male amateur has a driver club head speed of 93.4mph and a smash factor of 1.42. Meaning that their average ball speed is 132.6 mph (93.4 x 1.42). If the average golfer was to increase their smash factor to optimal (1.5) their ball speed would increase to 140.1 mph. This would lead to a staggering 15 yards increase in driving distance!

Key point here folks – get very good at optimising energy transfer.

how to strike golf shots like a tour pro Smash factor

There are two major keys to achieving a great smash factor:

1. Centeredness of strike

Golf clubs all have a percussion point or sweet spot. As the ball impact spot moves away from this sweet spot the transfer of energy becomes less efficient. To check where you are striking your shots you have a few options.

For you golfing geeks buy some impact tape or impact spray. For the DIY option, just apply a dot of permanent marker to your golf ball, and hit shots with the marked dot facing towards your club face.

2. Squaring your club face to your swing path

The second factor in optimising energy transfer is ensuring your club face is square to your swing path. If you have a very open or closed club face relative to the swing path of the club head, you will reduce your energy transfer and ball speed.

If your swing path is wildly out to in, or in to out you not wish to achieve a square club face to your swing path. Instead you will have to compensate with your club face to fade/draw the ball back to your target. This is fine, but will diminish your relative ball speed.

Why fades don’t travel?

Since we’re on this point I may as well point out that the two reasons stated above are why fades lose distance. When you hit a fade, the club face is open to the swing path. The open club face also adds loft (changing a 6 iron into a 7 or 8 iron). It is the increased loft and non-square impact that reduces your energy transfer and robs your fade of ball speed and distance.

Drilling down into impact

The last factor that separates tour players’ strike from the rest is their angle of attack. Tour players create a descending strike with their irons. This has a few advantages.

Sweeping irons shots off level from tight lies leaves little room for error (a fat or thin). Where as a descending blow means you have a more chance of striking the golf ball cleanly.

Also, the descending strike creates a slightly lower ball flight, due to less dynamic loft on the club face. Lastly, the difference created between the downward strike and loft pointing upwards, imparts additional backspin onto the golf ball.

Yes, thats right folks, this is what you need for those wedge shots that zip back towards the flagstick.

Building a swing to strike golf shots like a tour player

So we now know what we are after, how do we achieve this?

1. Centring our strike

Until you can’t hit the middle of the club face consistently there is no point worrying about much else in golf. This is true for a beginner, but also as you progress through single figures towards scratch. You need to get dam good at striking that little, white golf ball out the centre of the club face.

Take time to refine your basics. Your posture should be athletic and balanced (pictured below). Note the slight knee flex, most golfers have too much knee flex, which makes it tough to create an athletic swing. Also have a look at the spine angle and how the arms fall down to hold the golf club. These angles should all lead to your weight being centred through the middle of your feet (too much through your heels is a common mistake).

Golf set up how to strike the golf ball like a tour player
You’re aiming to achieve an athletic, yet balanced set-up.

If you maintain your balance all the way through your swing from this set-up, you should have no reason to miss-hit shots. A great drill is to hold your finish and pose until the ball lands.

2. Squaring your club face to improve striking

A sound grip beats all else in squaring your club face at impact. This isn’t the focus of this article, but grab a good golfing pro, or read this post if you’re struggling with a fade.

Your main piece of feedback to continually improve your club face ~ swing path relationship is right in front of you. It is your ball flight. A ball that travels straight and true through the air is the result of a club face perpendicular to your swing path at impact.  Keep refining your ball flight.

3. Descending strike with your irons

Here is where most golfers struggle, so I have invested some time into helping. A descending strike with your irons requires your body to be rotating through to your target and your weight favouring your front foot as you reach impact.

The ideal iron impact is a combination of the club head travelling downwards (blue arrow) with a slightly de-lofted club face (red arrow). Adapted from trackman.
The ideal iron impact is a combination of the club head travelling downwards (blue arrow) with a slightly de-lofted club face (red arrow). Adapted from trackman.

This is not possible with a bad set-up, so please pay close attention to part one. If your body mechanics are reasonable to good, you should be able to generate an impact position with your hands ahead of the golf ball at impact.

These three factors combined with a good set up will super-charge your progress towards creating a descending blow with your irons and tour-level ball striking.

How to practice

The first drill to get the feeling you are after is to rehearse a great impact feeling. This can be done with the simple drill below. Or with an impact bag and a couple of other fun drills.

Really focus on the feeling in your left leg, left hip, left hand and left arm in this impact position. You can really apply some pressure into the floor from this position.

Once you have this feeling of what you are trying to achieve at impact I suggest using the following drill. Take 10 balls and begin by hitting a chip, but a chip with a great strike. With each ball slowly increase the distance you are trying to hit it, but ensure you create a great impact with each shot. If you fail to do so, repeat that distance until you can.

Your aim is to see if you can complete all 10 shots from chip to rip, with a great strike on every shot. If you are not used to creating a descending strike, you will find that you struggle more as you try to hit it harder. Find your threshold and continually work to improve the quality of your strike at this distance.

Hit the links

Last up, hit the links. Imagine you are practicing for the British Open. Your aim is to master the punch shot. You have two ways to hit a low shot with your irons.

  1. Top/thin all your golf shots.
  2. Strike the golf ball out the centre with a lower dynamic loft.

If you wish to take the latter approach, then the only way you can create a lower dynamic loft is with an exaggerated version of the impact position that we have described in this post.

I love this drill, as it takes the focus away from technique and onto hitting great golf shots. Take 20 golf balls and 4 clubs. Your aim is to hit great punch shots with each club (5 attempts with each)

Ramp up your club head speed

Only when you have the details above nailed down is it worth you even considering your club head speed. Yes, tour players strike their irons with around 90+ mph club head speed, compared to 70-80mph for an amateur; but trust me. If you get the pieces above in place you’ll barely care about this difference.

In summary: How to strike golf shots like a tour pro

There really are no mysteries in golf, just lots of small details to continually refine and improve. Enjoy using these drills to help improve your striking. If you want more help get in touch by leaving a comment below and if you want more of this good stuff sent directly to you sign up for the golf insiders weekly post.

Happy golfing.

Head back to long game home

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Will Shaw, PhD, MSc, PGA Pro

Will is a PGA golf professional, with a PhD in Biomedical Science and MSc in Sports Biomechanics & Psychology. He spent 10 years lecturing part-time at Leeds Beckett University and the University of Leeds in Biomechanics and Motor Control before becoming the Head of Golf for the University of Exeter. He currently runs Golf Insider UK, Sport Science Insider around wider consulting and academic roles in sport performance and motor control.

6 thoughts on “How to strike golf shots like a tour player”

  1. Hey man, will you post a sample page from your golf improvement journal? I bought a copy and would like to see how you fill yours out.


    • Hey Max,

      Thanks chap, check out my instagram feed. I try not to spam the feed too much with ‘buy this thing’, but I post a shot or two of my own practice and play every month.

      I’m struggling with a not too fun injury currently, but there should be a few examples to check out. The key thing is to personalise it to your needs to track the important things.
      1. What are your clear weaknesses
      2. What directions do you miss within this area?
      3. Are you practicing something relevant to this each week?
      4. Are you getting better in practice? (skills games score)

      These 4 points are 70% of the work I do with pros. Do the boring and obvious very well is a big part of getting better.

      I hope that along with the links help, but feel free to get back in touch.

      All the best – Will

  2. Hey Will,

    Thanks for the drills! Ball striking has been my #1 priority, especially over the last year since I have regularly been taking swing lessons. I’ve been playing golf for about 10 years and unfortunately haven’t discovered this as one of my main swing flaws until recently, so trying to undo the moves I have been doing or 10+ years has been tough because the transfer seems to be coming slow. These drills should definitely give me a few more ways to challenge myself on the range, on the course, and even at home, rather than just working on exaggerated punches.

    The positives are that I know that by making this my top priority for this year, it will have a 2-fold effect of greatly reducing fades and help me trap the ball into a slight draw, which in turn will lead me to hitting a much higher % of GIRs and drop me from an 11.4-7 or 8 (that’s the goal).

    I assume that the impact position drill is a great one for home? Not being able to hit balls at home limits my practice time, but I try and make do with whatever drills can be done by slowly swinging a club at home, while still getting mental reps.

    • Hi Jordan,

      Thanks for getting in touch. Yes, do use that drill at home, I’ve found just pressing into a great impact position (no swing need) against a door frame gives a really good feeling to take onto the range and course.

      Another thought that might be of use, regarding your fade, is to get your club face square during your downswing. Many players with a fade try to square the club up at impact, but great players adopt a great wrist position and club face angle before impact – it makes hitting a draw far easier. Check out the Tommy Fleetwood section in this link below:

      I hope that helps, and keep up the fine work.


  3. Some days i can hit my irons pure, not tour distance , but pure. Other days i struggle to get the ball going past 30 or 40 carry shin height. Its so frustrating because i feel i have the potential to score in the low 80s with some of the shots i produce when “im in the zone”. I find im overthinking my pre shot routine and underthinking what i want to accomplish with the shot in front of me. Maybe i just answered my own question with that statement. If i could hit shots on the course like the range consistently……….low 80s high 70s all day lol. But that one or two beauties keeps me coming back and wanting more.

    • Hi Damian,

      There are a couple of points to this question:

      1) Become very consistent with your setup, posture and balance throughout your golf swing. You’ll need to set aside a little time each week to wok on these aspects.

      2) Yes you are correct – try to focus on playing golf rather than swinging the golf when you are out trying to score – often easier said than done.

      I’ve never found the perfect balance between technical work and practicing playing golf, but always be clear when you step onto the range or golf course what you intend to focus on.

      This article below should help with the technical aspects of posture and setup.

      I hope that helps.



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