How to Hit a Low Punch Shot
This is a shot that is crucial for all golfers to learn and attempt to master regardless of your handicap or skill level. We have all found ourselves in trouble from an errant drive and end up in the trees, whether it’s the left or right side of the fairway. When this happens, we often have several options. You can take the safe route and just chip out to the fairway through the biggest opening in the trees. Or there is often a riskier option of hitting through a thinner opening but also advancing the ball further up the fairway or even all the way up to the green and possibly close to the pin. If you haven’t mastered hitting a low punch shot yet, it’s almost always best to chip out the safest way possible and use good course management.
So let’s get to how to actually go about hitting this low punch shot. First you should think about club selection. This usually depends on how low and how far you need to hit your punch shot. If you want to hit a punch shot that is only 5-10 feet off the ground but need it to fly and roll out over 100 yards, you’ll want to grab your lowest iron in your bag, whether you still have a 2 iron, or even a 3 or 4 irons will work. I would recommend against using a wood or especially a hybrid. Hybrids are harder to hit to keep a low trajectory with. I have used a driver before but only under very special circumstances. Also know that a driver off the deck will often product a cut or left to right golf shot.
So now that you have your club selection what is next? Let’s talk about setup first. You will to setup very similar to hitting a chip shot. You want your weight forward towards your left foot for a right-handed golfer (opposite for a left-handed golfer). You then need to keep your hands in a forward-press position ahead of the ball and the ball should be played a bit back in your stance. These three things will help you keep the ball low when hitting your low punch shot.
Once you have your setup correct, you’re ready to take your swing. This next part is also just as important as your setup. You do not need to take a full swing. You’d be surprised how hard and how far you can hit a punch shot by only taking a quarter to half swing at the ball. The further your backswing and the harder you swing the higher your punch shot will go. You also want to try to trap the ball and make sure you make clean contact. This is very important, a fat or thin shot will alter your trajectory, and can make matters much worse. Your follow through should be abbreviated as well, you will not want much wrist action at all. You’ll want to finish your swing with the golf club closer to the ground to help keep the trajectory low.
Now all of the things mentioned above, from club selection, to how hard you swing, where you play the ball in your stance, etc. all come into play for each specific type punch shot. Sometimes you may need to hit a punch shot 10-15 yards high but only fly it 30 yards, for that shot you may use a 7 or 8 irons. You will need to get to the driving range and really experiment with each iron and also try different distance and trajectories with each iron. Remember the 40 yard drawing punch shot Bubba Watson hit through the trees at the 2012 Master’s?
Once you feel like you’ve mastered hitting a straight punch shot, you can also try hitting a punch shot that slightly draws or fades. To hit a punch shot with a slight draw, the easiest way to do this is to close your stance a bit. You can also close the face of your iron at setup or more advanced golfers can also use more wrist action, especially with the right-hand through impact. It’s important to make an inside-out swing to hit this low drawing punch shot. If you want to hit a fading punch shot (left to right), you’ll do the opposite. You can slightly open your stance and you’ll want to extremely limit your wrist action, holding on without breaking your wrists through impact. If you are hitting one of these types of punch shots that fade or draw just make sure you line up correctly to take the fade or draw action of the shot into play. So if you’re hitting a draw make sure aim further right and vice versa for a fade. Seve Ballesteros was a master at this shot and getting out of trouble. Seve once said, “I’d like to see the fairways more narrow. Then everyone would have to play from the rough, not just me.”
Again, these are all shots that truly take a lot of practice to master, especially when you start to try to move your punch shots from left to right or right to left. Take an entire bucket of golf balls and visualize the window you need to hit your punch shot through and make mental notes of how all factors from club selection, to your swing and setup alter each shot. This is a very valuable shot to have in your repertoire because we all know how difficult the game of golf is and everyone ends up in the woods at some point. You can not only use this shot to punch out through trees but you can apply the same techniques to hit a low knockdown shot into a strong wind. Hitting a low punch shot can save you so many strokes, especially on tight courses with a lot of trees so get out there and practice it until you’ve mastered it.