March 29, 2023

Dropping your lead shoulder and leaning toward the target can be a useful technique.

In golf, little changes can make a big difference, especially in your setup. One of my favorite examples of this truism is a minor setup adjustment that will help you improve your contact and consistency on a variety of different shot types — 10 of them, in fact!

Here’s how to do it:   

At address, slightly drop your lead shoulder and lean toward the target. If you picture a “T” down your spine and across your shoulders, the “T” should be tipped toward the target; this tilt will steepen the angle of your attack at impact and promote a lower ball flight. It’s a simple adjustment but it can be useful for each of the following shots:

1. Chip

A forward lean on shots around the green will produce lower, running chip shots. By definition, this shot will roll more than it carries. The lean de-lofts the face of the club and also helps the arc of your swing bottom out after impact. In addition this tilting forward, grip the club lower, take a narrower stance more narrow and keep your ball position relatively centered.

Forward lean promotes lower, running chip shots.

Angus Murray

2. Bump-and-run

Bump-and-runs require a slightly longer stroke than chips and with a less lofted club like a 7- or 8-iron. The ball will typically land short of the green and, like a chip, roll more than it carries. Leaning your “T” toward the target and keeping your weight forward through the stroke will produce a consistent result with little risk of poor contact.

3. Punch

Leaning forward and stopping your backswing at just above hip level will produce a driving, lower ball flight. Pair that move with a less lofted club and you’ll have a great shot option when you have a limited backswing length or are trying to keep the ball low to escape trouble.

How to hit a knockdown shot

Three tips for how to shift weight and hit a knockdown shot


Zephyr Melton

4. Knockdown

For knockdowns, you’ll want to extend your backswing closer to shoulder height with the goal of keep your ball flight lower to have more control in the wind. Leaning toward the target and keeping your weight forward will produce this wind-piercing ball flight. Keeping your weight forward also helps to limit the length of your backswing.

5. Ball buried in rough

When your ball is buried in the rough, it can be difficult to make clean contact because grass gets between the clubface and your ball. When you lean toward the target and your shoulder line becomes steeper as a result, your angle of attack naturally also becomes steeper, which will help the club make better contact. Keep in mind, when you lean you also de-loft the club face, so you make need to take a more lofted club to have enough clearance to carry any obstacles in front of you.

6. Ball buried in sand

For this trouble shot, the leading edge must dig into the sand to get the ball out. When you lean toward the target not only do you steepen the angle of attack but you also engage the digging edge of your iron. This steepening may also result in a limited follow-through or finish, which is just fine!

Good luck!

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7. Ball in a divot

Making clean contact from a divot requires similar technique to making clean contact from deep rough. Forward tilt will help the club approach the ball at a sharper angle to promote solid contact.

8. Downhill lie

When your lead foot is lower than your trail foot, setting your body so that it matches the slope will help the club “sweep” down the hill, rather than hitting behind the ball. Setting your spine perpendicular to the hill and leaning toward the target will produce solid ball-first contact. Like many of the other shots covered, forward tilt will also produce a lower flight that can be offset by choosing a more lofted club.

9. Skip across the pond

The pros do it at Masters practice rounds — and you can, too! If you want to wow your golf pals, lean forward at address for a lower, skipping ball flight that allows the forward momentum that makes this gravity-defying flight possible.

10. “Plan B” swing

Ever have those days where your swing is just off and you can’t find the clubface? We all do! A knockdown type setup and swing can be the plan B swing you need to survive the round and do the least amount of damage to your scorecard. The combination of shortening your swing and keeping your weight forward will help ensure better contact.

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