Shot Doctor: Punch Shot Damage Control | Oregon Golf Association

Shot Doctor: Punch Shot Damage Control

By Mark Keating, Head PGA Golf Professional, OGA Golf Course
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Even the simplest punch shot requires a plan. By taking a moment to focus on a couple of quick steps, players can avoid disastrous results like hitting limbs of a tree or blasting the ball through the fairway into yet another trouble spot on the other side.

Proper Punch Shot Technique (as described for right-handed players): Let’s start with the correct address and swing motion. Either load the weight of your body to your front foot for the entire shot, or at least move it forward early in the downswing to assure a descending blow. Move your hands slightly in front of the ball to de-loft the club.

During the swing, cock the club and let the head travel more than the hands. Focus on keeping the right hand facing down during drawback and continue to have the right wrist cocked/bent backwards through the swing.

Finish the shot with a low follow through, with the shaft sweeping through before the club head to maintain the appropriate de-lofted impact. Keep rotating your body during the follow through to further quiet the hands through the shot (rather than only using your arms during the swing).


Part I – Club Selection: Many golfers simply make the wrong club selection. Instincts tell you to grab a club with the lowest lofted iron to use (3, 4 or 5 iron) – thinking that will keep the ball low. This can create some problems you don’t expect.

Many golfers identify too late – often times mid-swing – that the club in use does not have enough loft, especially when using the correct punch-shot form described above and shown in the adjacent image (weight forward, wrist cocked). Innately or unknowingly, the golfer then attempts to add loft during the swing motion by straightening the right wrist. This results in the club head becoming even with the shaft or possibly beating the shaft to the ball at impact. Then voila, the shot is struck into the hindering tree limbs you intended punching below.

On the flip side, if you happen to miraculously leave the loft alone (despite having the wrong club selection but using the correct form with wrist cocked and weight forward), it’s highly probable the ball won’t elevate over the rough in front of you. The shot then typically gets stuck in the rough and golfers find themselves in another punch-shot situation since the ball hasn’t traveled far enough to provide clearance from the hindering tree limbs.

Solution: Take a middle iron (6, 7 or 8 iron) and with the technique described above, de-loft the face of the club to a level between the height of the rough and the tree-limb line.

Use some imagination – do some quick geometry in your mind to determine what angle the club face needs to hit the ball in order for it to fly low enough to avoid limbs (while also above the rough). Just by selecting a middle iron and “de-lofting” the club face to ensure it doesn’t hit the tree limbs, you will be on your way to a more successful punch shot. Don’t forget to keep the club cocked and your right hand down throughout the swing.

Part II – Not Identifying the Correct Landing Area: We’ve all been there, you strike the ball below the limbs and above the rough to get out of trouble. But then the ball sails through the fairway to the rough on the other side (and often times into another tricky punch-shot situation). This is where a little planning can save golfers a lot of heartache.

Solution: Design your punch shot just the way you would design a chip near the green. Since the ball will come out low (and fast in some situations), you need to consider how far it will roll once it punches through.

First, identify the spot in the fairway where you want the ball to FINISH. Then, draw your eyes back to the place where that ball needs to bounce first in order to roll and finish in the desired location. If possible, the “first bounce” should be in the short grass of a fairway so the momentum is not disturbed by uneven ground in the rough area.

During these punch shots, take a quick second to read the contours of a fairway like you would a green. Use the slope of the fairway to help dictate where your ball will end up.

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