In golf, there are various shots for various situations. Some of them are invented and patented by certain players. The stinger by Tiger Woods is a great example. Then, there are general shots such as the low punch shot.
A low punch shot is a very important skill to master. It’s one of the finest ways to get out of a long grass or to get out of the tough life. Many people get confused between the stinger and the low punch shot. Although they have some overlapping properties, they’re not the same by any means.
If you have to compare this shot to any of the others, it’s closer to a chip than a stinger. Because you’ll be dialing back your swing speed instead of going for the full swing.
While this shot is not that complex to hit or master, many players fear this shot very much. It’s because if you mess up the punch shot, you’ll end up even deeper into the rough or the trees. It’s counteractive to the purpose of the punch shot which is to reduce your handicap.
In this guide, we’re going to break the low punch shot down to bare clubs and address position to see what goes into making a magnificent blow.
What is the Low Punch Shot?
A low punch shot is basically a low flying shot that clears the high tree branches or any low hanging branches on the course. The purpose of this shot is to give you enough height and ball speed to clear any obstacles but not enough to roll out of the fairway.
In most cases, you may feel the need for playing a low punch shot right after the tee shot. Because, if you mess up the driver shot by a hair, you may end up in a rough or jungle of trees. To successfully get out of there, you’ll need to hit a low punch shot.
As we’ve already said, the reason players are afraid to play this shot is because they can get even deeper into the rough if the shot is played improperly. That’s where our guide comes into play. Let’s get started.
How to Hit the Low Punch Shot?
To master the low punch shot, we’re going to take a systematic approach. We’re going to go step-by-step and explain why each step is necessary.
The moment you realize that you have to play this shot, you need to determine what club to use. For most cases, it’ll happen right at the tee shot. Ideally, you should play the shot with an iron. Depending on the condition of the grass and the surrounding hazards, you may need to use anything between a 4-iron and an 8-iron.
If you see a very little opening in front of the ball but a long stretch of a bad lie, you can use the 4-iron. It’ll help you power through the gap and land on the fairway. On the contrary, if you have some room in the vertical direction and the bad lie ahead of you is not that bad, a 7 or an 8 iron will work well.
If you’re using a hybrid, you can take the corresponding ones to the irons. Hybrids are usually better for long shots with very little loft. Also, hybrids come with higher forgiveness so you can expect clear hits. Keep in mind that using hybrids where you need more height than distance is a bad idea.
Pull the Ball Back
Or, take your stance a little bit forward. We’re basically telling you to play the shot from the back of your stance than chip shots. As you can’t pick up the ball to change its position, you need to take your stance accordingly.
When you pull the ball position backward, you deloft your club face. It’s a crucial step because you don’t want your ball to go flying. The entire concept of a low punch shot is based on keeping the ball low.
Put More Weight on Your Front Foot
In terms of weight distribution, you should put more weight on the front foot. The combination of weight on the front and the ball on the back of your stance will result in a clean hit. Also, it’ll help you keep the attack angle shallow.
If the attack angle becomes steep, the club will pick up more loft through impact. And as you know, more loft means more ball flight. In a situation where you feel the need to play the low punch shot, more ball flight will put you on the high branches of trees!
Pick A Target
This is a very important step indeed. You don’t want to hit blindly from the rough or tree hazards! You need a target area that you plan to land on. Also, as you’re playing a low flying shot, the ball will roll. You need to keep the rollout distance in consideration as well.
While picking up the target, your goal is to get as close to the hole as possible. It’s the only possible way to save par. Trying to get into the green directly is a very bad approach in tight situations. Rather, you need to pick a target from where you can play your next shot. A chip or pitch, whatever that may be.
If you try to hit the green directly from the hazard, you decrease the chances of a clean hit. Because a low punch shot is played at roughly 20-50% swing speed. If you go for a full swing when surrounded by trees or long grass, you’re more likely to miss.
Speaking of swing speed, please pay attention to the next section.
Club Face Angle and Swing Speed
Generally, we advise players to keep the club face angle square at address. But it’s not going to work when you’re playing the low punch shot. The club face angle should be closed through impact for all of your punch shots. It’s true for all kinds of clubs as well.
For the club shaft, it should lean forward. For long clubs, it’s generally recommended to keep the shaft at a neutral position. Specially for drivers and long irons, you need to keep the perpendicular to the ground.
However, for low punch shots, the club shaft should lean forward. It means your hands will be in front of the club head throughout the swing. This action further delofts the club face to minimize ball flight. As the club face will become more upright, you increase your chances of hitting the shot more cleanly.
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The swing speed should be no more than 50% of your regular swing. Some instructors will tell you to dial it back even further, down to a maximum of 35% in some cases. While you’re free to experience varying swing speeds, it’s not recommended to go over the 50% mark.
Some might say how do I know if I’m playing at 50% speed or not? Well, if you put in enough hours at the driving range to practice the shots, you’ll get the feel of a slow swing on your own. If you find it impossible to control your swing speed without guidance, you can invest in a launch monitor. There are various options available on the market for players just like you.
Lastly, both the backswing and the follow through should be quite short. As you would know, more swing distance means more distance on the ball. But you’re not going for maximum carry with a low punch shot. So, you can cut your swing distance by half for this shot. Waist level is a good representation of where your backswing should stop.
Practice at the Range
If you think you can read our guide and go to the course the next day to hit the punch shot and succeed, you’d be very wrong. Just like with any other shot, you need to prepare yourself. The best place to practice the low punch shot is at the driving range. It’s even better if you can manage to practice on the course.
One of the main reasons why players fear the low punch shot so much is that they don’t practice it enough. While the logic of not needing the shot often is correct, you can never know when a shot like this might come in handy.
It’s best if you come up with a practice routine for the range by yourself. You should include different types of clubs such as irons, hybrids, and even wedges into the practice. Practice with all of those clubs by following our guide to see which one works out best for you.
If you find a suitable range of clubs you’re comfortable playing with, focus on those clubs for the next practice sessions. You shouldn’t spend too much time experimenting if you’re trying to master this shot.
The world of golf is full of surprises. Some of them are pleasant. Others are not. Ending up in a bad lie or rough just when you start a round is definitely not a pleasant surprise. But if you have such a powerful tool as the low punch shot in your personal inventory, you can get out of the situation and still save par.
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Thanks for reading today’s article!
Nick Foy – Golf Instructor