1 key mistake high handicappers make — and how to start fixing it

Your ability to hit the middle of the clubface is king in golf, and one of the key separators of skill between handicap levels.


Often, when golfers talk about mis-hits, they think about them in directional terms. Left or right, hook or slice. That is, of course, an extremely important element to understand if you hope to improve your game. But perhaps more importantly — especially for new golfers — is solving another kind of mis-hit: contact errors.

Contact errors are the kind of disaster shots we all know and hate. Shanks, toes, tops, thins, even whiffs. Whatever happens when you miss the middle of the clubface — that’s a contact error. And GOLF Teacher to Watch Devan Bonebrake says they’re perhaps the biggest problem holding higher handicaps back from shooting lower scores.

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“If you can put the clubface on the ball relatively consistently, so you’re not hitting chunks, tops and shanks, playing golf will become a lot easier,” he says. “It may not go perfectly straight, but as long as you’re advancing the ball forward each time, you’ll be making progress.”

Erik Henrikson, PING’s Director of Golf Science, illustrates why. With a 7-iron, tour players hit their ball around a tight grouping in the middle of the clubface. A 15 handicap, by contrast, hits balls all across the face.

This is true with players’ drivers, too. You can see that more heel-toe misses increase alongside handicaps. And as Arccos’ Data Lead Lou Stagner shows in his tweet above, that can create all sorts of issues with your dispersion pattern. Part of the reason why amateurs miss short so often is because they’re missing the center of the clubface, and as you can see, off-center hits can create directional issues, too.

How to fix it

As for how you fix it? GOLF Top 100 Teacher Tina Tombs says she’ll often sprinkle some powder, or foot spray, onto her students’ clubface, then have them hit shots. Start with a small, soft chip shot, and gradually work your way up.

Mark Durland, another Top 100 Teacher, says to practice intentionally trying to miss the center of the clubface. Hit some drives off the heel, then some off the toe. That will help your brain calibrate each end of the club — and make it easier to find the center when the time does come.


Luke Kerr-Dineen

Golf.com Contributor

Luke Kerr-Dineen is the Game Improvement Editor at GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com. In his role he oversees the brand’s game improvement content spanning instruction, equipment, health and fitness, across all of GOLF’s multimedia platforms.

An alumni of the International Junior Golf Academy and the University of South Carolina–Beaufort golf team, where he helped them to No. 1 in the national NAIA rankings, Luke moved to New York in 2012 to pursue his Masters degree in Journalism from Columbia University. His work has also appeared in USA Today, Golf Digest, Newsweek and The Daily Beast.