In golf underclubbing occurs when a golfer uses a club that produces a shot where the ball lands short of the target.
Every golf club has a specific loft and shaft length combination that sends the ball over a given distance. A golfer who is said to have underclubbed will have chosen a club that produces a shot distance that is smaller than the distance to the green – or the target. And because the ball will ultimately miss the target, coming to rest short, it is considered a golf shot error that should be avoided.
There are at least a few different ways that can lead a golfer to misjudge the club required for a shot and to underclub as a result. The following lists lie condition factors that can lead to these mistakes. The section following that one deals with golf shot errors that can produce a ball that lands short of the target.
Lie Conditions Leading to Underclubbing
Is the green located above you?
Underclubbing can come as a result of a variation in altitude between the green – or target – and the spot from where the ball is hit.
Specifically, it can happen whenever the green is located much higher than where the ball lies. Indeed, oftentimes the green can be located on grounds that are higher than the tee box or fairway leading up to it. This happens regularly in mountain courses but also elsewhere when golf architects have to deal with hills or other severe slopes.
Failure to adjust to these variations in altitude can lead to underclubing.
Quite simply, the simple fact that the ball won’t be in the air for as long – its flight interrupted by a green perched high – will result in the ball going short of its otherwise full normal distance.
FIX: Club up when the green is located way above you
Some situations will call for an adjustment of a full club while others will only require slight swing tweaks. Making the right judgment call will come with experience and is part of the journey of the golfer.
Is the wind blowing hard?
It is easy to forget to check for the wind factor ahead of every shot because of how complex golf already is otherwise. Yet the wind direction and how strongly it blows can definitely lead to club selection errors and to underclubbing issues.
A strong headwind can be sufficient to cost at least a full club’s distance. But a strong crosswind should also be noted and adjusted for as it too will restrict the distance the ball will travel.
FIX: Club up when against strong headwind, but also when facing strong crosswind
Once again, experience will guide you into making the correct judgement call. But a good rule of thumb states that a wind speed that would cost a full club length when coming straight in should cost half a club when coming in sideways.
Is the ball buried deep into the rough?
The length of the grass in the area where the ball is located will also impact how far a shot will go.
Golfers usually know the yardages that each club will produce from fairway-like lies, where the grass is cut short. However, position the ball into heavier and longer grass such as in the rough and you’ll produce a shot whose distance can be noticeably different.
A ball that is found in heavy rough or where the ball is buried in it will be prove trickier to hit over a full, normal distance. That is because the clubhead will be slowed down by the grass blades as it makes its way towards impact with the ball.
FIX: Position the ball back in your stance a little
Doing so will help in reducing the number of grass blades that will slow the clubhead down as it progresses towards the ball.
In very tall grass such as in fescue, it might be impossible for amateurs to produce a shot whose distance comes anywhere close to what it should be. In those instances, it is often best to use a high lofted club such as a wedge in order to simply get out of trouble and back into the fairway, even at the cost of considerable distance.
More on: How the ball position in your stance affects your golf shots
Do you change balls during a round?
Some balls are harder than others and generally speaking a softer ball will travel over a shorter distance than a harder ball will.
If you happen to lose a ball during a round or change it for whatever reason then you’ll need to make sure it is of the same type as the one you normally use. Swapping a golf type for another after finding it in the woods can lead to underclubbed shots if it is not of the same type.
FIX: Don’t change ball types over the course of a round
Or if you do, account for the difference when selecting your clubs.
Is it cold outside?
Finally, how cold it is outside can also have an impact on how far the ball will travel. Indeed, a ball will travel over a shorter distance in a colder environment than it will in a hotter one.
These changes can occur over the seasons with balls failing to go their full distances in the colder months but it can also happen during a single round when dramatic temperature swings occur.
FIX: Club up when it is particularly cold outside
Shot Errors leading to Underclubbing
Did you hit it fat?
While the examples above dealt with situations that could lead you to using the wrong club, factors other than judgment calls can still explain why your ball landed short of the target.
Yes, hitting the ball fat will very often result in a ball coming to rest short of the target and essentially in an underclub situation. This happens because the clubhead will be slowed down as it digs down before making contact with the ball. Because it is slowed down ahead of impact, the clubhead won’t be able to hit the ball with as much vigor as it normally does, which will see the ball landing short of the target.
FIX: Focus on getting a clean contact with the ball
More on: How to stop hitting fat shots