The knockdown is a very useful shot to have in your repertoire as it allows you to lower your ball trajectory without sacrificing control or distance. The knock-down shot is most commonly used in windy conditions, to help increase the distance a ball will travel into a head or cross wind. However, it can also be used in many different situations: to get under trees, to roll and run through a bunker or towards a green and even to skip across a pond. There are some specific fundamentals to this shot that will help your ball travel further and lower if preformed correctly… so I hope you enjoy this post!
To start off, the ball needs to be placed behind the center of your stance. This encourages a steep angle of attack that should help to keep the ball low. As shown in the image at right, you want to emulate the "Y" position shown. You must lean your "Y" forward by moving your hands and wrists ahead of the ball… this is also known as a forward press. Finally, your body weight should be either centered 50/50 on your feet or slightly a head of center with 60/40 on the front leg. I would like to see you guys with more weight on the front leg than this image shows.
Backswing & Downswing
The backswing is shortened slightly on this shot for added control, however it does not lack any speed. The transition is identical to your normal swing, but on the way down you start to see some dramatic differences. The secret to a great knock-down shot is lag… and I'm talking extreme lag. As shown in this image to the right, my arms are aiming slightly below 8:00, and my wrists have yet to release. The speed at which the club un-cocks into the ball from this position is what creates the power needed for this shot.
Tiger Woods stated that when he hits a knock-down he tries to feel that his hands are dead. For most players, this was just some pro-talk that makes absolutely no sense. I'm going to try to explain it, as it can really help you hit better knock downs. The dead hands feeling occurs on the downswing… imagine at the top that your arms are in fact dead, they would be fall down loosely, flexibly into impact. To do this properly you need to immediately relax every muscle in your wrists, fingers and arms on your downswing only. It feels much like your arms become spaghetti. Then right at impact, the muscles must tighten up again slightly, to maintain the clubface angle and continue the follow-through. I'm open to suggestions on how to best explain this shot, so please comment below.
Using this technique, I’m able to make my 3-iron carry about 180 yards a mere 15-20ft off the ground. You barely notice a difference in distance when hitting into a wind.
This will take lots of practice, but once you get the hang of it, the added relaxation will increase your lag and bow your lead wrist which as you will find out with the next installment of this post is crucial to hitting the ball lower.
The lag you create normally or through the use of the 'dead hands' technique is crucial as you come into impact. This late lag position forces you into the same forward press position created at address.
The clubs position at impact, shown here in green, shows you the position of the club in relation to my wrists. The shaft leans forward; de-lofting the club quite drastically… forcing the ball to travel on a lower trajectory. The shaft's lean is caused by my lead wrist being bowed. Most professionals will agree that a bowed lead wrist is the main determinant of a properly performed knockdown.
The more the club leans at impact – the lower the clubface angle – the lower the ball travels. If I recall correctly, I was hitting a 9 iron for this shot… and notice how low the trajectory of the ball is (shown in yellow).
Also of note, my body weight is fairly centered and transitioning over to my front leg, even though my head is well behind the ball.
Only a foot after impact, the club finally catches up to my arms, proving that the club was accelerating through impact. From this point on, the swing is decelerating drastically in my attempts to shorten my follow-through. In the last two images, there is one constant – my wrists never release the club. You should not see the "L" position on the follow-through of a knockdown. This ensures you're maintaining lag throughout the swing, and not flipping into impact which would undermine all your hard work to this point.
In summation, I want to outline the key points of hitting a knockdown shot.
1. Ball back of center in your stance.
2. Weight either distributed evenly or with slightly more weight on your front foot.
3. Forward press at address.
4. Shorter backswing than a normal full swing.
5. Extreme lag on the downswing (try incorporating the dead hands technique).
6. Maintain lag into impact where your wrists must lead.
7. Accelerate through impact.
8. Do not release your wrists on the follow-through.
9. Have a short, abrupt follow-through.
Take these tips to the range guys and add this killer shot to your repertoire. It’s effective and will cripple your opponents in the wind.
Give it a try!