How to Stop Whiffing the Ball

For tons of golfers, there’s nothing more embarrassing than whiffing the ball.

We all know the feeling. As you line up your shot and take your practice swings, you start to feel the pressure build. And while you’ve constantly practiced your swing to make it as consistent as possible, the pressure can quickly get to you.

So, right as you’re about to make contact, you feel the club face miss the ball.

This is the dreaded “whiff”, which can be one of the most embarrassing things to happen to a golfer on the course. On top of that, it can kill your momentum, making for sub-par scores by the time you go through the course.

But what causes whiffing? And what can you do to avoid it?

Well, in this article, that’s exactly what we’re talking about. Keep reading to learn what it means to whiff the golf ball, why it happens, and how you can stop it from happening.


What Does It Mean to “Whiff” a Ball?

When a golfer whiffs a ball, it means that they miss the sweet spot during their swing. This is something that can happen to any golfer and it’s a common thing around a lot of amateurs looking to have some fun on the course.

This can happen for a lot of reasons. But for many golfers, it’s usually a matter of commitment. When the golfer doesn’t fully commit to their shot, they tend to stand straight during the swing, which causes them to completely miss the ball.

Whiffing can be embarrassing and kill your mood on the golf course. On top of that, it’s something that can happen to any golfer on any hole or course.

And if you want to stop whiffing the ball, you need to learn the details of what causes a golfer to whiff in the first place. But don’t worry, we’ll get to that in the next section.

Why Does Whiffing Happen?

As mentioned earlier, whiffing happens for a lot of reasons. While a lack of commitment is one of the main causes, you could be whiffing the ball for a ton of other reasons. This includes poor technique, teeing the ball wrong, your posture, and even a fear of hitting the ground.

So, let’s take a close look at these causes so you can start working on correcting these issues and finding a lot more success on the course!

Poor Technique

The most common cause for whiffing the ball is poor technique. Golf is a sport that’s all about getting the right technique and developing a consistent swing. So, if you’re new to the sport and haven’t gotten the technique down just yet, this could be the reason you whiff the golf ball. Read our guide for swing sequence.

For example, a frequent issue with amateur golfers is standing up when they take their swing. It’s pretty common for amateurs to straighten their back or stand up right before the club makes an impact with the ball. This messes with the alignment, causing you to completely miss the ball when you swing.

Another example of poor technique causing a golfer to whiff the ball is if they grip the club too tight. When you do this, the muscles in your forearm contract, which could make it harder to properly align your shot.

So, if you’re new to golf, there’s a fair chance that you’ll whiff the ball from time to time. But don’t worry; the more you practice and develop your technique, you’ll find yourself making proper contact with the ball in no time.

Teeing the Ball Too Low

How to Stop Whiffing the Ball, Teeing the Ball Too Low

Another issue that causes golfers to whiff the ball is teeing it too low. It can take some time for golfers to figure out the right way to tee the ball in different situations. For example, some golfers like to tee the ball low on the fairway but tee it high when using the driver to get more distance.

However, keep in mind that you shouldn’t tee the ball too low, especially if you whiff your shots from time to time. If you have your ball too low on the tee, there’s a high chance of missing the ball and whiffing or topping it.

Using the Wrong Club

When playing golf, you need to have a fair collection of clubs for different situations. One of the biggest learning curves for beginners is choosing the right club for the right situation. However, regardless of which club you choose, you have to make sure to get the right size.

If the club is too short for you, it will be harder to hit the ball properly on your swing. So, always pay close attention to club size if you want to avoid whiffing the ball when on the course.

Incorrect Posture

Again, if your body isn’t in the right position at the point of contact with the ball, you might end up missing. So, when practicing, make sure to pay close attention to your posture to ensure that you have proper alignment and positioning right as you hit the ball.

Here are some tips for the proper posture when taking your swing:

  • Slightly flex your knees
  • Bend your torso at the waist
  • Keep your back straight
  • Hang your arms loose

When playing a round of golf, posture is crucial. This is why golfers need to spend a lot of time developing their posture when taking their shots. That way, they make sweeter contact with the ball and it flies exactly how they want them to.

The Reverse Pivot

When you take your shot in golf, you’re supposed to shift your weight to your back foot when you pivot. However, it’s common for some golfers to pivot off their lead foot, which is called the reverse pivot, another primary reason golfers whiff the ball when taking a shot.

If you don’t transfer your weight properly, it can lead to you missing the ball. This is why golfers need to focus on developing a solid base in their stance that allows them to pivot and transfer their weight when pivoting.

When you shift your weight, you get a proper arc on the ball, which is how to get more consistent and reliable shots!

Being Afraid to Hit the Ground

How to Stop Whiffing the Ball

The opposite of whiffing the ball is hitting the ball too high on the face. This is called a heavy shot and it means the golfer makes a lot of contact with the ground. This is another common problem for beginners.

And while it’s important to ensure that you don’t hit the ball too low and make contact with the ground, this can lead to overcompensation. A lot of the time, golfers are so afraid of making contact with the ground on their shots that they hit the ball too high, which causes them to whiff or top the golf ball.


It’s hard to hit a proper shot on the course when you’re nervous. And when you have other golfers around you watching what you do, it’s easy to get nervous and mess up your shot. Staying calm and focused when taking your shot takes a lot of practice and patience, but it will ultimately lead to much better and more consistent swings.

Why Golfers Whiff Shots When Using Drivers and Irons

Whiffing is most common with drivers. This is caused by the reasons we mentioned above and has a lot to do with the golfer’s technique and positioning. However, teeing the ball too low and the golfer’s mentality can also cause you to whiff your shot when using a driver.

That said, whiffing the ball with your irons is still very possible. It’s a bit rarer than whiffing with your driver, but it still happens. The main reason this happens is that some golfers sway when they take their swing, which is something you want to avoid.

How to Stop Whiffing the Ball with Drivers and Irons

Whether you’re using a driver on an iron, the reasons you might be whiffing the ball remain the same. To start, poor technique is one of the main causes of golfers whiffing their shots. So, the first thing you need to do if you want to stop whiffing the ball is to work on your technique.

Aside from practicing the basics to develop a consistent swing, there are tons of drills you can practice to stop whiffing the ball, but we’ll get to those later.

Another thing you can do to reduce the chances of whiffing your shot is to ensure that you have the right golf club. This means that when buying your set, make sure to pay close attention to the sizing guide to ensure that the club isn’t too short. Remember, clubs that are too short might cause you to whiff the ball, which is why you want to avoid this as much as possible.

Here are some other things to keep in mind if you want to stop whiffing the ball on the course.

Keep Calm and Collected

A steady head can greatly improve your shot. What we mean is that you should stay focused on the task at hand and try to avoid getting distracted. When you’re calm, you’re more focused, which will result in you keeping steady and consistent throughout the entire swing.

Small shifts in your position can completely mess up your swing. This is why keeping steady and maintaining a solid stance is crucial if you want to develop your golf game. And if you want to stay steady when lining up your shots, you need to stay calm.

Look at the Swing as a Pendulum

Another way you can avoid whiffing the golf ball is to look at your swing as the pendulum. The club serves as your swinging arm while the top part of your grip is the fixed point. So, if you make sure that the fixed point stays fixed, you will avoid misalignment on your shot and ensure that your shot bottoms out in the same place during your swing.

To do this, you need to keep your head steady. If you have a steady head, it’s much easier to keep the fixed point in the same place, leading to a much better shot that you won’t whiff.

Hit Down on the Golf Ball

If you want the ball to fly, you need to hit down on it. This means that on your downswing, you make contact with the ball and then the ground, in that specific order. This is why you want the bottoming point of your swing to be a bit down and forward right before it hits the ball.

Again, to do this you need to keep a steady head and think of your swing as a pendulum. It might take some practice, but golf is a sport that requires a lot of patience. So, if you put in the time and effort to develop your swing and keep it consistent, you’ll find yourself whiffing the golf ball much less.

Drills to Stop Whiffing the Ball

As you play more rounds of golf and develop your swing, you’re going to start whiffing the ball less. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take active steps to stop whiffing the ball. And for most beginner golfers, the best way to do this while also developing your skills is to do drills to stop whiffing the ball.

Here are some of the drills you can try out to straighten your swing, develop your technique, and stop whiffing the ball:

Hit the Tee

To do this drill, you have to place the tee an inch or two away from the ball. Then, line up your swing but focus on hitting the tee in front of the ball and not the ball itself. This trains you to drive the swing through, which makes for more solid and consistent contact with the ball.

Stepping on the Club

For this drill, you need to place a club parallel to your back foot. Then, place your lead foot on top of the club and practice hitting the ball. We recommend doing this at around 50% speed and power.

The goal of this drill isn’t to hit the ball. Instead, it’s supposed to help you better feel how your weight transfers and moves around as you swing and how you can stay aligned.

How to Stop Topping the Ball

Topping the ball is similar to whiffing the ball. But instead of completely missing the ball with the club, golfers tend to graze the top of the ball. This causes the ball to roll just a couple of feet in front of the golfer.

This can be just as annoying as whiffing the ball and is something beginners need to work on early in their golf journey. If you want to stop topping the ball, it’s best to work on your swing and technique.

One thing we want to emphasize if you want to stop topping the ball is keeping a steady head. If you want your golf swing to remain consistent and always hit the ball right where you want it, you need to make sure your head stays in the same position throughout the swing.

You can also practice some of the drills mentioned above to stop whiffing the ball if you want to avoid topping the ball. Whiffing and topping the ball in golf are caused by the same general reasons, so golfers can use the same techniques to reduce the chances of that happening.

How to Stop Topping the Ball with Fairway Woods

When using fairway woods, one of the most common reasons golfers top the ball is because they place the ball too far away from them. If the ball is too forward in the golfer’s stance, their chances of topping the golf ball are much higher.

So, pay close attention to the position of the ball when teeing up before taking your swing. That way, you ensure that everything is placed correctly before you get into position.

What Are the Rules on Whiffing the Ball?

If you whiff the ball when you intend to hit it, that will count as a stroke. However, the exact rules on what happens when golfers whiff a ball depend on the golfer’s intent.

For example, if you didn’t intend to hit the ball or if you stopped the club right before hitting the ball, it won’t count as a stroke. There are some expert golfers like Tiger Woods who have mastered the art of stopping the club right before impact if they don’t feel right with their shot.

So, if it’s obvious that you whiffed the ball when you meant to hit it, that will count as a stroke. This is why if golfers want to improve their scores on the course, they need to make sure they don’t whiff the ball and waste a stroke.

What To Do If You Accidentally Knock the Ball Off the Tee

If you accidentally knocked the ball off the tee, it won’t count as a stroke. Just like with whiffing the ball, if you intended to hit it, the swing will count as a stroke. But if you genuinely hit the ball accidentally, then it won’t count.

However, if you’re golfing with friends, be ready for one of them to go “one” after you accidentally hit the ball. This is one of the most common and sometimes annoying jokes in the community, but it’s usually the only real penalty if you accidentally knock it off the tee.


Whiffing the golf ball can be embarrassing on the course and set you off your game. On top of that, it can also impact your scores as it counts as a stroke if you miss the ball when you intend to hit it.

And while it’s a common problem for amateurs, there are many ways to fix it. But since whiffing is most commonly caused by poor technique, the best way to reduce the chances of whiffing the ball is through practice.

You can hit the course to practice your swing, do some drills to stop whiffing the ball, and ensure you have the right equipment if you want to reduce the number of times you whiff the ball in a game.

It may take some time, but once you get the hang of it, not only will you have more fun, but your scores will improve as well!

Photo of author

Jim Furyk

One of the PGA TOUR’s most recognizable and talented golfers, Jim Furyk was born on May 12, 1970 in West Chester, Pennsylvania. It seems like Furyk was born to play golf; his father Mike as an assistant pro at Edgmont Country club, and young Jim was raised into the game. Jim Furyk’s only golf instruction came from his father; and many note that might account for his unusual—yet effective—swing. In addition to Edgmont Country Club, Mike Furyk also served as head pro at Uniontown Country Club.

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