What Is a Knockdown Shot In Golf? The Ultimate Knockdown Shot Guide

knockdown shot

You can play so many different shots in golf; that’s part of its appeal. 

You can hit high shots, low shots, and shots that bend right to left or left to right.

Different golf courses and weather conditions can also play a big part in our shot selection process.

It’s often said that the hardest shot in golf is the straight shot!

A shot that we see many professionals execute and amateurs attempt with varying degrees of success is the knockdown golf shot.

The knockdown golf shot gives golfers a greater degree of flexibility in their approach play and can be used for the tightest of tee shots where hitting the fairway is imperative.

Ultimately, the knockdown golf shot is for accuracy, not distance.

In this article, we will cover:

  • What is a knockdown golf shot?
  • When is a knockdown shot used?
  • How to play a knockdown golf shot,

Let’s get into it!

golfer swinging

What is a knockdown golf shot?

A knockdown golf shot is essentially an approach shot with an intended lower flight than normal.

A lot of the time, the knockdown golf shot is employed if the golfer is playing shots into the wind where they don’t want to risk losing control of the spin and trajectory of their shot.

Flighting the ball intentionally lower means it is not affected so badly by the wind and has a better chance of reaching the intended target.

This type of golf shot is typically played on courses exposed to the elements – there are many golf courses worldwide where this is the case.

A links course would be a great example of where a golfer would typically employ a knockdown shot.

If you watch when the Open Championship is played, you will see many professionals play knockdown golf shots to negate windy conditions.

golfer silhouette

When is a knockdown golf shot used?

We’ve already mentioned how a knockdown golf shot can be used to combat playing into the wind, which is the most obvious use for this shot.

The knockdown golf shot can be used as a “fairway finder” if there is a lot of trouble if you hit an inaccurate tee shot – we wouldn’t advocate attempting a knockdown shot with the driver, however!

The knockdown golf shot can also be employed if it is a rainy day and you have to put waterproof layers on, giving you the feeling of your swing being slightly more inhibited.

Taking one more club than required and swinging easier will negate the additional layers.

Ever come across a situation where you are in-between clubs for an approach shot?

The knockdown shot can be employed here as the goto option.

golfer swinging

If we do find ourselves in a spot of bother after a slightly errant tee shot employing the knockdown shot can be useful if there is tree branch trouble to be navigated.

How to play a knockdown golf shot

So now we know when we are likely required to play a knockdown shot, what are the steps we need to take in order to pull the shot off successfully?

We need to think about the following to successfully master the knockdown golf shot:

  • Set up
  • One simple swing thought
  • Clubbing

Knockdown Golf Shot Set up

As mentioned, the knockdown golf shot is all about flighting the ball lower.

So what can we do in our setup to assist in hitting a shot with a lower ball flight?

As with many things in golf, changes are made in the setup instead of having to make any complex alterations to the swing.

You can do four simple things relating to ball position, weight distribution, width of stance, and grip down.

golfer looking into distance

Ball position

The first alteration we can make relates to the ball position at address.

For the knockdown golf shot, the subtle change we make with the ball position is moving it toward the middle of our stance.

This isn’t a big deal because, with our short irons, we have the ball positioned more in the middle of our stance anyway, so this change only applies to mid-irons or hybrids.

The effect of playing the ball more in the middle of our stance is to help facilitate a more descending blow into the back of the ball which helps give it a lower launch.

Weight distribution

Our weight distribution is another change we can make without too much fuss. 

With our irons, we normally set up with a 50%-50% weight distribution, but if we want to execute a knockdown shot, the distribution will be slightly different.

The change we’ll make is to distribute more weight into our lead side – left foot if you are right-handed, right foot for left-handed.

Ideally, we will have 60% of our weight favoring the lead side.

The reason for this is similar to the centered ball position – create a descending blow into the ball to create a lower spinning, lower launching shot.

golf ball and club

Width of stance

An additional alteration we can make in our setup is in the width of our stance.

Adopting a narrower stance is another piece of the puzzle to help us hit a knockdown shot.

Because we aren’t making a swing with maximum power we don’t really need to have a wide stance to play the knockdown shot.

Narrowing your stance to just inside the width of your shoulders is enough.

Grip down

One final small but subtle change we can make is to make our grip slightly further down the grip of the club. 

The reason for this is that we are looking to achieve maximum control of the shot we are trying to execute, and gripping further down helps us to achieve this.

If you look at a player like Tommy Fleetwood, there are many instances where you can see he is gripping further down on the club, which helps him maintain a higher degree of control of the shot.

arty golf shot

One simple swing thought

Carrying out the above steps will give us everything we need to execute a knockdown golf shot, but there is one simple little tip we can add which does relate to the swing.

In playing a knockdown shot, golfers can exaggerate the feeling of control, which can see them getting too active with their hands through impact and stop turning.

One drill which was advocated by Nick Faldo for the knockdown golf shot is to keep the chest rotating through impact the same way you would do for a full shot.

Feeling that you keep rotating your chest through impact will help eliminate unwanted overuse of the hands at impact and not hitting accurate shots.

golfer swinging

Clubbing for a Knockdown Golf Shot

This is an essential aspect of executing a knockdown shot well and sometimes catches a lot of golfers out.

Depending on the strength of the wind you are playing in, you will have to alter your club selection accordingly.

Say your 8-iron typically goes 140 yards (128 meters) in calm conditions.

If you are playing into a ten mph wind, the chances are your standard 8-iron will come up short of your target.

A 7-iron or maybe even a 6-iron will be more suitable for covering the 140-yard shot.

The lower loft of a 7 or 6 iron will help keep the ball lower when combined with making the changes to your setup as previously described.

Using more club will also take some of the spin out of the shot, which will help it from climbing and stalling, playing into the wind.

In considering a knockdown golf shot, also pay attention to whether any obstacles could prevent the knockdown shot or affect your club selection.

Next time you face this situation, opt for the longer club, make the necessary changes we have already discussed, and see if it helps you hit better shots.

The danger in opting for the shorter club and trying to squeeze a bit more out of it to cover the distance can lead to miss-hits meaning you can come up well short of your target.

golf ladies driving golf buggy

Knockdown Golf Shot Key Takeaways

The knockdown golf shot is a handy shot to have in our armory.

It gives us greater flexibility with our approach to playing into greens; it’s useful if we find ourselves playing in far from perfect conditions or we want maximum accuracy off the tee.

As we’ve demonstrated, we don’t have to make complex changes or do anything different to our swing to execute a knockdown shot.

As with all things related to golf, finding the time to practice knockdown golf shots will give you the confidence to pull off the shot effectively when you are out on the course. 

Check out our in-depth Wedge guides:

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Golf has been a passion of mine for over 30 years. It has brought me many special moments including being able to turn professional. Helping people learn to play this great game was a real highlight especially when they made solid contact with the ball and they saw it fly far and straight! Injury meant I couldn't continue with my professional training but once fully fit I was able to work on and keep my handicap in low single figures representing my golf club in local and regional events. Being able to combine golf with writing is something I truly enjoy. Helping other people learn more about golf or be inspired to take up the game is something very special.

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