Playing the Knockdown Shot in Golf

With a short, high follow-through, Tiger Woods plays a knockdown shot off the tee.

  Glyn Kirk / AFP / Getty Images

A "knockdown shot" is a type of golf shot in which the golfer induces a lower trajectory for the flight of the golf ball. The ball, in other words, doesn't get as high in the air with a knockdown shot as it does with the golfer's typical swing. "Knockdown shot" is essentially another term for "punch shot" — recreational golfers can think of the terms as interchangeable.

The most common reasons for playing a knockdown shot are to keep the ball lower when hitting into a strong wind (or crosswind), or to keep the ball lower in order to fly it under some obstacle such as tree branches.

Fuzzy Zoeller's Simple Advice for a Knockdown Shot

Two-time major championship winner Fuzzy Zoeller gave us this advice on hitting a knockdown shot:

"If you read and believe all the golf magazines on how to hit a knockdown shot, you would have to contort yourself in so many ways and think of so many things, it'd be hard to draw the club back. Also, people tend to swing quicker and harder when trying to follow those tips for a knockdown shot, which actually causes the ball to balloon more.
"The key is to keep this crazy game as simple as possible. If you are a 6-iron away with your normal swing but you want to keep the ball low, take a 5- or even a 4-iron and grip down on the club a bit. Then, swing smoother than normal. This approach will put less spin on the ball, which will keep the flight of the ball lower, resulting in a knockdown shot."

Keeping it simple is always good advice, and recreational golfer should give Fuzzy's simple method a try.

Other Knockdown Methods and Strategies

Low-handicappers and serious golfers may want to explore the more technical aspects of playing a knockdown. Knockdown shots by those golfers are typically played with the ball farther back in the golfer's stance, and with a shorter backswing and shorter follow through. Some golfers prefer Zoeller's method of pulling a less-lofted club (a 5-iron instead of a 6-iron, for example), while others prefer sticking with the same club but playing the ball farther back in the stance (which has the same de-lofting effect).

After winning the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in 1991, Paul Azinger told Golf Digest that the knockdown show was a key part of his strategy over the final holes:

"When I won the AT&T this year, I knocked down nearly every shot on the last nine holes. Because the shot gives me more control, I hit the ball pin-high almost every time."

Golfers who master the knockdown shot will probably find it can be a valuable go-to shot when the pressure is on and you want to rule out any worst-case scenarios off the tee.

You can find many instructional videos on YouTube for playing the knockdown shot.