Explaining the Skull (or Skulled Shot) in Golf

A marshall waves a skull flag during the Zone Golf Charity Shoot Out event in London
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To "skull" the ball, or to hit a "skulled shot," means to contact the golf ball with the leading edge of the iron or wedge. Skulling is a synonym, in other words, for "blading the shot" or "hitting it thin," although skull is typically a term reserved for the more egregious types of those mishits.

(Note that a common misspelling of "skull" in its golf context is "scull" or "sculling.")

On a skulled shot, the leading edge (the front edge of the club where the bottom of the clubface meets the sole) strikes the golf ball near the ball's middle, sending the ball screaming off on a low trajectory with little or no spin. A skull often travels farther than expected or desired, especially on skulled shots around the green.

If you've ever caught a chip shot or greenside bunker shot very thin, you know the helpless feeling of watching the ball scream way over the green.

What Causes Skulled Shots?

Skulling the ball often results from a golfer lifting up just before impact - raising his hands, or raising the upper body which in turn lifts the hands. And that can be caused by a feeling of trying to help the ball get into the air - a sense that you need to "scoop" the ball up to get it airborne.

You don't! Golf irons are designed to strike a descending blow on the golf ball. "Hit down on the ball" is a common refrain among golf instructors. See:

Skulls can also happen when a golfer's head moves too far forward (toward the target) at impact, which often starts by setting up with one's head ahead of the ball. This is especially true for short-game skulls (pitching, chipping). When playing a short shot around the green, set up with most of your weight on your front foot and lean the shaft forward so your hands are ahead of the ball. Keep your nose behind the ball.

For more, see the Thin Shots page in our Mishits Tip Sheets feature, and you can search YouTube for instructional videos about skull shots