Golf Divots: A Guide to Improving Your Swing and Course Etiquette

Divots may look like a mess, but they’re crucial to the sport of golf. Not only are they essential to ensure you are striking the ball before the turf, but they also help highlight the intricacies of your stroke. Don’t have a linear divot? You likely have work to do.

But what is a golf divot? A golf divot is the removal of a piece of dirt beside your ball. They are caused by the downward strike of golf clubs where contact is first made with the ball, and then the club follows through to remove a section of turf. While this damages the ground, many ways to repair divots exist.

To learn everything there is to know about divots, read this article in full. We will explain what divots tell you about your swing, the divots you should aim for, which you should avoid, and how to repair any you cause.

What Are Golf Divots?

golf divots
Duff! (Flickr) under CC BY-SA 2.0 – unedited

What is a divot in golf? Whenever we talk about golf divots, it refers to a piece of grass or dirt that was dug out with the club. Good divots start right in front of the ball and are caused by your club’s motion after it makes contact with the ball. Naturally, most strikes require you to strike the ball on the descending portion of your swing. The resulting divot is simply a continuation of your club’s path as it contacts the ground.

Now, you can wind up with either a deep or shallow divot. Most golfers will get a deeper and bigger divot with a shorter golf club, and the longer clubs will leave you with a shallower and narrower divot. As such, it’s fairly easy to tell if your execution is off based on the divot size and shape relative to the club you use.

Divot size from largest to smallest is as follows: wedges, short and mid irons, long irons and hybrids, fairway woods, and finally, drivers.

Getting a deep divot means that you came in steeper with your swing. Deep divots can also occur if you hang your weight back at the point of impact with the ball.

The most common causes of a divot in golf include:

  • Weight hanging back at the point of impact
  • Steep downward swing
  • Faster clubhead speed
  • Some clubs cause golf divets more commonly

Check out the informative video below on golf divots:

What Can Divots Tell You About Your Swing?

Newer golfers especially, may not know how to interpret divot golf patterns to improve their swing. In fact, some beginners may not even make a divot at all because they are using the wrong technique. Most amateur golfers will only swing from 80 to 90 miles per hour.

What a divot tells you will depend on your dominant hand. Right-handers should pay attention to where the divot points. If it points to the left, it means that your swing goes from the outside to the inside. This type of swing path will produce a slice in golf.

In contrast, if your divot points to the right, you instead have a swing that goes from the inside to the outside. This type of path will produce a hook.

Use this information to make adjustments as needed. You shouldn’t only go based on your divot, though. You need to watch the flight path of the ball in the air. The ball can veer to the left or right even for swings with straight divots. This is a sign of a clubface that is not square on impact.

Course Etiquette and Divot Repair

golf divots

You may be tempted to leave your divots unrepaired, but think of the hundreds or even thousands of golfers who use the course. If everyone did this, the course would be nothing but dirt. Every golfer has a responsibility to their fellow golfers to repair a divot as early as possible to keep the play on the course enjoyable.

Fortunately, the process is very straightforward. You can repair small divots with only a divot tool. For larger divots that require more care, you’ll need to use a repair mix to fill in the missing turf. Many golf courses will give you a repair mix on their golf carts, and other times, they will keep it at the tee boxes.

Most of the time, golf courses preferred method of treatment is to replace the sod. This is because it has the quickest recovery period. You could also fill it with sand or a sand-seed mixture as this does a similar job. We’ve found that every golf course has their own set of preferred best practices for this, so we recommend checking with them first. In any case, here’s how to repair a divot.

Step #1: Replace the Sod

In general, golf courses prefer you replace the sod in the same direction you removed it to make it look as natural as possible. You should lay the sod side by side with no gaps to keep the turf looking great and to aid with water retention.

Step #2: Step on It With Your Foot

After replacing the sod, push down on it with your foot to create a solid contact between the soil and turf. This will give it the best chance of taking root again without issue. Even if the grass does die, it will ensure the course has a level surface that looks more appealing, and someone can always come in later with grass seeds to reseed the area.

Related: How Soon Should You Repair the Divot?

Repair the divot as early as possible, because the sooner you act, the less damage it will cause. Repairing divots immediately allows the turf to take root faster than if you leave it out for a while. You face a penalty in tournaments if you don’t fill in your divots.

Divots and Different Course Conditions

golf divots

How you handle a divot will depend on the climate and course conditions. There are different types of turf that you need to be aware of. There is even heated debate about whether you should repair divots or replace the grass patch.

The argument against repairing divots is that while the grass looks seamless, it may well not be. This can cause golfers to use grass that is not yet healed. The result is a messy shot and an even messier divot.

What Type of Grass Should You Use?

Check the local rules of your country club since they might directly tell you the type of grass that they would like you to use when repairing a divot. In some cases, they may even request that you sand the divot, rather than putting grass over it. Let’s take the Country Club of Jackson as an example. The warm climate is sprigged or sodded, which explains why they ask you to fill the divots with sand.

On the flip side, when you deal with cold-climate turf, you will commonly replace the divot if you tear it up. Examples of cold-climate turf include rye and bentgrass. Only the cold-climate turfs will use the sand-seed mixture.

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How to Address Divots on Wet or Dry Courses

How you deal with a divot on a wet course differs from how you deal with it on a dry course. On wet courses, golf divots will usually be larger. This means you will likely need a lot more material to fill the divot in. Dry courses, by comparison, leave much smaller divots, requiring less fill material, if any.

Preventing Divots: Pre-Shot Preparation & Club Selection

Taking a divot isn’t essential to a good golf shot, but most of the time, a textbook divot is the sign of quality technique. Divots can also help beginners to learn more about their swing to improve. To begin with, you need to choose the right ball and club.

Longer golf clubs don’t make as deep of a divot, so select a longer club if you’re aiming to reduce divot size. Wedges usually give you the deepest divots. You can also prevent divots with better-fitted clubs, which will give you more accuracy.

You should also adjust your club choice based on your divot depth and its trajectory. Fairway woods and hybrid clubs will usually give you a lower ball trajectory. Choosing the right club will maximize your performance regardless of whether you make a divot or not.

If you find yourself making too large divots, focus on proper swing technique and mentally prepare for each shot. Remember, we are not trying to eliminate divots altogether for most shots. We are supposed to contact the ball first and then follow through into the turf. So ultimately, what you should be aiming for is the right divot for the right club.

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Divots and Swing Mechanics

golf divots

When you go to make a swing, the golf club traces a path around your body. This will produce a circular path but won’t make a perfect circle. They call this the swing plane. It will change subtly based on the phases of your downswing.

This closely related to divots. If you strike the ball before the lowest point, it means you’ve contacted the ball on the downward portion of your swing and struck the ball first and then the ground. On the other hand, if you strike the ball after the lowest point, you are contacting the ball on the upwards phase of your swing. This means you are hitting the turf first and then the ball.

One of the biggest advantages of taking a divot is that it helps you to see your mistakes easier. Taking a divot gives you physical proof of your technique and can help identify flaws.

For instance, if your divots are wildly consistent, it may indicate poor balance. To rectify this problem, try slowing down your shot and focusing on good balance at the start and end of your stroke. When you’re satisfied, return to your normal speed, and hopefully, the divots will be more consistent, showing your balance has improved.

Troubleshooting Common Divot Problems


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Solving Issues with Thin or Fat Divots

When you hit the ball fat, one of the ways that you can fix it is to keep your head still during the backswing and the downswing. Don’t let your head move until after you hit the golf ball. For thin divots, this usually happens because of a lack of compression. To avoid it, move the ball back slightly in your stance.

Addressing Inconsistent Divot Patterns

Inconsistent divot patterns can occur for a multitude of reasons. As outlined above, one of which is poor balance. However, your equipment could also be to blame. Work with a professional club fitter to evaluate your equipment. Your club’s lie angle may either be too flat or too upright.

Correcting Divots That Veer Left or Right

You want to close your stance and hit an exaggerated draw to correct a divot that veers more to the left. You will usually hit a bucket or two with this drill before you return to your normal stance as a way to correct it.

When the divot veers right, it means that your swing goes from the inside to the outside. To correct the shot, ensure you are not engaging the shoulder or hips too much on the backswing.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Proper Golf Divot Pattern?

The proper golf divot pattern is linear. Avoid scattered or concentrated patterns. A good divot will start right at the ball before the rest.

What Is a Divot Tool Used for in Golf?

A divot tool is a small two-pronged instrument that golfers use to repair divots. By inserting the prongs next to the hole and pushing inwards, neighboring turf moves to cover the divot.

Is It Illegal to Take a Divot on the Green?

While it may not necessarily be illegal, you should aim to hit the ball cleanly and without a divot on the green, since green divots go against golf etiquette. Due to their prestige, pros can usually get away with causing divots here as they receive more leniency. Amateurs golfers, however, should avoid it altogether.

Are You Supposed to Take a Divot With a 3 Wood?

You should aim for a small divot when using a 3-wood since you are striking the ball on the downward portion of your stroke. However, please keep in mind that woods should produce the smallest divots out of any of your golf clubs since you shouldn’t produce divots with your driver or putter.

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Final Thoughts

While golf divots are unsightly, they are a key part of golf, and you shouldn’t aim to stop causing them. They can tell us a lot about our technique and may help you identify flaws that weren’t immediately apparent from the ball’s flight path alone.

It’s true divots cause damage to our precious golf courses, but the repair process is fairly straightforward and quick to perform. Simply repair divots straight after you cause them and the turf will have a greater chance of repairing quickly. Also, check the rules of the club you attend. They will likely provide advice as to how they liked their divots handled.

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Matt travels the world as a professional writer and blogger trying out different golf courses in exotic spots like the Philippines. He loves the challenge and tranquility in the sport of golf. Golf, for him, is a way of relaxing and enjoying life.

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