The Skulled Shot in Golf: What It Is, How to Fix It

A "skull shot" or "skulled shot" in golf happens when the golfer lifts the club up off the ground at impact, resulting in the leading edge of the clubface striking the golf ball above its equator. That leading edge is sometimes called the blade of the clubface, which is why skulls are sometimes called "bladed shots." And "scull" is a common alternate spelling.

A skull, or skulled shot, shoots off low to the ground and probably not in the intended direction. A skulled iron shot rarely winds up where the golfer was aiming. Skulled chips, pitches and bunker shots are particularly vexing because the golfer is trying to play a relatively short, often delicate, shot, but skulling the golf ball sends it screaming out way too fast, way too low and, often, way over the green.

The Historical Dictionary of Golfing Terms (affiliate link) defines "skull" as to "hit the ball at or above its center with the leading edge of an iron club." As noted, "scull" is an alternate spelling, but the "skull" spelling is far more common today. Blading the ball is a synonym for skulling the ball, and you can also think of a skull shot as an extremely thin shot.

What causes the skulling of a golf shot? A golfer who is lifting up during the swing (raising his torso or her hands before impact) is probably hitting a lot of skulls. A golfer who has the feeling of trying to lift or scoop the ball at impact is probably hitting a lot of skulls. And moving one's head forward (in the direction of the target) can also move the bottom of your swing forward, which can result in skull shots, especially on short shots around the green when skulling the ball can be particularly perilous.

Many a golfer has skulled a bunker shot or pitch shot around a green on a golf courses surrounded by houses, and sent his golf ball screaming into a backyard or into the wall of one of those nearby houses. Skulled wedges are one of the hazards for people who live on golf courses.

In his book Golf for Dummies (affiliate link), Gary McCord writes about skulling short-game shots, "If you are prone to hit an occasional Vin Scully (his slang term for a skull shot), set up with your nose behind or to the right of the ball, which moves the bottom of your swing back. When you find the right spot, you hit the ball and the ground at the same time, which is good. I've found that most people who hit (skull shots) tend to raise their entire bodies up immediately before impact. Concentrate on keeping your upper torso bent the same way throughout the swing."

Following are two instructional videos about skulling the ball. In the first, David Leadbetter talks about skulled chips and pitches; in the second, Paul Azinger discusses skulled full irons. You can find many other similar videos on YouTube.

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