The great thing about bending your ball in a consistent direction is that it makes navigating the golf course a heckuva lot easier. One example is simply being able to take advantage of the entire width of the fairway. A common fairway might span 30 yards or so in width and many golfers might be inclined to aim down the middle. Knowing that nearly every shot will have some bend, the player who opts for a straight line direction essentially will be reducing their landing area to only 15 yards. In contrast, a consistent fader of the golf ball understands the best play is to aim down the left-hand side. In the unlikely occurrence of a straight shot, the ball still lands in the left side of the fairway. A perfect fade lands in the middle, and even too much slice now settles to rest in the short grass down the right side. If you can play a predicable curve, you can surely have more fun playing any course.
In golf, there are really two kinds of players: those who bend the ball predominantly to the left and those who bend it to the right. Either is fine, as long as the pattern is reasonable and repeatable, and the ball consistently lands in play. Unfortunately, though, many golfers have inconsistent and unreasonable shot patterns, leading to lots of lost balls and rocket-high scores. Why? Because we try too often to hit the ball perfectly straight, which, frankly, is much more difficult than it is to hit consistent fades and draws.
In striking a golf shot, the components of swingpath, clubface, angle of attack, solidness of contact and speed all work together to produce a given ballflight. As it relates to curvature, we look mostly at the combination of clubface and swingpath and how they relate. To hit a ball perfectly straight, both the clubface and swingpath must be looking in the exact same direction at the moment of impact. Any difference in path and face, and the ball will exhibit curvature. When dealing with a game comprised of such complex movements as golf, this occurrence rarely happens and isn't even worth trying to repeat. So what we're left with is being able to produce a nice, predictable bend (aka a fade or draw), which, when executed properly, is a great way to efficiently manage your game from tee to green.
For this story, we're going to assume that you slicers out there are sick and tired of that banana ball and would love to get rid of it. If you're in the hooking category, we're also going to assume that you'd like to change things up and feel what it's like to be able to hit a nice, reliable fade. What I'm hoping is that you'll learn so much, you'll be able to do both whenever you want or, at the very least, get all of those wildly curving shots back within reason.
Let's get started, shall we?
SLICE SLAYERS: TEE IT HIGHER
To cure a slice, a great place to start is setting the intention to shift your angle of attack. In general, most slicers are hitting down on the ball too much, in conjunction with a swingpath that travels too much to the left (swingpath left/clubface open to path). To hit a high, bombing draw, you have to think of striking more "up and out." This means delivering an ascending attack with a swingpath that travels more to the right (swingpath right/clubface closed to path).
You've heard the mantra, "Tee it high and let it fly," right? That's exactly what I'm asking you to do. Tee the ball higher, so at least two-thirds of the ball rests above the crown of your driver. It may look strangely high at first, but that's a good thing. The visual will hopefully force you to swing up and out, not down and left like so many slicers do. And, by the way, if you're not comfortable with the high tee height at first, try using some Ghost Tape (ghosttape.com) on the crown as you're getting used to hitting up and not down on the golf ball. Kiss that slice goodbye! SLIDE OVER
The concept of swingpath is huge in this story, as the path of the swing is the main influencer in which way your golf ball bends. If your ball is slicing, the swingpath is traveling more to the left than where the clubface is pointing at impact. To flip your flight, you have to shift the swingpath. In this case, that means creating a swingpath that travels more to the right of the clubface at impact. A big key is learning to properly use your hips. The more lateral your hips move in the downswing, the more the swingpath will be inclined to swing to the right.
To set the stage, address the ball and then shift your hips well toward the target. You'll feel a little more weight on your front foot as your hands push a little forward. For chronic slicers, setting the hips a touch closed is helpful, as well.
ROUND: IT OUT
Producing a reasonable position at the top of the backswing is critical in facilitating a proper downswing path into the golf ball. To get a little more right-to-left curve on your shots, swing your left arm more across your chest, so that the forearm is lined up with or slightly below the back shoulder. I'm doing this in the photo below. In the black-and-white photo, my hands are much higher, which will steepen my swing, making it more difficult to swing up and out to the right.
A more rounded swing arc demands that your body moves in a circular fashion. To facilitate this, allow for a free release of your hips to create the best combination of position and power. In addition, take note of the shot of my lower-body action (above far right photo). See how my trail leg has slightly extended or lengthened from its original position. The knees are always changing positions in an efficient golf swing. As the hips rotate back, allowing the back leg to lengthen supports the lower-body turn. As the back leg extends, the front knee exhibits a little more bend, as well. A lot of golfers have been taught to brace the back leg. Most players don't have the flexibility to do this and still produce a reasonable arc to the swing, however. Look at a great ballstriker of the past such as Sam Snead, and you'll see plenty of this leg action.TRACKMAN SAYS SO...
For a long time, we had things mixed up. Noted golf instructors, club pros and even some of us in the Golf Tips Top-40 Instructors are guilty at some point in their career of teaching that the clubface is what generates spin and the swingpath is the direction the ball flies.
Trackman data has revolutionized what we thought we knew. New data has revealed that it's the clubface that predominantly dictates the initial direction the ball flies and the swingpath is what mostly influences spin.
Knowing this is very exciting because it means golf instructors are better equipped to help their students fix their swing problems more effectively. For instance, if you slice the ball, you may have been told that closing the face will fix the problem. While that's partly true, it doesn't really fix the problem you likely have, which is a swingpath that's too outside-to-inside. Trackman data can help golf instructors see problems in the golf swing faster and more efficiently than ever before. PUSH THE ISSSUE
Golf is a counterintuitive game, meaning a lot of the things you would assume to be logical and correct are usually just the opposite. For example, let's say your ball continually curves toward all the trouble on the right-hand side of the course–trees, bunkers, out-of-bounds, the ocean, whatever. In seeing a ball curve to the right, your instinct becomes swinging more away from the trouble, in this case, to the left. Being that golf is a counterintuitive game and swingpath is a key determinant related to curvature, your intent on creating more of a leftward path actually makes your golf ball slice even harder toward all of the things you're trying to avoid. Crazy, huh?
The secret? Embracing the nature of the game and trusting the idea that, if everything your instincts tell you to do is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.
So what do I want you to do? I want you to swing in the direction your ball is missing. To do this, start by setting the proper intention through vision and look down the right side of the fairway. This little tip is a big help in breaking those left-swinging instincts. As you transition into the downswing, approach the ball from an inside path that really feels like you're trying to drive or push the ball into the trouble to the right. As long as the clubface is just a little closed to the swingpath, your ball will easily draw away from the danger, landing safely in play. Trust it!
BALLFLIGHT BOOSTER To really pump one out there with a little right-to-left curve, it helps to catch the ball on the "money" spot for this flight. Although you'd assume your best hit will come from a center strike, you'll actually create the best combination of distance and curvature just above the club's center line and a fraction toward the toe. Even though it may reduce your ball speed a tiny bit, hitting the ball here will add loft and reduce spin for a longer tee shot.
When trying to cure a hook, you have to do everything you can to start influencing your swingpath more to the left. A great way to do this is to model great faders of the golf ball. Here, I'm trying to model Fred Couples at address (who, by the way, could bash a fade farther than just about anyone in his prime, so don't think that hitting a fade means hitting it shorter than a draw; that's not necessarily true). Anyway, my feet and shoulders are aimed well to the left, making it much more plausible for my club to swing in that direction. This is a key component in getting my ball to bend opposite of its current flight pattern. Finally, when aligning the clubface for a fade, don't assume that the clubface needs to be set open relative to the target at address. An open clubface at address and, subsequently, at impact, will lead to pushed tee shots. So even though you're trying to cut it, align the clubface slightly left of your target. The trick is making sure your swingpath is slightly more left of the clubface at impact to produce a left-to-right ballflight. INCH IT UP!
Another great way to facilitate a leftward swingpath is to consider the role of ball position. Imagine your swing as a tilted arc that travels from in-to-in, meaning any point behind the golf ball is inside the target line, and any point in front of the ball is, again, inside the target line. A ball positioned well back in the arc (toward the right foot) would encourage a swingpath too much from in-to-out, lending itself to a hooking ballflight. Conversely, a ball positioned more forward, at or even beyond the left heel, encourages just the opposite. Inch your ball up and you'll have one more tool for breaking your right-to-left bend and promoting a fade. And don't forget to tee it higher, as well!
LATE IS GREAT
Curvature is all about swingpath relative to clubface. If the face is closed to the path, the ball will hook, and if the face is open to the path, the ball will fade or slice. Since you're now setting up to swing the path to the left, it's imperative the clubface finds the ball a little open to the swingpath. A great way to encourage this is to be aware of the position of the clubface into the transition. Your clubface moves in conjunction with the swing arc. A clubface that turns down early or out of sequence is in danger of delivering the face left of the path at impact leading to a leftward curve. To hit the fade, feel as if the face is "late" or behind its natural rate of movement. Here, the toe of the club will feel as if it's tilted back, lagging behind the heel as you go in for the hit. As long as the face is delivered open or right of the swingpath, you can say sayonara to that hook.
TURN + BURN
Another great way to get that club swinging left is to get your body actively turning in that direction. To fade it, you have to encourage both the upper and lower halves of your body to open up and turn to the left. Notice this image from up the target line. Both my chest and hips are rotated well left of the target at impact. Where are you at impact? If you hook it too much, I guarantee you aren't here. Turning left makes the path go left. Get the path left of the clubface and watch your ball fade its way back to your target.
CINCH YOUR CIRCLE
Think of your swing as being comprised of a series of circles. The "outer circle" represents the arc of the clubhead and the "inner circle" is represented by the path or arc of the club's handle. Most people get fixated on the outer circle and ignore the inner circle, when, in fact, the inner circle is what influences the outer circle! Golfers who traditionally hook get the clubpath swinging too much "in-to-out" because the hands and handle (inner circle) separate and run away from the body through impact. In the black-and-white photo, I'm demonstrating what that looks like. It's not that it's a horrible position, per se, but if you're trying to fade the ball or stop hooking it, this separation between the hands and the body isn't what you want.
To keep your path swinging more around your body, think of cinching or tightening up your "inner circle." Notice here how the grip end stays close to my left leg as my arms, hips and torso influence the path of the club back around to the left. This is what you want to see and feel to produce a fade.MAKE THE TURN
Playing better golf is more than just learning the proper mechanics of the golf swing. The Make The Turn initiative incorporates the golf swing, mental game, fitness and nutrition into the mix to help you not only play better, but live better, as well. Check out the website, sign up and watch the videos. They're some of the best instruction videos I've seen. –Ryan Noll
Jeff Ritter, PGA, is the CEO/Founder of MTT Performance. The program operates out of Poppy Hills GC in Pebble Beach, California. Learn more at www.mttperformance.com.