Here we go again. Yes, another fix your slice feature, which says a lot about the banana ball–it’s not going away. For some golfers, that left-to-right ballflight never seems to disappear, and for those new to the game, it represents the first true taste of golf-related frustration. While I’m sure you’ve heard your fair share of anti-slice tips, this story approaches fixing a slice in unique fashion. Position by position, I’ll compare the components of a solid swing to those typically associated with a slice, plus a corresponding fix. Giving equal weight to what you should be doing to what you’ve already grooved into your swing may pay better dividends.
In the setup position, the number-one slice-inducing fault is a weak grip. A weaker grip (hands rotated too far to the left), is more apt to produce an open clubface at impact than a strong grip (hands rotated more to the right).
Take your grip and hold the club straight out in front of you with your arms relaxed and with your normal grip pressure. Next, have a friend pull the clubface straight away from you. If the clubface opens to the left, your grip is too weak and will probably be open at impact.
The fix is to simply let go of your grip and let your left arm hang by your side naturally. Take a look and see in which direction your left thumb points. Is it 12:00, 12:30, 1:00, 1:30, 2:00 or 2:30? Now, grip the club in your left hand, making sure your thumb has the same look and time. Hinge the wrist up and down to ensure the clubface stays square. Place your right hand on the grip and again have your friend pull the club straight out to make sure the clubface doesn’t rotate open. Keep adjusting until the face is square._Ê_Ê_Ê
A weak grip (above left) is more prone to leaving the face open at impact than a strong one (above right). To find the correct grip, allow your left arm to hang naturally. The direction in which your left thumb points should be mimicked when you grab the handle.
A slice backswing features two fundamental flaws: 1) an inside path and 2) a flat shaft plane.
A takeaway that moves the club too far to the inside leads to an open face in the backswing and usually an outside-to-in downswing path. Make a half backswing with any club and stop to check two takeaway keys.
Check #1. If your hands are inside the buttons of your shirt, then you’ve brought the club too far inside and will probably try to make a correction during the downswing path. When you make this type of adjustment, expect momentum to take the club outside your desired path, producing an outside-to-in downswing.
Check #2. If the shaft of the club points above your target line, then the club is traveling to the inside and the clubface is probably open. Now you have to adjust the clubface in the downswing or it will remain open. Good luck.
A good drill to alleviate these problems is to choke down to the bottom of the grip and make half wedge swings focusing on path.
Step #1. First, get the club traveling back on a better path by taking it back with the left hand, with your hips and shoulders executing their normal pivot. At the halfway back position, your left arm and shaft should be parallel to the target line.
Step # 2. Next, hinge your wrist so that the shaft of the club points toward the golf ball and the clubface is parallel to the target line. In a full swing, the wrists hinge as your hips and shoulders rotate to the left, meaning that during the takeaway, your hands should always be in line with the center of your chest. Return to address and make another half swing, making sure that your shoulders and hips have rotated, the hands are in front of your chest and the butt end of the shaft points at the ball or target line. If you can accomplish this, no adjustments are needed for the downswing.
In a no-slice backswing, the hands are in front of the chest, the left arm lies parallel to the target and the shaft points at the golf ball.
Top Of The Backswing
A big backswing is great for weak pop-ups. A wide backswing is great for power and accuracy.
If your right elbow is behind your right hip at the top of your backswing, you’re in trouble. From this position, there’s no room for the club to properly drop to start the downswing, forcing you to swing too much around your body. As you know, too much around equals an out-in path.
This top-position slice error typically results from players wanting to make the biggest swing they can muster (funny how the bigger the swing, the bigger the slice). In attempting this big swing, golfers often fold the left elbow too much. With this move, the hands and right elbow can’t remain in front of the body while the gap between the elbows widens, decreasing control. Yes, this type of backswing is bigger, however, the accompanying swing arc is not.
The fix is to make practice swings with a heavy club or with a wedge and 9-iron held together. In these practice swings, maintain your arc by keeping your hands out and your elbows close to one another. At the top of your backswing, your shoulders should be turned fully with your arms in a position to drop the club on plane to promote an inside-out path. A good way to check your arc and shoulder rotation is to set up with your back to a mirror. Swing to the top of your backswing and hold this position. Turn your head over your right shoulder and see how it looks in the mirror. Check to see that your shoulders have made a good turn, and that your hands are out and are maintaining your arc.
A wide backswing arc creates power and allows the arms to drop properly at the start of the downswing. To produce this type of arc, keep your hands out and your elbows close together.
In a slice downswing, the shoulders outpace the hands. By that I mean the shoulders turn faster than the speed at which the hands move the golf club. The spinning of the shoulders from the top creates too much rotational force, which throws the hands and club outside the correct path. Once the club gets too far outside on the downswing, the golfer must adjust and bring it back. This, friends, is a cut swing. If you try to pull your hands in to get the club back on path (see photo at right), your left elbow will fly out and the face will open up. Either way, you’re going to produce a slice.
The fix is to change the sequence in the downswing. Learn how to bring the hands and arms down first as your lower body moves back into a balanced position. Once you have the momentum of sending the club down first, then you can rotate your lower body. The best way to feel this is to make practice swings with a split grip and focus on the path of the club. Start your downswing with your lower body and drop your arms and hands to 9:00 and stop.
Check #1. As you shift your weight back to the center and drop your arms, your shoulders remain passive. The hands should lie inside or in line with the left shoulder.
Check #2. The right wrist is bent so that the shaft is aimed at the golf ball.
Once you establish the correct positions, focus on swinging the club down the path and out toward your target. After you have a feel for this move, tee up a ball and hit some 3__ã4 shots in this manner. This drill educates your hands how to swing the club on the correct path throughout the swing—just make sure your elbows don’t get too wide apart and that you rotate from your hips instead of your shoulders.
No slicing from here since the shoulders haven’t spun out, the hands are inside the left shoulder and the shaft points at the golf ball.
At impact, is your club on the right path and is your clubface square to the target? If not, your ball has to go right.
The most important requirement of the swing is to return the clubface to square at the point of contact. If you produce a slight outside-to-in path and the clubface is square to the target line, the ball will start left of your target and fade back. This shot is playable. If you produce a slight outside-to-in path and the clubface is open to the target line, the ball will slice. It’s that simple.
The best way to ensure a picture-perfect impact position is to educate the arms and hands how to create a square clubface at impact. I recommend a directional impact bag. Take a 7-iron and choke down on the grip so that the top of the grip is visible and the club sits several inches above the ground at address. Set up to the directional impact bag so that it’s lined up at your target and across from the left side of your chest. Make some 1__ã2 to 2__ã3 swings at half speed and hit the bag. When you hit the bag, perform the following checks.
Check #1. The shaft and left arm form a single, unbroken line. If your left elbow is bent, it’s likely your clubface is open.
Check #2. Contact with the bag was made with the center of the clubface, not the toe or heel areas. Heel-led contact is slice contact.
Check #3. The bag moved down the line and didn’t spin clockwise. If it spins to the right, you’ve executed an out-in swing.
Practice this drill and you’ll get both visual and feel feedback of how to square up the club at impact.
At impact, the last thing you want is
a bent left elbow, which forces an open face. Instead, strive to extend your arms and create a solid line that runs from the face up the shaft and through the left arm.
If your downswing path moved from outside the target line to the inside, it will show in your followthrough, which will continue to move to the inside of the target line. Among other disasters, such a finish restricts a full release of the clubhead, robbing your swing of precious power.
A solid followthrough is characterized by the clubhead moving outside the target line, which ensures the downswing path was in-to-out and that your hips turned correctly toward the target. Also, your divot should be straight; if it points to the left, your downswing path was too much outside-in.
Momentum is so important and so difficult to change. If the clubhead travels on an inside-out downswing path, it’s easy to keep it outside the target line in the followthrough. However, if the clubhead travels on an outside-in downswing path, there’s almost no way to change this direction. Your clubhead will keep to the inside on the followthrough, your divot will point left of the target and you’ll produce an insufficient release.
The fix is to focus on your downswing path and teach your left shoulder to work up through impact versus around. This will allow the arms and hands to swing the club out toward the target line in the followthrough. To practice this, position a shaft covered by a swimming pool noodle on an angle just inside your original shaft plane and target line. With the shaft in place, make short and slow golf swings with an attempt to avoid hitting the noodle. If you start the club down the correct path and educate your left shoulder to work up through impact, you should avoid the noodle. Once the club passes your left foot, the left shoulder will open as the arms swing the club out and the hips turn to the target. You should finish on your left side, with your body facing the target. Make sure you perform this drill slowly at first until you get a feel for the new move.
When fixing a slice, be careful to address corrections in the proper order to build a solid golf swing. I highly recommend you work with a PGA professional to ensure you’re performing the drills correctly and that you’re working on the cause of the problem and not the effect. That’s the key for lasting improvement.
The correct in-out downswing should carry over into the followthrough, with the arms traveling toward the target while your hips rotate. Key to this scenario is the right shoulder working up through impact.
PGA professional and Senior Instruction Editor Glenn Deck is regarded as one of the top-100 teachers in America. Deck is the director of instruction at the Pelican Hill Golf Academy at Pelican Hill Golf Club & Resort in Newport Coast, Calif. (www.pelicanhill.com).