Most everyone who has played golf has been afflicted with a slice.
Standing on the first tee and seeing the lake to the right of the fairway, you adjust your aim and stance to ensure that you will miss the lake.
Swinging the club back you feel the tension increase in your body, as you swing through you feel that unmistakable feeling of the ball hitting the toe of the golf club.
You watch the ball starts left of your target and slowly and surely the ball rights turning right and lucky you the fairway also slopes to the right.
The ball lands take two bounces then dives into the water.
Sound familiar, I think everyone has a hole where their slice gets them into trouble a lot.
Your eye does not like the fit of many holes and the deep rough, bunkers, or water hazards become ball magnets.
Maybe you have tried to correct the slice by purchasing new equipment, videos, magazines, and even tried taking golf lessons.
The magazine gave the hot quick tip but was not relevant to you.
The name brand equipment was too expensive so you bought knock-off that looks like the name brands.
However, they were not properly fit so you are not swinging naturally.
After taking the golf lessons you never practiced and learned by osmosis assuming everything the teaching professional said would sink in and automatically correct your slice.
Unfortunately, the fact is golf swing corrections do not come overnight.
It takes patience, a basic understanding of the golf swing, proper instruction from a qualified instructor, careful practice, and most of all patience (twice for emphasis).
In this article, we will look at the factors that cause the slice, focus on key fundamentals, and a basic swing analysis at different points in the swing.
So sit back relax and let’s get to the bottom of what causes a slice.
Cure Your Slice: Reasons for the Slice.
It all comes down to physics.
The way our club approaches impact, the angle of the clubface at impact, the speed in which we swing the club, how solid we strike the ball, and the path in which we swing the club contribute to the distance and direction the golf ball flies.
These are the 5 laws of impact: angle of approach, clubface angle, speed, centeredness of the hit, and swing path.
In the world of a slice, the two we need to concentrate on are the swing path and the clubface angle.
You may argue that the angle of approach is a factor but it is normally corrected when the swing path is corrected.
Club Face Angle
Clubface angle is the biggest factor in determining ball flight whether you slice, hook, fade, or draw the ball.
Many believe that the path the club travels, or path, is the main factor that causes the slice.
For the majority of golfers their clubface angle at impact, the moment of truth is open or facing slightly to the right.
To get the ball in the air the ball must have some backspin.
To create backspin the clubface must come into contact with the ball creating friction. The friction between the club and ball creates backspin.
Similar to the wings in a plane the backspin creates a mini vacuum above the ball causing it to rise.
The axis in which the ball spins is determined by the clubface angle.
If the ball is struck with a square clubface the axis of the ball will be vertical and the vacuum created will be above the ball.
With an open clubface, the axis will tilt so the top of the axis points slightly to the right.
After impact the momentum of the initial ball speed will cause the ball to start along the path the club was swinging and the backspin will cause the ball to lift and the sidespin from the axis tilt will cause the ball to fade or slice.
To simplify the above paragraph, the ball curves in the direction the clubface points at impact, in relation to the swings path.
So if the club is pointing right, or is open at the impact the ball will curve to the right. This applies to both right and left-handed players.
What can a golfer do to correct an open clubface? First and foremost the factor that determines clubface angle is your grip.
Our hands are the only part of the body that remains in contact with the club through the entire swing.
The way we position our hands on the club will determine how the club is delivered at impact.
A slicer has what is called a weak grip. This has absolutely nothing to do with how light or tight you grip the club.
A grip can be called weak, neutral, or strong based on its position on the golf club.
A neutral grip with a perfect swing will create a straight shot.
The second biggest swing flaw that creates a slice is the path the golf club travels while it is approaching and as it passes the ball at impact.
In a perfect world, the path the club takes through this impact zone is an approach from inside the target line to along the line to inside the target line again, otherwise known as the inside-to-square-to-inside swing path.
The most common swing path for slicers is an outside-to-inside swing path.
Notice it did not say outside-to-square-to-inside path, because 1) the clubface is open to cause the curvature, and 2) at no point during the outside-to-inside path does the club face become perpendicular to the target line and create a straight shot.
In an outside-to-inside swing, if the clubface is perpendicular to the target line then the ball will slice.
For the ball not to slice the clubface would need to be square to the path the club has traveled.
So basically it is difficult to create a slice from only an outside-to-inside swing path.
Often the outside-to-inside swing path is compensation golfers create to counteract the open clubface.
New golfers when they first set up to hit a ball usually have great aim and after hitting a few errant shots learn to compensate by aiming differently.
So in my humble opinion, a good way to attack the slice is to correct the clubface angle first and then correct the path.
Cure Your Slice: The Foundation
In the last section of the Cure Your Slice series we discovered two laws of impact that will cause the slice.
This installment looks at the fundamentals each golfer must build to create the swing that is repeatable and creates predictable results.
Yes, you have heard this before you must learn to crawl before you can walk and you must learn to walk before you can learn to run.
That is so cliché and so boring and so true. The fundamentals we will look at in this article are the grip, ball position, and aim and alignment.
The grip is the single most important fundamental in golf. Our hands are the only body parts that come into contact with the club through the entire swing.
The way we place our hands on the club will determine the clubface angle at impact, assuming no other compensations have been made.
There are three basic positions your hands can form on the golf club: the weak grip, the neutral grip, and the strong grip.
Weak, neutral, and strong refer to hand position not how tightly we are gripping the club.
These hand positions will create three different clubface angles at impact. The weak position creates an open clubface; the neutral grip creates a square face, and the strong grip creates a closed face.
As we learned in the last article an open clubface is the biggest factor in the creation of the slice. So let get ourselves a stronger grip.
Why do these three grip positions create different clubface angles at impact? The swing path is like a tilted Ferris wheel and as we swing down into impact the golfer’s hands and arms are under the influence of centrifugal force and gravity.
At impact, our hands are forced into a neutral position each and every time. If we gripped the club in this exact fashion it would create a square clubface.
Due to centrifugal force and gravity, hands that begin in a weak position are forced to a neutral position this change in position creates an open clubface.
- Stand at fully upright with your arms hanging naturally at your sides
- Look down at the target hand, how many knuckles you see? 1? 2? 3? 4?
- Starting about ½”-1″ from the end of the shaft place the shaft at a slight diagonal angle across the point where your fingers and palms meet.
- Wrap the fingers around the shaft.
- Count the knuckles visible on this hand and does it match the number of knuckles in Step 2? If yes you have found your neutral position for your target hand. If not repeat steps 1-4.
- With the trail hand, rest the club in the fingers never in the palm.
- Fit the lifeline of the trail hand beside the thumb of the target hand (it should be a perfect fit).
- The V’s formed by the index finger and thumb of each hand should point between your chin and trail shoulder
For slicers, the weakest position the golf grip should be in is a neutral grip. Use the weight step system to find your neutral grip then take it one step further and strengthen the grip a little more.
You spend your time perfecting your shot set up and swing shape, yet improvement is still slow.
You ask your local golf professional to monitor your swing and they confirm that you are aligned properly to the target and your swing is on the plane.
However, the ball is still starting the left of the target. If you know all of your fundamentals are correct, start troubleshooting your swing by checking your ball position.
Harvey Penick called ball position the second most important fundamental. Let’s take a closer look.
Perfect path in the perfect world has the golf club approaching the target line from inside the target line.
While the club is traveling over the target line the club faces squares and begins to close slightly, in relation to the target line.
After impact, the club begins to travel to the inside of the target line again.
We will use this perfect path to illustrate the importance of the ball position. Optimally we would place the ball where the club travels along the target line.
At this point in the swing, the golf club will also reach the bottom of the swing. Assuming a square clubface we will strike a straight shot.
If the ball position is too far forward the golf club will pass the point where it is square with the target line.
The club begins to travel inside the target line and will then impact the ball.
Essentially at impact the golf club simulating a club swung on outside to inside swing path (For the right-handed player). If the clubface has remained square a pull will be the resulting shot.
If the ball is too far back in the stance we get the opposite effect. The club will strike the ball before the club can travel down the target line.
The club is simulating a club swing on and inside to outside swing path. A square clubface will create a pushed shot.
The most common ball position error is having the ball position too far forward.
The golfer places the ball here to compensate for a fading/slicing shot. The unfortunate part is that this ball position is ultimately setting up the golfer for failure.
How do we find the correct ball position?
Good ball position is a result of a good set up position.
If we align our body in a neutral position, parallel to the target line, our hands will be in front slightly in front of our navel.
At this point, we will let the design of the golf club determine the ball position.
Each golf club is obviously different in length and loft, they are also different in the shaft lean from the top of the shaft to the bottom while the club is square to the target and soled squarely to the ground.
While the driver is square the bottom of the shaft is slightly closer to the target than the top, so the shaft leans away from the target.
For a pitching wedge, the top the shaft is closer to the target that the bottom of the shaft, leaning towards the target.
This shaft lean determines where the clubhead is in relation to your hands, for the driver the hands appear slightly behind the club head and the pitching wedge hands are in front of the club head.
The difference in shaft lean varies the ball position. So the driver will appear to be near the front foot while the pitching wedge will be closer to the middle of our stance.
Getting ourselves into the correct position at address allows the golf club to swing on the proper path.
For the majority of golfers, they do not allow themselves to get into an athletic position to start the swing.
Rather they flex their knees too much and the spine is too upright causing a restricted swing that is swung with an outside-to-inside swing path.
To get into an athletic stance begin by gripping the golf club with both hands while standing fully upright.
Let your arms create an angle of approximately 30 degrees to your body.
Hold the club so the shaft is parallel to the ground. Now bend from the hips until the sole of the golf club touches the ground.
Unlock your knees, there should only be a slight flex to the knees not a deep bend.
In a proper set-up position, two spine angles are created. One when you bend from the hips to lower your hands to the ground. You may have heard this simply called the spine angle.
We will refer to the spine angle later because of its importance with your golfing posture.
In this case, we will deal with the second angle created. This angle we’ll refer to as the spine tilt. In the proper setup position, a spine tilt is created mainly because of the fashion we grip the golf club.
Our lead hand grips the club near the end of the club while the trail hand grips the club below the lead hand.
When done properly the top part of the spine will be slightly further away from the target than the bottom of the spine.
Having a slight spine tilt is extremely important. Without a spine tilt, we could never align our shoulder parallel to the intended target line.
Having this parallel alignment allows us to swing the golf club on the proper path
Too many golfers set up having their spine almost perpendicular to the ground;
unfortunately, this opens the shoulder in relation to the intended target line.
In order to get the trail hand underneath the lead hand, the trail shoulder must come forward to allow the trail hand to grip the club.
By not having any spine tilt we have set up ourselves for failure. Leaving our shoulders open at address increases our chance of creating an outside to inside swing path.
As mentioned earlier swinging the golf club on the outside to inside path in relation to the intended target line is one cause of the slice.
The obvious benefit of having the right amount of spine tile is that it allows us to set up with our shoulder parallel to the intended target line.
Setting up in the proper positions at address allows us to swing the club on the proper path, inside to inside swing path. This benefit is two-fold.
First, as we just mentioned the club with travel on the proper path. And second, the angle in which the club approaches the ball is shallower which reduces the chances of hitting the ground before the ball.
We have learned what a spine tilt is and why it is important and the benefits but how do we create the proper spine tilt.
A simple way to learn the proper spine tilt is to swing with your feet together.
Set up to the ball with your feet together and place the ball off the big toe of the lead foot and then try and position your nose of the big toe of the trail foot and make your swing.
Get a feel of how the spine does tilt a few degrees away from the target.
Aim and Alignment:
Aim and alignment are two different elements. Aim relates to the direction we want the ball to travel.
We aim at a target whether it is a tree in the distance or an intermediate target a few inches or feet in front of the ball. Alignment relates to how we align our club and body to where we are aiming.
For a straight shot, the target line is the shortest distance from the ball to the target.
For slicers, we cannot aim directly at the target, or else we will be right of the target all day long.
Slicer needs to aim left of their intended target and let the curvature of the ball flight return the ball back towards the target.
For example, if you normally slice the ball 10 yards then aim 10 yards left of the target. Now that we have determined the new aiming point align the club and body.
Alignment after this point is relatively easy.
Think of two railway tracks. The railway tracks run parallel otherwise a train would never remain on the tracks.
In the golf swing the golf ball sits on one track this represents the target line to the intermediate target.
The golfer is standing on the opposite track.
The golfers supporting elements the knees, the hips, and the shoulders should be parallel to the track underneath the golf ball.
This will allow the golfer to be in better balance and position at address.
Cure Your Slice: The Backswing
Now that we know what basic fundamentals we need to work on to avoid a slice and have created a solid pre-shot routine we can focus on the swing motion.
We have set up to the ball with a neutral to strong grip, the ball is in the correct position, and we have aligned correctly to our aiming point and in this article in the Cure Your Slice series we are going to focus on the backswing.
Start the Swing.
You may read golf magazine articles or golf instruction books written by tour professionals.
Inside, they normally write about what they work on to correct swig flaws.
They have progressed to a high level of proficiency and the main focus of their swing training is creating the proper turn in the swing.
For the vast majority of golfers and especially golfers who slice focusing on the turn can create a bigger slice.
Golfers who slice can help to reduce the learning curve by learning how to swing the swinging elements of the golf swing better and the swing elements are the hands and arms.
To start the swing, from a well balanced and athletic starting position, swing the club back starting with the hands and arms.
As the arms swing the hands begin to react to the weight of the club and they begin to hinge, your shoulders begin to turn, and the trailing arm begins to fold.
Soon the club will reach the toe up position.
At the toe up position, the club will be parallel to the ground and parallel to the target line.
The target thumb will be on the top of the shaft.
Your shoulder will have turned only a small amount.
As a check, look at the clubhead is the leading edge straight up and down or leaning towards the ground a small amount.
If yes then the clubface angle is correct, however, if the leading edge is angling skyward the clubface is already open suggesting the grip is still a little weak or the golfer is fanning the club open in the swing.
Arms Parallel to Ground
As we swing the arms back further the target arm will become parallel to the ground.
At this point a full hinge of the wrists in encouraged, creating a 90-degree angle between the target arm and the shaft of the golf club.
The trailing arm will have folded a lot more than at the toe up position.
Your shoulders will have turn more as a reaction to your arms swinging. The end of the club grip should aim just inside the target line.
As the arms swing to the top of the backswing, your trail arm should fold to about 90 degrees and your shoulders will have fully turned. And this is the basic motion for the backswing.
In the next section, we will look at the top of the backswing.
Many instructors like to start the swing with something called a one-piece takeaway.
This is a term I personally do not like because it forms a bad habit when not done correctly. A one-piece takeaway creates unneeded tension by the golfer when they try to move the arms, hands, shoulders, and body in unison.
Tension and distance have an inverse relationship, the greater the tension the less the distance.
The one-piece takeaway emphasizes the turn of the golf swing and the path will come too much to the inside. To compensate the golfer will re-route the club to bring the club’s path outside-to-inside on the downswing.
Start the swing with the arms first and let the hand hinge, the arms fold, and the shoulders turn as a reaction to the weight of the golf club as it is being swung.
Cure Your Slice: Top of the Swing
As we learned in the last section to cure your slice you must change your thinking of how the backswing begins.
The swing begins with our arms, and the hands, shoulders, and body react to the weight of the golf club swinging back.
The top of the golf swing is an important phase of the swing.
Because we can easily evaluate our swing since the swing is traveling relatively slowly at this point also because the transition, or change in direction, from the backswing to the downswing occurs at the top of the swing.
Let see what we need to analyze.
Thumb Under the Shaft
The thumb of the target side hand should be under the shaft at the top of the backswing.
For right-handed golfers, this is the left thumb. The exact opposite of where the club was in the toe up position.
Why does the thumb need to be under the shaft?
Simple the thumb supports the weight of the golf club at the top of the outswing and without the thumb there the golf club would feel much heavier and become harder to control.
To be more precise on the thumb position, the club should rest slightly more to the inside of the thumb. Being able to do this leads us to the next point….
Target Hand Position in Relation to the Target Wrist
If we literally place the thumb directly underneath the shaft we will create a cupped wrist position.
Meaning the angle created between the leading hand and wrist is less than 180 degrees. This cupped position equates to an open clubface position.
Allowing our club to rest slightly to the inside of the thumb will allow the back of the target hand and wrist to become relatively flat or close to a 180-degree angle.
If we gripped the club with a neutral grip at the address the clubface will be square at this point. The leading edge of the golf club should virtually be parallel to the back of the target hand.
Get the back of the target hand and wrist into a flat position at the top will increase your chances of squaring the clubface at impact.
To make it easier to get into this position then get the club to rest slightly to the inside of the target hand’s thumb.
Check the plane
In the backswing, we can visually monitor the swing plane when the club arms become parallel to the ground. A swing that is the plane will have the butt end of the club point at or slightly inside the target line.
At the top of your swing, we can also check out the swing plane. We need to ask ourselves, where are your hands in relation to your shoulders?
To check this out, swing the club to the top of your swing, and soften the grip to allow the shaft to fall very gently.
Where did the club first touch? On the top of the swing does the club touch: near the top of the shoulder closer to your neck, or nearer to the shoulder blade?
If we swing the club on a place that is too flat the club will touch closer to the shoulder blade or behind the top the shoulder. Ideally, the club should touch near the top of the shoulder.
Getting the thumb of the target hand in the right position under the shaft and having the back of the target hand and wrist in a flat position focus on the proper clubface angle.
Remember that the clubface angle is the single biggest factor that determines the ball curvature. Plane relates to the path of the golf club. Focus on getting the clubface angle positions correct first and then concentrate on the swing place.
There was a lot to digest in this article but each item covered is extremely important.
The grip determines the clubface angle, the ball position dictates the path the club approaches the ball, the stance and alignment determine the path the club will swing.
If my ball striking is causing me problems, I personally look at my posture (stance), then my ball position, then alignment, and last my grip then make corrections to these fundamentals. Normally my ball striking improves quickly.