Straighten that slice

Lie #1: `I won’t hit it high and right if I set up low and left.’

Here you see the classic address position of a slicer who thinks he’s found a quick cure: Everything aims left. Shoulders, clubface, even his hands on the grip aim left, and he plays the ball far forward in his stance, so he can “get around” it easier. He also thinks he’ll hit it lower if he raises his right shoulder and hip, tilting his spine toward the target.

The problem: All this makes him slice it even worse. He’ll make a steep out-to-in downswing because he can’t make a proper backswing — e.g., his left shoulder can’t turn over his right knee as it should. In addition, he’ll have an open face through impact because of his grip. There’s only one way the ball can go: short, right and slicing.

The truth: `Right side low, shoulders square hits it straight and solid.’

At right you see a sound address position: weight equal on each foot, right shoulder lower than left, shoulders parallel to target line, ball even with the left armpit, hands in a neutral or slightly strong grip (turned to your right on the handle), spine tilted away from the target, clubface square to the target.

From here you can swing the club down from the inside on a shallower plane, and hit the ball on the upswing. With proper clubhead rotation, you’ll have a chance to square the clubface at impact for a powerful draw.

How to get there

Drill (above): At address, bring your right foot back as shown. From this extreme closed stance, you’ll more easily swing down from the inside. Practice hitting hooks that start right. Gradually return your foot to a square position.

Lie #2: `I won’t hit it right if I use my chest or hands to swing the club left.’

When a slicer tells himself Lie #2, he ends up in the positions you see above. He uncocks his wrists early in the downswing — what we call “casting” — to hit at the ball rather than swing (inset), or he rotates his chest too early (large photo) in the mistaken belief that this will prevent the ball from going right.

Both positions exacerbate a slice and destroy power. From the early- release position, the club simply cannot approach the ball from inside the target line. And when the chest outruns the arms and hands, he can’t square the clubface or swing from in to out, because the shoulders are already going left. Also, because the hands have already uncocked in these positions, he has no power left by the time the clubhead gets to the ball, and he feels handcuffed. It all adds up to a short slice.

The truth: `Keep your buttons back and let your arms fall to hit a powerful draw.’

Remember: Your chest is not your clubface; the ball won’t go left just because your chest goes left. Be patient with your chest turn. Think “buttons back” on the downswing. Note how in the big photo above, you can still see the button on the front of my shirt. (It has disappeared in the photo on the opposite page.) Keeping my chest back gives my arms room to swing down from the inside. In the inset above, the club is coming down on the proper plane. My wrists remain cocked, and the club from here can approach the ball from inside the target line, as it should.

Delaying the uncocking of the wrists will also save your power till you need it: at impact.

How to get there

This drill will give you a sense of where the club should be on the downswing. Put your left hand in its normal grip position. Then start your downswing while you hold back the shaft with your right index finger. You’ll sense how it feels to delay your hand release, and you’ll avoid rotating your chest too early.

Lie #3: `To swing from in to out, I’ve got to hit it to right field.’

This photo shows a common problem for a slicer who has misunderstood what it means when he’s told that to stop slicing, he needs to “swing from in to out.” He thinks, “I need to hit to right field.” He’s partly correct, but he focuses so hard on swinging to the right and starting the ball to the right that he fails to rotate his forearms. That leaves the clubface wide open through impact, and the club never returns to the inside for full extension and hand release. So instead of a left- to-right banana ball, he ends up hitting something just as bad: a push or a push-slice that starts right and goes even farther right. Without the proper uncocking of the wrists and release of the hands, and without good forearm rotation, he also loses all his power.

The truth: `Rotate the forearms to hit a draw.’

To avoid a slice, don’t swing “from in to out.” Instead, the clubhead should approach the ball from inside the target line, square up at impact, then return inside the target line. To do this, rotate your forearms (along with your body) through the hitting area. Note in the photo how my forearms have extended and rotated, and the clubhead is in a toe-up position. That’s the arm and club position for a powerful draw.

How to get there

This drill encourages a proper swing path and good forearm rotation and extension through impact. Hands apart, place the club on the ground inside the target line behind the ball, then sweep up and through impact, finishing with your right hand above the left.

Lie #4: `To swing down from the inside, I need to take the club back inside.’

Here’s another problem common to the slicer who thinks there’s a shortcut to a cure. Knowing he needs to swing down from the inside, he convinces himself that all he needs to do is take the club back to the inside. But he takes the club back inside too early. Note how horizontal the shaft is in the big photo (above). That’s bad. From there, the body, instinctively aware that swinging down on that plane would cause a whiff, forces the club “up and over.” The downswing (inset) ends up too steep, making it impossible to come at the ball from inside the target line. Again, the result most often is a bad slice.

The truth: `Take the club back on or just above the downswing plane.’

What you see here (right) is a good backswing position. I like a swing that matches up: The downswing plane mirrors the backswing plane. Some great players can compensate on the downswing, but they’re exceptional athletes. It’s better to take the club back on a plane parallel to your downswing plane.

How to get there

Drill: Stick a shaft in the ground waist high, a club-length behind your back foot, as shown. On your backswing, clip the top of the shaft with the hosel of your driver. That’s a good backswing. On the downswing, if you’re shifting your weight and swinging correctly, you’ll swing inside the shaft and miss it.

Lie #5: `The ball won’t go high and right if I finish low and left.’

A slicer often finishes his swing like this (right). He tries to steer the ball left, even on the follow-through. The right shoulder is higher than the left, the spine tilted away from the target line and the shaft pointed up or horizontal — all signs that he’s pulled away from the ball because of an over-the-top, out-to-in swing or the belief that this will help him keep the ball left.

The truth: `Maintain your original spine angle for solid, no-slice contact.’

This is what a good finish looks like: right shoulder below or even with left, club pointing down behind the back, spine angle nearly the same as at address. “Maintain your body angle” is a good fundamental — but it works only if you have a good from-the-inside downswing. If you maintained your spine angle with a too-steep downswing, you’d just stick the club into the ground behind the ball.

How to get there

This drill helps you maintain your spine angle, swing from the inside and keep your chest from rotating early. Put your driver even with your back foot, as shown. Put your left hand on top of the shaft, and swing your right hand under it, palm down. Don’t pull away, or the driver will fall. Ingrain these moves, and you’ll never slice again.

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