By Glenn Deck, PGA
Director of Instruction, Pelican Hill Golf Club
Most golfers hit some type of slicing golf shot and, as a result, are giving up distance. Hall of Fame golf instructor Harvey Penick liked all his students to learn to hit a draw, and I do, too!
The best way to eliminate a slice is to learn how to hit a draw. Once you master this skill, you can make a decision on whether you prefer a slight fade, a straight shot or a slight draw. Before you run out the door trying to fix your slice, though, you need to ask yourself the following question: Do you know what creates a slice shot, and what your initial ball flight direction is? Once you understand the new ball flight laws and follow my advice, you will learn how to eliminate your slice.
Let’s gain a quick understanding of what causes a slice, fade and draw: First, you must understand that the clubface, not the swing path, mainly determines where the ball starts. The downswing path relative to the clubface determines in which direction the ball will curve.
If you have a big slice: You have an open clubface to the target line with an outside-in swing path, producing a ball that starts straight or right and curves farther right. Sound familiar? If you’re pulling your left shoulder and left arm in the downswing, this will often create an open clubface. Understand that an open clubface is the number-one cause for a high-right golf shot with little distance. And an open clubface combined with an outside-in downswing path equals fore right!
If you’re hitting a fade: Your clubface is closed to the target line at impact and the ball is going to start to the left of your target line. Yes, the clubface needs to be closed at impact, so that the ball starts to the left of the target line and then curves back toward the target, due to a slightly outside-in downswing path.
If you’re hitting a draw: Your clubface is going to be slightly open to the target line, and the path is going to be slightly more from the inside than the face is open to the target. Pros call this the “50 percent rule”: If your face is 2 degrees open to the target line and your downswing path is 4 degrees from inside-out, the ratio of the two being 50 percent, the ball will start slightly to the right and turn back to the target.
Once you see what line your ball starts on and how much it curves, you should have an idea of where your clubface is at impact and the direction of your downswing path. Now we can focus on how to improve your golf swing.
To eliminate a slice, let’s focus on three common key issues in your golf swing: (1) the pivot (the sequence of how your body is moving — what’s leading and what’s lagging), which affects (2) the club path direction on the downswing (from the inside-out, outside-in or straight-on path), then (3) the clubface at impact (open, square or closed).
Follow steps 1, 2 and 3 in order with your teaching pro, and you should be on your way to fixing your slice. Remember, feel is not real in golf — that’s why you have to work with your teaching pro! Also, you can’t work on more than one thing at a time in your swing, so pick out the one issue that needs the most help and focus on improving that one area of your swing before moving on to another key.
1. Backswing: Turn your sternum (shirt plaquet) away from the ball. The shoulders now rotate back (see the yellow rod turned back roughly 90 degrees), and the right hip turns back so that your belt buckle points to your big right toe (see orange rod turned back roughly 45 degrees). Your spine angle has not changed.
2. Transition: Lateral weight shifts to left side as sternum (shirt plaquet) stays back. Your weight shifts to the left leg as your arms slot the club. The left leg braces and the belt buckle starts to turn (see the orange rod turn away from the yellow rod) as the sternum stays back. The spine angle has not changed.
3. Downswing to impact: Hips (belt buckle) should be turning to the target. The sternum and shoulders (shirt plaquet/yellow rod) lag behind and face the ball as you swing the club. The hips (belt buckle/orange rod) are turning to the target. The spine angle is still the same.
4. Follow-through: The hips (belt buckle) face the target. The hips face the target first as the hands and sternum (shirt plaquet) catch up to the hips.
The bottom line is that once you have a balanced setup, just remember these simple steps to keep your pivot on track. Your shirt plaquet turns away from the ball in the backswing. In transition your weight shifts to the left side, as the shirt plaquet stays back and creates lag. Once the left leg is braced, turn your belt buckle to the target. Your shirt plaquet lags behind your belt buckle until after impact in the downswing. This allows your body to pivot in balance to a full finish.
Now that your pivot motion is in sequence, it’s time to focus on your hands and golf club.
There are many Tour pros that don’t have the perfect backswing. Yet when they start their transition or start-of-downswing, they make the correct movements to get their club on the correct downswing path before accelerating the golf club forward. Your transition is critical, so before you start rotating and swinging the club forward, make sure you learn the correct transition move. Simply keep the shoulders back as you brace the left leg and educate the hands to slot the club shaft on a direct path to your target line. Then swing forward and release the clubhead. Now you can say “goodbye slice” if the face squares up.
As we learned earlier, you’ll definitely slice it if the face is open at impact and the downswing path is from outside-in. That type of shot starts right of the target line and curves farther right, a true weak slice. That’s why you really have to look at the starting direction of the ball and learn to control the face at impact.
So where is your ball starting? As a drill, put a shaft on your target line about three to five yards out in front of your ball, and pay attention to on which side of that shaft the ball starts. That will tell you where the face is at impact and if your hands and clubface are open. We want hands ahead of clubface, with the back of your left hand facing the target (knuckles down), not facing the sky, at impact. Once you’ve gotten the ball to start from the correct side of the target line to match the desired ball flight, then you can work on your swing path some more to soften or make the curve greater. Remember, a draw starts right of the target line and curves back to the target, while a fade starts left of the target line and curves back to the target. Educated hands are a must to control your ball flight.
My advice for the weekend golfer: On the golf course, establish a repeatable shot pattern and try not to deviate from it — then you should be able to manage your game. For example, if you fade the ball, you set up on the right side of the tee box, aim down the left side of the fairway and let it curve back to the target. Don’t fight it on the golf course — play golf and focus on various ways to get it the hole in the fewest strokes. Work on your game at the range with your teaching pro, not on the course. If your pro can’t help you fix the problem after five to 10 lessons, it could be time to move on to a different pro.
Glenn Deck, PGA, is the director of instruction at both Pelican Hill Golf Club and Oak Creek Golf Club in Orange County. The North Carolina native is one of GOLF Magazine’s Top 100 Teachers in America and has 25 years experience in the golf industry, including 19 years at Pelican Hill. Deck can be reached at (949) 467-5810 or by e-mail at email@example.com.