Never Slice Again

Monday March 12th, 2007

Fore!

We — all of us — have been slicing the ball since back in the days when golfers were still a curiosity to sheep. And the slice hasn't been made obsolete by technology. In fact, as clubs get longer and as players swing faster (isn't that what Tiger does?), slices are now flying with increased severity and regularity. We know this because you've told us. In a recent golf.com poll, 70 percent of you confessed that slicing is your greatest golf sin.

Slices are impossible to control, ugly and the single biggest wrecker of scorecards in the game. What's even worse is that slices result from swing errors that will always — and we mean always — keep your game grinding in second gear. There is no magic club that will make your slice go away for good, but there is a way to fix your swing to make banana balls disappear. What follows is a plan to systematically turn your swing inside-out and straighten your slice for good. Top 100 Teachers Darrell Kestner, Michael Breed and David Glenz will show you how to...

1) Quit coming over the top
2) Square your clubface
3) Do both at the same time

Could it be that stopping your slice is as easy as 1-2-3? Turns out the answer is yes. Read on to find out how.

Which slice is your slice?
The first step to stopping your slice is to determine which type of slice is destroying your game. That way you'll know if you have to correct your face angle at impact, your downswing path or both.

The Straight Slice
Your path is solid but your clubface is open at impact. The ball starts straight, then curves.
The Pull Slice
Your path is outside-in and your clubface is open. The ball starts left, then curves right.
The Push Slice
Your path is too inside-out and your clubface is open. The ball starts right, then curves further right.

Why You're in the Woods
Our slice-prone test robot proves that open clubfaces and out-to-in swings wreak left-to-right havoc in equal amounts. Or do they?

There are nine discrete ball flights. Each results from unique path/face positions at impact, with the path (relative to the target line) dictating direction, and face angle (relative to the path) dictating curve. For example, to hit a pull slice your club must cross to the left of your target line th rough impact with your face open relative to the path.

This makes perfect sense until you watch a robot hit a few hundred slices and chart the results. With the help of renowned gear tester Golf Laboratories (golflabs.com), we did just that and found an answer to the age-old slice question: What comes first — the face or the path?

An open clubface at impact can send your ball way off to the right even if your path is perfect. In fact, leaving your clubface open a mere 1.5 degrees can put you close to 70 feet right of your target.

We expected that outcome, but we re surprised to learn that you can add 30 more feet of slice with the same clubface angle and a swing that's just slightly out-to-in (to the tune of 5 degrees). Now you're really in the woods (even though the ball started left of center). An open face is dangerous, but the out-to-in swing path is the far more lethal swing flaw. That's why it's Step 1 in our 3-step plan to set your game straight.

Straight Shooters
Tour pros count the number of slices they hit in a season on one hand, and offer some good advice to help you do likewise.

Jim Furyk
Driving accuracy
73.5% (6th on Tour)

"Most people try to fix a slice by hitting the ball straight. You'd be better off hitting a really big draw or a hook and working your ball back to straight. If you try to take a slice and work it back to straight it's never going to get there."

Zach Johnson
Driving accuracy:
68.8% (28th on Tour)

"The farther you line up left of your target, the farther you'll hit it to the right. With that being said, you've almost got to feel like you're swinging toward right field and putting some hook spin on your ball."

Corey Pavin
Driving accuracy:
68.7% (30th on Tour)

"Shift your weight properly so when you get to the top of your backswing your weight is on your right foot. As you go through the ball get your weight back over to your left side. At the end of your swing, you should have 90% of your weight on your left foot."

Step 1: Fix Your Path
Call it over-the-top or outside-in — the path your club traces when it moves from the top to impact and then left of your target line must be corrected, or you will always slice.

Ideally, your clubhead should approach the ball on a path that's slightly inside ofyour target line. You may be guilty of over-rotating your shoulders from the top or stopping your rotation too early, causing your arms to fling across the line. Either way, the following drills will help you turn that slice-causing swipe into a powerful hit.

Drop your right foot

The Drill:
Drop your right foot back 10 inches at address. Force yourself to swing along your toes (in-out), and then adopt that swing to your normal stance.

What It Does:
It exaggerates an in-to-out path, and aggressive measures are needed to break bad habits.

Stay Connected

The Drill:
Swing an impact bag (or any weighted object that won't break when dropped) behind you, then toss it forward.

What It Does:
It grooves an anti-cut motion. Keep your left arm connected to your chest as you swing back, and maintain that connection until you release the bag to the right of the target line.

Hit a Home Run

The Drill:
Address a ball in the middle of your stance, then leaving your right foot in place move your left foot back until your feet touch. Swing to the top and on the way down move your left foot back to its original position. Make contact with both feet on the ground.

What It Does:
This baseball-type swing forces you to begin your downswing with your lower body, which sets up an inside-out sequence (lower body, shoulders, arms, hands and then clubhead).

Hit the Center
The Drill:
Place three balls diagonally as shown and swing. Try to contact only the center ball. The only way to do this is to swing on an inside-out path. If you come over the top, you'll definitely hit the ball on the left, and maybe even all three balls.

What It Does:
The "gate" created by the three balls is excellent for seeing what inside-out looks like through impact, and seeing is believing.


Hit the Wall

The Drill:
Bring a club to the top of your swing so the clubhead touches a wall directly behind you. Then, bring your arms down to the mid-downswing position and make sure the clubhead is still touching the wall.

What It Does:
Slicers turn their shoulders too aggressively to start the downswing. The wall drill helps you "slot" the club by sliding your left arm down and across your chest while keeping your club on plane.

How to Think Away Your Slice
Avoid the mental pitfalls of the left-to-right shot
By Richard Coop, Ph.D.,
GOLF Magazine's mental-game and performance consultant.

Fixing a major swing flaw is generally not an option once you tee off-it usually just makes matters worse. If your slice is out of control during your round, however, here are your best bets for reeling it in.

Adjust your mindset
If you're sure your next shot is headed right, then trying to make pars is going to get disheartening. So change your personal par for that round. Mentally play for bogey-or even double-on every hole, and you'll start to feel rewarded when you avoid those triples and Xs.

Don't force shots
If you've got 150 yards to the pin, and you normally hit a 7-iron, take a 6-iron, or even a 5, and swing at 75 percent. Throttling back will not only lessen the effects of your swing flaw, it will also relax you and allow you to work your way methodically from tee to green.

Forget the hole
Make getting your ball on the green your goal-everything else is gravy. Aim for the left half of the green (or the center of the green if there's trouble on the left) and let your putter do the rest.

Rediscover tempo
Forget your mechanics for now-they're already on the fritz. Instead, concentrate on making a smooth, pendulum swing on every shot. You may find that when you stop paying attention, your mechanics will find their way back.

STEP 2: Fix Your Face
A clubface that's open a mere .75 of a degree can send your ball 10 yards off target (see our robot data on page 103). Such a small margin for error means that once you have your path where you want it, you need to focus on face angle at impact.

Open Face Syndrome runs rampant among so many players for one reason alone: most of us don't know where the clubface "looks" during the swing. The key to squaring the face at impact is to gain greater control of it at every point in your motion. The following drills will help you do just that.

Square up before you start up
The Drill:
Check your address position in a mirror. If your right hand is on top of the grip (instead of on the side), you're set up to produce a slice. Take your right hand off the grip, let your right arm hang loose at your side, then smoothly move it up toward the handle and retake your grip.

What It Does:
It encourages a stronger right-hand hold for greater clubhead control, and it sets your shoulders square to your target line. In the photo above, notice how the right-hand-on-top position forces my shoulders to open, pre-programming an outside-in swing.

Get square at the top for square impact

The Drill:
Swing to the top and hold that position. If you're a slicer, the clubface is probably pointing at the ground. Try varying amounts of left and right wrist bend to match the face angle to your swing path.

What It Does:
If you're square to your path at the top (same face and shoulder angles), chances are you'll be square at the bottom. Cupping your left wrist (or bowing your right) at the top is a big no-no.

Be square at impact

The Drill:
Place a box slightly ahead of where you'd normally play your ball. From address, move your club forward and try to knock the box straight ahead. You can only do this if you keep your clubface square as it moves down the line.

What It Does:
It provides visual feedback that you can use to mend your clubface position and path at the bottom of your swing. If you hit the box to the right, you opened your clubface or pushed your club too far to the right.

Blend arm swing and body turn

The Drill:
Clamp your hands against a clipboard and make a mock backswing. At the mid-back position, the clipboard should lay on a 45 degree angle.

What It Does:
It grooves an antislice backswing. Most slicers whip the club too far to the inside then simply raise their arms to the top, opening the face (the board will lay flat if you do this). A proper backswing blends arm swing and body turn in equal amounts.


Blast a tee

The Drill:
Place a tee in the ground until just the cap is above the turf. Make your normal backswing with an iron and then try to blast the tee out of the ground.

What It Does:
It activates your hands to square up the face at impact and also produces a strong downward blow.

Stack your deck

The Drill:
Stop your swing at impact and check your positions. Make sure your body is "stacked" (shoulders above knees, knees above feet).

What It Does:
It makes sure that you're not stuck on your right side, and that you are in a powerful impact position. This stacked arrangement allows a natural squaring of the face. If you hang back too long on your right side, your face will be open at impact.

A Slice of History

Who started this left-to-right mess anyway?

The exact origin of the term slice to describe the game's most famous malady is cloaked in a Highlands fog. We do know that it failed to make the printed edition of The Golfer's Manual (1857). However, the following entry indicates that even your great-great-grandfather might have lost a featherie or two in the right gorse:

"Let the novice hold the club tightly with both hands and then try to swing. The grip is too firm, making everything too stiff, causing the ball go to the right."

Peruse the "Temporary Faults" chapter of Sir Walter Simpson's The Art of Golf (1887) and you'll discover shots that "skanked" to the right were common. These Victorian-age slices resulted from "pulling the arms in or throwing oneself back." Sound familiar?

By the late 19th century, slice officially entered the golf vernacular. The "Glossary of Technical Terms" in William Park Jr.'s The Game of Golf (1896) includes "Slice: To draw the face of the club across the ball in the act of hitting it, resulting that it will travel with a curve towards the right." The June 1902 issue of The Golfer includes an account of an 1856 foursomes match between Old Tom Morris and his mentor Allan Robertson, each with an amateur partner. The story recounts how Morris was forced to watch helplessly as his partner "sliced" a drive into the heather bordering the Old Course at St. Andrews. Morris then responded with a slice of his own-an intentional one-that found its mark and allowed the pair to win the hole. In 1908, American Golfer published an instructional piece in which Jerome Travers, winner of four U.S. Amateur championships and a U.S. Open, advised golfers to adjust stance, ball position and hand action to prevent the unwanted slice.

The slice has affected golfers of all ages and skill levels, but its most famous victim may have also been its most powerful-President Dwight Eisenhower. Eisenhower's tee shots routinely started 30 yards to the left and spun wildly back to the right. Ike's slice left its mark on golf history at Augusta National, where he beseeched club chairman Clifford Roberts to remove a pine tree that stood on the left side of the 17th fairway. The tree bedeviled Eisenhower, as he needed the room on the left to maneuver his slice into the fairway. Roberts famously refused the president. Today, the pine has grown into a magnificent tree (named the Eisenhower Pine) that plants the seed of doubt into the best golfers in the world during The Masters.

Lee Trevino made slicing cool in the 1970s, and his famous line, "You can talk to a slice, but a hook won't listen," gave golf's most vilified foozle some legitimacy. But even today, with all of our technological resources, the slice still claims victims. Just ask Phil Mickelson, who sliced his final tee shot at the 2006 U.S. Open onto a beer tent on his way to a double bogey that cost him the championship. For anyone who has ever struggled with the banana ball, the irony was rich. After all, Mickelson had literally sliced his ball onto a tent selling what many consider the most effective tonic ever devised to combat the slice-a stiff drink to help you forget all about it.

- Tom Ferrel (Special thanks to Top 100 Teacher Michael Hebron)

The Top 100 Sound Off on Slicing

Our experts on what's wrong and how to fix it
Jane Frost Sandwich Hills GC, East Sandwhich, Mass. David Phillips Titleist Performance Institute, Oceanside, Calif. Carol Preisinger
Kiawah Island Club, Kiawah Island, S.C.
Why do golfers slice? Too much emphasis on the "grip it and rip it" mentality that trickles from the Tour's big hitters to less-skilled amateurs. In a recent study of 379 golfers we found that 44% of them came over the top. That's why the slice problem is as prevalent as ever. Grips are too weak and too tight with the handle in the palm there's no chance of releasing the club through impact.
How do they make it worse? They squeeze the life out of the club and swing for the fences. A light grip pressure and even tempo is needed to properly square the face. To quit coming over the top you must lead your downswing with your lower body, which requires a level of flexibility most golfers don't own. Slicers know they must swing in-to-out, but if they don't release the clubhead they'll hit a push fade. Now they're really confused.
Your best slice tip? Glue a tee to a magnet and place it in the center of your clubface, then make slow-motion swings to learn where your face points during all points of your swing. Improve your core stability. This will help you maintain dynamic posture. Without it, your torso and arms will dominate and bring your clubhead across the target line. Hold your club like you'd hold a briefcase (in your fingers) with a light pressure. Make a baseball swing and feel how your forearms cross over. That's what you're after.
Step 3: Get it in Sync
You've got your path ironed out and your face is as square as the yell leader at M.I.T. All that's left to do is combine the two for a slice-busting swing.

By adding just a few additional must-have elements to your motion, the in-out swing and square face at contact you've worked hard to achieve will happen naturally and without effort. Try the following to pull it all together and kick that slice to the curb.

Fight for your right
Fact: Your clubface points in the same direction as your right hand. This is never more relevant than just prior to impact. At this point, your right hand (and clubface) should face the ball. If you're solid here, all it takes is a full turn through the ball to produce straight, powerful shots.

Stay in your shoes

If you overswing even slightly, you're left to depend on impeccable timing and luck to make square contact. Strive for a more compact motion-one that you can control. You'll get more power from centered contact than you will from a big swing with an impact out toward the heel or toe.

Pull your pocket
When you stop your hips in your downswing, your arms fling past your body and across the target line-a bad thing. An easy way to feel proper hip turn is to pull on your right pants pocket with your left hand. That powerful and aggressive turn through impact is exactly what you need to keep your club on the proper plane.

Hinge your wrists
Poor wrist hinge can open your face quicker than almost anything else. Avoid hinging upward during your takeaway. In a good full swing your wrists cock laterally, especially at the start. Your arm swing and elbow fold do the work to get your club upward.

The swing in the mirror

Your through-swing is a mirror image of your backswing. Look at your elbow and wrist positions. In your backswing, your right arm is folded and your left wrist is flat. In your through-swing, your left arm is folded and your right wrist is flat. Sometimes breaking the golf motion down to its simplest parts is all you need to get on plane and square.

Stay centered

The middle of your sternum is your swing center, and your path goes awry and your face position falls out of whack when you don't swing around it. To learn to swing around your center (and on plane), place the grip against your belt buckle and wrap your hands around the shaft. Make a swing and feel the connection between your arms and your torso. That's "keeping your club in front" and is one of the true hallmarks of a high-level swing.

Put Your Clubs to Work
Four gear changes you can make to stop your slice today

1. Hook up your face
If your woods are designed with a square face angle (like most clubs are), you'll benefit from a custom fitting for woods with a closed (aka "hook") face angle. This directly offsets the effects of an open face.

2. Add some offset
"Offset" means that the shaft of the club is in front of the clubhead. This will give you a split second more to keep the rotation of your hands and arms going so that the clubface arrives at impact less open than it would with a conventional wood.

3. Shorten the shaft
By going an inch or two shorter with your driver, you'll find it much easier to reduce your outside-in swing path, which should automatically reduce the severity of your slice. However, if you shorten your existing driver, be sure to add weight back to the head to re-establish the swing weight-otherwise, you'll make your slice much worse!

4. Order a combo
If you're staring at a 30- to 40-yard banana ball on most of your shots, and you're not willing or able to put in the time to fix your swing, a driver with a more closed face angle and an offset hosel, along with a shorter shaft, should definitely reduce the severity of your slice.

By Tom Wishon
President, Wishon Golf Technology

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