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Hitting hooks and slices? Here’s how to control your ball’s curvature

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As with most golfers, controlling the curvature of the golf ball in flight tends to be the most common issue plaguing players’ consistency on a daily basis. While there are a ton of fundamental reasons why your swing is causing the ball to curve off-line, the simplest reason is this:

  • When your ball curves too much, you have a face-to-path ratio that is too diverse.

This ratio determines your ball’s spin axis, or the amount the ball will curve in the air in general. Now, I know an off-center hit coupled with the club’s gear effect can also influence the ball’s curvature, but for the sake of this article we will just assume that you have hit the middle of the blade to make things easier to understand.

first

So let’s examine the sample shot I hit above showing a big right-to-left curve:

  1. My target-line is the thin white line directly over the top of the golf balls I have placed at the end of the range.
  2. My path is 16 degrees from the inside to the outside as shown by the blue line.
  3. My face at impact is 3.6 degrees open. With a centered hit, whenever the face is left of the club’s path the ball will curve from right to left.
  4. Thus the ratio between my face (3.6-degrees open) and my path (16 in-to-out) at impact shows a difference of -12.4.
  5. This ball had a spin axis of -13.6, meaning it was curving left. This is shown by the purple curving line tracing the ball in flight.

KEY: Whenever you have a big difference between where you face is pointing and where your path is going, you will tend to have a big curve (as shown in the sample shot above.)  In order to hit the ball with less curve, you need a face-to-path ratio that is very low. This means that your path and your face are going in mostly the same direction give or take a degree or two, as shown below.

last

In order to hit the ball with very little curvature you will need a path and face angle that are more in-line!

One final thought. You can alter the alignment of your body at address to make up for a face-and-path relationship that are in-line, but a touch too much to the right or too much to the left of your target. Please do not alter your aim while you do the drill I’m describing.

So how do we train our hands and body to produce straighter golf shots with less curve, and what drill can you do on the range to best learn how to control this ratio? Line up square to your target-line and then make full-swings in slow-motion trying to hit the ball as straight as possible. Some amount of curvature is inevitable for the majority of players, but the goal is to have the least amount of curve possible while you are hitting these shots.

As you make these swings please, remember to hit the same shot over and over. This means hit the ball the same distance and with the same curvature tendency each time. The better you can get at this drill, the easier it will be for you to understand and feel how to hit the ball straighter when you go back to hitting full speed shots!

Enjoy the process and have some fun. At worst, you are designing a “B” game for yourself if your “A” game is in the tank that day!

Read More Tom Stickney II : What Flightscope and Trackman can tell you (and me)

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Jack

    Jan 21, 2014 at 10:10 pm

    So basically for players who are struggling with their slice (and I’ve seen coaches do this so it’s not like I invented this) they can do an exaggerated draw with a more extreme inside out path, giving them a ton of room or angle to learn how to close their club face. I think if you tell someone to go from slicing to hitting it straight, it’s nearly impossible since the margin of error is so small. But like in the example, club path angle is basically how much margin of error (for the club face) you can have to hit the ball within the angle between the target line and the club path.

    To me the path is easier to be consistent about, but the face could mean on the green or in the bunker. Having a more extreme path allows the less skilled player to keep their misses to just one side of the target.

    If the club path and target line aligns with the left and right extremities of the green, then the chance of getting on green increases.

    • Tom Stickney

      Jan 21, 2014 at 10:45 pm

      Remember this is just a feel drill for people to “educate” their hands in order to understand clubhead/clubface control hitting baby shots This is NOT a cure all for path and face issues- it’s just the starting point.

  2. Chris

    Jan 21, 2014 at 9:34 pm

    Tom,

    What club were you hitting?

  3. Steve Pratt

    Jan 20, 2014 at 11:47 pm

    Open clubface to draw the ball, and closed clubface to fade it. Relative to the target that is!

    Nice work Tom!

    • Tom Stickney

      Jan 21, 2014 at 10:06 am

      Thx.

    • M

      Jan 24, 2014 at 2:20 am

      Not sure if this is in jest, but the opposite is true. I don’t want to mislead anyone that is new to the game. Closed=hook, open=Slice. The key in his example is that he hit a hook because even though the face was open, it was more closed than the swing path. The target means nothing really. For example, If the face is closed 5*, but the swing path is 7* left (out to in), you’ll slice.

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Instruction

The Big Shift: How to master pressure and the golf transition using prior sports training

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If you’re an #AverageJoeGolfer, work a day job, and don’t spend countless hours practicing, you might be interested in knowing that sports you played growing up, and even beer league softball skills, can be used to help you play better golf. We’re sure you’ve heard hockey players tend to hit the ball a mile, make the “best golfers”, while pitchers and quarterbacks have solid games, but baseball/softball hitters struggle with consistency. Did you know that a killer tennis backhand might help your golf game if you play from the opposite side? Dancers are way ahead of other athletes making a switch to golf because they understand that centeredness creates power and consistency much more efficiently than shifting all around, unnecessary swaying, or “happy feet.”

Lurking beneath fat shots, worm burners, and occasional shanks, are skillsets and motions you can pull from the old memory bank to apply on the golf course. Yes, you heard us right; your high school letterman jacket can finally be put to good use and help you improve your move. You just need to understand some simple adjustments different sports athletes need to make to be successful golfers.

In golf, shifting from your trailside into your lead side is what we’ll call the TRANSITION. Old School teachers refer to this motion, or shift, as “Foot Work”, New-Fangled-Techno-Jargon-Packed-Instruction uses “Ground Pressure/Force” to refer to the same concept. Don’t worry about the nomenclature; just know, as many GolfWRXers already do, that you must get your weight to your lead side if you want any chance at making solid and consistent contact. TRANSITION might be THE toughest motion in golf to master.

The good news for you is that TRANSITION happens in all other sports but in slightly different ways, depending on the sport. Golfers can more quickly learn TRANSITION, and speed up their swing learning process by understanding how prior sport experience can be applied to the golf swing.

[The basics of a solid golf move are; 1) you should have a SETUP that is centered and balanced, 2) you move your weight/pressure into your trail side during the TAKEAWAY and BACKSWING, 3) TRANSITION moves your weight/pressure back into your lead side, and 4) you FINISH with the club smashing the ball down the fairway. Okay, it’s not quite as easy as I make it sound, but hopefully our discussion today can relieve some stress when it comes time for you to start training your game.]

Baseball/Softball Hitters

Hitting coaches don’t like their hitters playing golf during the season, that’s a fact. The TRANSITIONS are too different, and if they play too much golf, they can lose the ability to hit off-speed pitches because their swing can become too upright. Golf requires an orbital hand path (around an angled plane) with an upright-stacked finish, while hitting requires batters to have a straight-line (more horizontal) hand path and to “stay back or on top of” the ball.

Now we apologize for the lack of intricate knowledge and terminology around hitting a baseball, we only played up through high school. What we know for sure is that guys/gals who have played a lot of ball growing up, and who aren’t pitchers struggle with golf’s TRANSITION. Hitters tend to hang back and do a poor job of transferring weight properly. When they get the timing right, they can make contact, but consistency is a struggle with fat shots and scooping being the biggest issues that come to mind.

So how can you use your star baseball/softball hitting skills with some adjustments for golf? Load, Stride, Swing is what all-good hitters do, in that order. Hitters’ issues revolve around the Stride, when it comes to golf. They just don’t get into their lead sides fast enough. As a golfer, hitters can still take the same approach, with one big adjustment; move more pressure to your lead side during your stride, AND move it sooner. We’ve had plenty of ‘a ha’ moments when we put Hitters on balance boards or have them repeat step drills hundreds of times; “oh, that’s what I need to do”…BINGO…Pound Town, Baby!

Softball/Baseball Pitchers, Quarterbacks, & Kickers

There’s a reason that kickers, pitchers, and quarterbacks are constantly ranked as the top athlete golfers and it’s not because they have a ton of downtime between starts and play a lot of golf. Their ‘day jobs’ throwing/kicking motions have a much greater impact on how they approach sending a golf ball down the fairway. It’s apparent that each of these sports TRAINS and INGRAINS golf’s TRANSITION motion very well. They tend to load properly into their trailside while staying centered (TAKEAWAY/BACKSWING), and they transfer pressure into their lead side, thus creating effortless speed and power. Now there are nuances for how to make adjustments for golf, but the feeling of a pitching or kicking motion is a great training move for golf.

If this was your sport growing up, how can you improve your consistency? Work on staying centered and minimizing “happy feet” because golf is not a sport where you want to move too much or get past your lead side.


Dance

My wife was captain of her high school dance team, has practiced ballet since she was in junior high, and is our resident expert on Ground Pressure forces relating to dance. She has such a firm grasp on these forces that she is able to transfer her prior sports skill to play golf once or twice a year and still hit the ball past me and shoot in the low 100s; what can I say, she has a good coach. More importantly, she understands that staying centered and a proper TRANSITION, just like in Dance, are requirements that create stability, speed, and consistent motions for golf. Christo Garcia is a great example of a Ballerina turned scratch golfer who uses the movement of a plié (below left) to power his Hogan-esque golf move. There is no possible way Misty Copeland would be able to powerfully propel herself into the air without a proper TRANSITION (right).

Being centered is critical to consistently hitting the golf ball. So, in the same way that dancers stay centered and shift their weight/pressure to propel themselves through the air, they can stay on the ground and instead create a golf swing. Dancers tend to struggle with the timing of the hands and arms in the golf swing. We train them a little differently by training their timing just like a dance routine; 1 and 2 and 3 and…. Dancers learn small motions independently and stack each micro-movement on top of one another, with proper timing, to create a dance move (golf swing) more like musicians learn, but that article is for another time.

Hockey

Hockey is a great example of the golf TRANSITION because it mimics golf’s motions almost perfectly. Even a subtlety like the direction in which the feet apply pressure is the same in Hockey as in Golf, but that’s getting in the weeds a bit. Hockey players load up on their trailside, and then perform the TRANSITION well; they shift into their lead sides and then rotate into the puck with the puck getting in the way of the stick…this is the golf swing, just on skates and ice…my ankles hurt just writing that.

If you played hockey growing up, you have the skillsets for a proper golf TRANSITION, and you’ll improve much faster if you spend your time training a full FINISH which involves staying centered and balanced.

Now we didn’t get into nuances of each and every sport, but we tried to cover most popular athletic motions we thought you might have experience in in the following table. The key for your Big Shift, is using what you’ve already learned in other sports and understanding how you might need to change existing and known motions to adapt them to golf. If you played another sport, and are struggling, it doesn’t mean you need to give up golf because your motion is flawed…you just need to know how to train aspects of your golf move a little differently than someone who comes from a different sport might.

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Instruction

Clement: Effortless power for senior golfers

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Are you struggling with range of motion? Want more EFFORTLESS POWER? We are truly the experts at this having taught these methods for 25 plus years, while others were teaching resistance, breaking everyone’s backs and screwing up their minds with endless positions to hit and defects to fix. Welcome home to Wisdom in Golf!

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Clement: How to turbo charge your swing

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The shift in golf instruction continues and Wisdom in Golf and GolfWRX are right out there blazing a trail of fantastic content and techniques to get you to feel the most blissful, rhythmic golf shots you can strike! This here is the humdinger that keeps on giving and is now used by a plethora of tour players who are benefitting greatly and moving up the world rankings because of it.

The new trend (ours is about 25 years young) is the antithesis of the “be careful, don’t move too much, don’t make a mistake” approach we have endured for the last 30 years plus. Time to break free of the shackles that hold you back and experience the greatness that is already right there inside that gorgeous human machine you have that is so far from being defective! Enjoy!

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