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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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WATCH: How slow-motion training can lead to more power and consistency

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Eddie Fernandes has made big changes to his swing (and his power and consistency have gone up) by mastering the key moves in slow motion before he speeds them up. Everyone should use this kind of slow motion training to make real changes to their swing!

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WATCH: What you really need to know to control the direction of your shots

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In this video, Top-100 Teacher Tom Stickney shows you how to better control the direction of your shots by understanding how both the club face and swing path determine where your ball goes.

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Stickney: There are many ways to pitch the ball that work

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While surfing through some old swings, I found a great photo of two players hitting pitch shots at Augusta. Both are great pitchers of the ball but use differing techniques. It goes to show you that there is more than one way to get the job done and in fact it reiterates that there is really no “law” when it comes to what shot to play under certain circumstances.

Note: I did NOT say that one was better than the other; I said both work, but you must decide which style works better for you in the end.

In the photo on the left, the player in the white sets his wrists fully, but as we look at the player on the right (in the blue) you can see no wrist hinge at all. So, which is more correct? Both are!

The player on the left hits his pitch shots with more of a driving of the leading edge, which relies on a steeper angle of attack. The golfer on the right uses more of the bounce of the club and thus will come into the ball more shallowly. Not setting the wrists as much helps him to do so.

So, remember that you must experiment with both styles to find your best way…but don’t forget it’s nice to understand and learn how to use both!

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