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3 ways to get your game “off the hook”

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Hooking the golf ball is often referred to as a “better golfer’s problem,” while slicing is seen as the domain of the duffer.

My response: “So what?” The left rough is every bit as deep as the right rough, and O.B. left still gets re-teed! Hooking the ball is every bit as detrimental to your golf game, and it needs to be corrected. But, not unlike slicing, the correction often involves a fix that is entirely counter-intuitive.

Here’s three ways to eliminate the nasty hook from your game.

Weaken your bottom-hand grip

Often I find the bottom hand (the right hand for right-handers) is the culprit. I’ve seen a lot of low hooks with a neutral left-hand grip, but the minute the right hand gets under the club, even a little bit, look out left.

If you’re hitting a low hook, try to get the “V” on top of your right hand pointed to your right eye, or at least your right shoulder. Also, if you’re fighting a hook, I might suggest a slight turn to the left with both hands, but I personally don’t like to get the left-hand too weak. The left-hand “V” is pointed to right shoulder for most powerful players.

In general, I believe grips are much stronger than they were years ago. If you see the finish of modern elite players with the golf club more across their body and parallel to the ground when they finish, this is generally an indication of a stronger grip.

Johnny Miller has a great video on this concept:

Assuming you get the grip correct, let’s tackle the swing.

Swing left and get your body moving 

When a golfer hooks the ball, the strong impulse is to swing more and more right of the target (inside-out), which is like pouring salt in the wound. You need to develop a “straighter” swing path, one that’s less out to the right, and more across. It will literally feel like you are coming over the top.

That’s right. If the golf ball is going left, only a more left swing path will straighten it out. Golf is a crazy game, I know!

The key to swinging more left and correcting that inside-out path is to feel the upper body begin opening as you start the downswing. The right side should stay high and come OUT toward the golf ball. I doubt very much that this will actually happen, but you need to feel like it is. The lower body will not, in and of itself, correct your swing path. In fact, focusing on opening the lower body often leads to dropping the club more inside, which we definitely don’t want. If you can feel like you “open up” early with your chest, the arms may very well stay UP longer, thus forcing the club on a better path into the golf ball.

Drill: Hit balls on a downhill lie, and feel like you are swinging very steep, down and left through impact. If you come too far from the inside, or “underneath” the ball, you’ll hit the ground first. Focus on making solid contact, and this feeling may fix your hook.

Move your ball position forward

Here’s another paradox: move the ball well forward in the stance to fix a hook. With the golf ball up front, you have a much better chance of contacting the golf ball on the “inside” part of the arc. By inside I mean, a good swing arc is from inside to inside, so by moving the golf ball forward, it will help you catch the ball on the latter part of that arc, which is naturally headed more left.

Drill: Hit drivers off the ground, or “off the deck.” Move the ball out by your left toe, open the face of the driver a little and hit some outside-in slices. You will feel the difference immediately.

Final thoughts

So, in conclusion, to fix the hook you should try to weaken the right hand a bit, move the golf ball forward in your stance and get that body moving through impact! Be aggressive with the turn through the ball, and you’ll see less hooks and a higher ball flight!

Note: I’m currently teaching in Pennsylvania for a few months, so if any of you are near Western Pa., give me a call. Or if you would like to take advantage of my online analysis program, visit my Facebook page or email me at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com.

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Gus

    Sep 24, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    are you a wizard? i just started hooking the ball after finally overcoming a 5-year slice, and for the first time, like you said in the first tip i’m noticing my finish with the club parallel and close to my back, hands by my ears, sort of like Rory’s finish. everything you delineated in this article i realized is in my game–definitely some great ideas to take to the range.

  2. Dennis Clark

    Sep 14, 2015 at 12:31 pm

    Yes. The swing may be a little too steep too.

  3. Anthony

    Sep 14, 2015 at 11:27 am

    I weaken my right hand over the summer (right handed golfer). Immediately took the snap hooks out. I am hitting my irons so much higher and straighter. It was not easy to weaken my right hand though, I needed to use a grip reminder to even hit the ball when I first made the change.

    Now that I have neutralized my grip, I am leaving the driver a little out to the right though. So now i am experimenting with strengthening my left hand but keeping my right hand more neutral, at least with the driver. Good idea?

  4. Double C

    Sep 14, 2015 at 9:08 am

    The weak right hand tip is great. I tried it on Saturday and hit it the best I have all year. It makes it very difficult to hook the ball.

  5. Dennis Clark

    Sep 13, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    you’re welcome; always good to hear improvement. That’s why we do this work!

  6. Nevin

    Sep 13, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    Thank you for the very helpful article. I used suggestions one and two today and it definitely helped with my tendency to hook left especially when there is water left.

  7. Evan

    Sep 11, 2015 at 11:21 pm

    Any pros in your stable, Steve? I believe his audience (and clients) are amateur players. Why would a pro fighting a hook be reading a GolfWRX article… They’re not. Not sure what you’re criticizing, his advice is solid and he has been teaching this audience (amateurs) successfully for years.

    Pipe down and pay attention, you might learn something.

  8. Dennis Clark

    Sep 11, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    be careful of this; an open club face tends to take the club away a little too inside; a closed face tends to take it away outside. square is good

  9. Ron Schataz

    Sep 11, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    Making sure that the clubface is in the proper position as you take it back is important as well. A closed face will promote a hook. I practice taking the club back about belt high and making sure the clubface is not hooded before taking my actual swing. This gives me some muscle memory and puts a positive swing thought in my head as well. It has cured my hook, too.

  10. Derek

    Sep 11, 2015 at 7:35 am

    Great insight Dennis and I had help resolving my slice by opening my stance closing my shoulders slightly at address and swinging in to out. I stopped slicing straight away but had some amazing hooks, especially with the driver. I tried a weaker left hand grip and tried to swing more in to out thinking it would help but didn’t so had a laugh reading this. I definitely have a strong right hand grip and it would be easy enough to calm the in to out swing path and getting my body rotation through the ball. Thanks for the drills and looking forward to giving them a go.

  11. mlecuni

    Sep 11, 2015 at 3:21 am

    Nice video from Mr Miller, i like his explanations here.

  12. Zachary Jurich

    Sep 11, 2015 at 12:48 am

    Ive spent the better half of the last 2 years playing a high hook with virtually every club in the bag while at same time playing the ball a lot more forward than most. Im capable of hitting great shots in bunches, but sometimes my irons can really start going left. I’ll have to give weakening my right hand a shot! Thank you Mr. Clark

  13. Dennis Clark

    Sep 11, 2015 at 12:29 am

    exactly, and when the pressure gets on, it is even harder to turn the body. Relaxed muscles help a lot

  14. other paul

    Sep 10, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    I hit a high hook all summer. I had a fast lower body, slow upper body (as in shoulders barley open at all, and fast arms and hands. All I did was speed the body up and open a bit more. Voila. 170 yard 9 irons. Love it. So pumped to finish the season now.

    • Jack

      Sep 10, 2015 at 11:26 pm

      That’s nice. You hit your 9 iron further than most pros.

      • Timbleking

        Sep 11, 2015 at 2:58 am

        Yeah dude! Me as well.

        Sh** happens…

  15. My bad

    Sep 10, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    *I think people quit rotating

    • Dennis Clark

      Sep 11, 2015 at 6:11 pm

      Yep. especially when under pressure or too tight. RELAX and turn through

  16. Gubment Cheeze

    Sep 10, 2015 at 7:18 pm

    I had hooks so bad the ball wouldn’t get off the ground
    My fix was actually strengthening my bottom hand and keeping the palm facing up…limited face rotation
    But I think you have to have a nice swing path too

    • Dennis Clark

      Sep 11, 2015 at 12:32 am

      Paul Azinger played world class golf with a strong grip and his swing thought was “knuckles up” through impact. It can be done just tough to do.

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Instruction

Tip of the week: Let the left heel lift for a bigger turn to the top

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In this week’s tip, Tom Stickney gives a suggestion that would make Brandel Chamblee proud: lift the left heel on the backswing for a bigger turn.

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How I train tour players

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There is a lot of speculation about how tour pros train, and with tantalizing snippets of gym sessions being shared on social media, it’s tempting to draw large conclusions from small amounts of insight. One thing I can tell you from my time on tour is that there isn’t just one way that golfers should train, far from it. I’ve seen many different approaches work for many different pros, a strong indicator is the wide variety of body shapes we see at the top level of the game. Take for example Brooks Koepka, Mark Leishman, Ricker Fowler, and Patrick Reed. Put these four players through a physical testing protocol and the results would be extremely varied, and yet, over 18 holes of golf there is just 0.79 shots difference between first and last.

This example serves to highlight the importance of a customized approach to training. Sometimes common sense training programs backed by scientific evidence simply don’t work for an individual. One of the athletes I work with, Cameron Smith, over the course of a season recorded his slowest club-head speed when he was strongest and heaviest (muscle mass) and fastest club-head speed when he was lightest and weakest. That lead me to seriously question the widely accepted concept of stronger = more powerful and instead search for a smarter and more customized methodology. I’ll continue to use Cam and his training as an example throughout this article.

Cam working on his rotational speed (push band on his arm)

What I’m going to outline below is my current method of training tour pros, it’s a fluid process that has changed a lot over the years and will hopefully continue to morph into something more efficient and customized as time goes on.

Assessment

I have poached and adapted aspects from various different testing methods including TPI, GravityFit, Ramsay McMaster, Scott Williams and Train With Push. The result is a 5-stage process that aims to identify areas for improvement that can be easily compared to measure progress.

Subjective – This is a simple set of questions that sets the parameters for the upcoming training program. Information on training and injury history, time available for training, access to facilities and goal setting all help to inform the structure of the training program design that will fit in with the individual’s life.

Postural – I take photos in standing and golf set up from in-front, behind and both sides. I’m simply trying to establish postural tendencies that can be identified by alignment of major joints. For example a straight line between the ear, shoulder, hip and ankle is considered ideal.

Muskulo Skeletal – This is a series of very simple range of motion and localized stability tests for the major joints and spinal segments. These tests help explain movement patterns demonstrated in the gym and the golf swing. For example ankle restrictions make it very difficult to squat effectively, whilst scapula (shoulder blade) instability can help explain poor shoulder and arm control in the golf swing.

Stability and Balance – I use a protocol developed by GravityFit called the Core Body Benchmark. It measures the player’s ability to hold good posture, balance and stability through a series of increasingly complex movements.

Basic Strength and Power – I measure strength relative to bodyweight in a squat, push, pull and core brace/hold. I also measure power in a vertical leap and rotation movement.

At the age of 16, Cam Smith initially tested poorly in many of these areas; he was a skinny weak kid with posture and mobility issues that needed addressing to help him to continue playing amateur golf around the world without increasing his risk of injury.

An example scoring profile

Report

From these 5 areas of assessment I write a report detailing the areas for improvement and set specific and measurable short terms goals. I generally share this report with the player’s other team members (coach, manager, caddie etc).

Training Program

Next step is putting together the training program. For this I actually designed and built (with the help of a developer) my own app. I use ‘Golf Fit Pro’ to write programs that are generally split into 3 or 4 strength sessions per week with additional mobility and posture work. The actual distribution of exercises, sets, reps and load (weights) can vary a lot, but generally follows this structure:

Warm Up – foam roll / spiky ball, short cardio, 5 or 6 movements that help warm up the major joints and muscles

Stability / Function – 2 or 3 exercises that activate key stability/postural muscles around the hips and shoulders.

Strength / Power – 4 or 5 exercises designed to elicit a strength or power adaptation whilst challenging the ability to hold posture and balance.

Core – 1 or 2 exercises that specifically strengthen the core

Mobility – 5-10 stretches, often a mixture of static and dynamic

An example of the Golf Fit Pro app

Cam Smith has followed this structure for the entire time we have been working together. His choice would be to skip the warm-up and stability sections, instead jumping straight into the power and strength work, which he considers to be “the fun part.” However, Cam also recognizes the importance of warming up properly and doing to his stability drills to reduce the risk of injury and make sure his spine, hips and shoulders are in good posture and moving well under the load-bearing strength work.

Training Sessions

My approach to supervising training sessions is to stick to the prescribed program and focus attention firstly on perfecting technique and secondly driving intent. What I mean by this is making sure that every rep is done with great focus and determination. I often use an accelerometer that tracks velocity (speed) to measure the quality and intent of a rep and provide immediate feedback and accountability to the individual.

Cam especially enjoys using the accelerometer to get real-time feedback on how high he is jumping or fast he is squatting. He thrives on competing with both himself and others in his gym work, pretty typical of an elite athlete!

Maintenance

The physical, mental and emotional demands of a tournament week make it tricky to continue to train with the same volume and intensity as usual. I will often prescribe a watered down version of the usual program, reducing reps and sets whilst still focusing on great technique. Soreness and fatigue are the last thing players want to deal with whilst trying to perform at their best. It’s quite the balancing act to try and maintain fitness levels whilst not getting in the way of performance. My experience is that each player is quite different and the process has to be fluid and adaptable in order to get the balance right from week to week.

Equipment

Aside from the usual gym equipment, resistance bands, and self massage tools, the following are my favourite bits of kit:

GravityFit – Absolutely the best equipment available for training posture, stability and movement quality. The immediate feedback system means I can say less, watch more and see players improve their technique and posture faster.

Push Band – This wearable accelerometer has really transformed the way I write programs, set loads and measure progression. It’s allowed the whole process to become more fluid and reactive, improved quality of training sessions and made it more fun for the players. It also allows me to remotely view what has happened in a training session, down to the exact speed of each rep, as demonstrated in the image below.

Details from one of Cam’s recent training sessions

Examples

Below are some of the PGA Tour players that I have worked with and the key areas identified for each individual, based of the process outlined above:

Cam Smith – Improving posture in head/neck/shoulders, maintenance of mobility throughout the body, increasing power output into the floor (vertical force) and rotational speed.

Jonas Blixt – Core stability, hip mobility and postural endurance in order to keep lower back healthy (site of previous injury). Overall strength and muscle growth.

Harris English – Improving posture in spine, including head/neck. Scapula control and stability, improving hip and ankle mobility. Overall strength and muscle growth.

Recommendations

My advice if you want to get your fitness regime right, is to see a professional for an assessment and personalized program, then work hard at it whilst listening to your body and measuring results. I’m sure this advice won’t rock your world, but from all that I’ve seen and done on tour, it’s by far the best recommendation I can give you.

If you are a golfer interested in using a structured approach to your golf fitness, then you can check out my online services here.

If you are a fitness professional working with golfers, and would like to ask questions about my methods, please send an email to nick@golffitpro.net

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Me and My Golf: Top 5 putting grips

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In this week’s Impact Show, we take a look at our top 5 putting grips. We discuss which grips we prefer, and which putting grips can suit you and why.

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