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How to hit big hooks and slices (on purpose)

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For as long as I can remember, my buddies and I would go to the practice tee, get bored quickly, and end up seeing who could curve the ball the most with whatever club we were hitting. While some people dismiss this as wasting valuable practice time, I say it’s just the opposite. Doing so helps golfers understand how to curve the ball and how to change their mechanics in order to do so.

With Trackman, we now know that the ball begins mostly in the direction of the club face at impact and curves away from the path with a centered hit. This is one of the major keys you must remember if you want to curve it and have it actually end up in play.

In order to illustrate the correct way to curve the ball, I hit my stock shot, a left-to-right fade, on Trackman. You can see the results below.

BubbaWatsonWRX

As we examine the data, you can see that my face angle was -0.8 degrees left of my target at impact and the ball launched -1.5 degrees left as well. I wanted the shot to curve back to the pin, so I made sure my path was more left than my face at impact. As you can see, my path was 2.7 degrees left of my club face, and because of this my ball curved back to the right, which is what I like to see.

Now back to curving the ball as much as you can. Here are the keys:

1. Club head speed: Without speed, it’s tougher to curve the golf ball. That’s the reason your grandmother hasn’t missed a fairway since 1972. This does not mean that you can’t curve it if you don’t have a lot of speed, but if you don’t you must use more club to help make up for this fact.

Why? See the second key below.

2. Use a lower-lofted club: Using a lower-lofted club makes curving the ball easier, because it reduces something called spin loft. To understand this, you must understand what spin loft is and what it does does.

Spin-Loft1

 

Spin loft is the difference between the angle of attack and the dynamic loft of the club at impact. Think of this angle like an ice cream cone with the point as the ball and the actual “cone” part as the vectors of attack angle (bottom of the cone) and dynamic loft (top of the cone). The wider the cone is, the less the ball will curve and vice-versa. So in order to make the ball curve more, you must do one of two things:

  • Reduce spin loft to make the cone smaller.
  • Increase the face-to-path relationship.

3. A bigger face-to-path ratio, coupled with a lower spin loft: This allows for what’s called the “D-plane” to tilt more aggressively, creating more curvature.

Remember that ice cream cone? As spin loft decreases, the cone gets smaller at the target end, which means that a 1-degree difference in face-to-path will curve the ball more than it would if the cone was larger. This happens because whe spin loft decreases, it tilts the axis of the golf ball more aggressively. So more loft reduces the maximum amount of curvature possible with the same face-to-path relationship. That’s the reason why your driver slices more than your wedges, all other things being equal.

4. A proper starting direction: What good is curving the ball if you don’t begin the ball on the right line? Too many players focus only on curvature and forget about starting direction. It leads to many players short siding themselves, making up-and-downs more difficult.

Golfers used to be taught to aim their body in the direction they wanted the ball to start, and then aim their club face where they wanted the ball to finish when they wanted to curve the ball. So what happens if you try to hit Mr. Big Ol’ Curve the old way without monitoring your starting direction?

TomStickneyWRX

In the Trackman screenshot above, I aligned my body to the right of my target and aimed my face at the pin. Here’s what happened:

  • My path was 1.1 degrees from inside to outside, yet my ball started left of the target before curving away from it.
  • You can see that my ball launched -1.8 degrees left of my target because my face was pointing well left of the target during impact (-2.6 degrees).
  • So the -3.7 face-to-path ratio caused the ball to curve, but it didn’t start in the correct direction, so I would have missed the green well left.

StickneyBubba

So how can golfers ensure that when they hit the big curveball their shots begin where they’d like? Simply go to the practice facility and set up a bucket directly in line between the ball and the pin and practice curving the ball around the bucket. Curving shots around any object, imaginary or real, will help you understand the feel you need to create big slices and hooks. If you’re using a real object, just make sure it’s safe (and affordable) to hit it!

To hit the hook shot pictured, golfers will need to aim their body to the right as shown by the sticks on the ground to some degree (keep in mind that golfers need different amounts because of their club head speed and other factors), as this helps to shift the players’ path farther right, while helping to widen the face-to-path relationship. But make sure your face is square to your alignments as shown above.

Why?

Golfers need to begin the ball RIGHT of their target, in this case, before hooking the ball back toward the pin. What I have found is that this position helps people to “feel” like they can release the club through impact to hook the ball without the it moving too far to the left from the start.

The key is to make sure that your club face, at impact, is a few degrees right of the bucket and the path is way out into right field. As the gap widens between your face and path, the ball will curve progressively more.

Enjoy hitting the big curves and don’t be scared to practice like a kid again!

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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

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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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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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