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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

Brooks Koepka’s grip secret

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Here is a great video on understanding what allows a great player to get through the ball and deliver hardcore to his targets. Without this part of his grip, he would be hard-pressed to deliver anything with any kind of smash factor and compression. See what you can learn from his grip.

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Instruction

Swing speed vs. quality impact

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In today’s age of hitting the ball as hard and as far as you can on tour, I am amazed at the number of amateur golfers who totally disregard the idea of quality impact. In fact, you can hit the ball further with better impact than you can with poor impact and more speed (to a point.) Sure, if you can kick the clubhead speed up 10 MPH-plus versus your normal speed, then this is not a requirement, but in reality most players only swing a few MPH faster when they actually try. Yes, this is true, I see it day after day. You might think you can swing 10 MPH faster but rarely do I see more than 2-3 MPH tops.

I had a student that came in the other day and was obsessed with swinging harder but when he did his impacts were terrible! When I put him on Trackman and showed him the data he was astounded that he could swing slower yet produce more distance.

Here was a typical swing he made when swinging faster 105.8 mph where the impact was low on the face and the ball carried 222.3 yards.


Here was a typical swing he made when swinging slower 102.9 mph where the impact was much better on the face and the ball carried 242.7 yards.

Now, obviously we know that this works to a certain degree of swing speed but it does show you that focusing on quality impact is a key as well. I’m always telling my players that I want them to swing as hard and as fast as they can AND maintain quality impact location — if you can do both then you can have it all!

The best way to understand impact quality without dismantling your swing is to use foot spray to coat the face of the club then hit a few balls to see where impact normally occurs and see if you can adjust.


If you can, great, if not, then go see your teaching professional and figure out why so you can find quality impact once and for all!

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Instruction

How to warm up for golf PROPERLY

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Leo Rooney, Director of Performance at Urban Golf Performance, shows you how to get ready to hit balls and/or hit the golf course.

Who is Leo Rooney?

Director of Performance at Urban Golf Performance
B.Sc Exercise Physiology
TPI, NSCA

Leo Rooney played 16 years of competitive golf, in both college and professionally. He got a degree in exercise physiology and has worked with anyone from top tour players to beginners. Leo is now the Director of Performance at Urban Golf Performance and is responsible for the overall operations but still works closely with some elite tour players and the UCLA Men’s Golf Team.

He also has experience in long driving with a personal best 445-yard drive in the 2010 European Long driving Championship.

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