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Turn, Turn, Turn: For every swing there is a reason

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Slicing and hooking are nothing more than club face (in relation) to swing path issues. If the golf club is coming from inside and the club face is aimed at the target at impact, the golf ball will have left axis tilt, or hook spin. If the club is coming from outside and the face is aimed at the target at impact, the golf ball will have right axis tilt, or slice spin. This is assuming that you make contact in the center of the face, however. Heel hits and toe hits are a different matter entirely.

Many golfers tackle the problem of errant shots by attempting to change the angle of the club face at impact — they take a stronger grip or weaker grip, or they try to change their release. And there’s no question that you need a good grip to play good golf. But changing your grip will only change the angle of the club face at impact. Since physics shows that the club face is responsible for 75-85 percent of the initial direction of the golf ball, changing your grip will only impact the starting direction of the ball, not the curve of the ball. If you want a change in spin axis, you must change the face-to-path relationship.

You are probably asking yourself, “Ok DC, how do we do that? ” Let’s take a look at it in some detail.

An arc, by definition, is a curve. The correct swing arc for the club head is from the inside, to the ball, and back to the inside. (Note: For a right-handed golf, coming from the inside means approaching the ball from the side where he or she stands in relation to the ball). There is a small flat spot at the bottom of the swing, but the club head travels largely on a curve.

Now, to assist you in creating this curve, your body will need to rotate during the swing. The torso turns away from the target in the backswing and toward the target in the downswing. In other words, your backswing turn assists in creating room for you to swing from the inside.  And your downswing turn assists in creating room to swing BACK to the inside.  Notice I said “assist” because it is not a law that the arm swing follows the turning of the body. But it does create room to allow this to happen.

How can this help you with hooking or slicing?

If the club is traveling too much from outside, you need more BACKSWING turn to give you more room to swing from the inside. And if the golf club is traveling too much from the inside (hooking) you need more DOWNSWING turn to give you more room to swing from the outside, or at least straighter into the golf ball. So think “turn away” if you’re slicing and “turn through” if you’re hooking.

This also helps better players fade and draw the golf ball; draws and fades are milder versions of hooks and slices where the face-to-path ratio is reduced. I have my tournament players think maximum turn back, minimum turn through on draws and minimum turn back and maximum turn through on fades.  Again, it reduces or increases the amount of inside, straight or outside path room available. Again this is not a guarantee that the turn assures the path in or out but it does help. Of course, sequencing also plays a big part in swing path; some players turn back well, but open the upper body too soon coming down. This, in effect, defeats the purpose of the turn in the first place.

The only long-term cure for a slice or a hook is a change in the face-to-path relationship.  Focusing on the proper rotation can help in this.

Note: If you read my article “Golf is a Reaction Game” you will remember I said that in order to change your swing habits you need to change your ball flight. And this is where a grip or release change can help. By starting the ball more right or left, you can learn to create a better swing path in due course. But the face is a temporary fix, not a permanent solution. That is what is so invaluable about Doppler radar golf ball tracking systems like Trackman and Flightscope. We know the exact the face-to-path ratio. The only thing left to do is hit it in the center. But that’s another lesson.

As always, feel free to send a swing video to my Facebook page and I will do my best to give you my feedback.

Click here for more discussion in the “Instruction & Academy” forum. 

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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

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. James

    Jun 3, 2013 at 6:46 am

    Great article. Helped me a ton. Thank you!

  2. Scott

    Nov 14, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    I have a terrible swing. All upper body, all arms. No control. I absolutely have “the big banana” shot.

    This article was the first thing that actually made sense to me and worked at the range. First time trying this I was 50-50 between shots at my target and pulls, BUT the ball flight completely changed. This produced a more piercing trajectory with rollout rather than my normal extreme side spin.

    Thank you! Like Austin said, if you make it out to the SF Bay Area I owe you a meal of your choice!

  3. Matt

    Oct 26, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    Read this article and decided to try it out on the range. Helped so much! I instantly could move it both ways and hit the ball so solid. So excited to see how it continues to help! Thanks!!

  4. Pingback: GolfWRX.com – Turn, Turn, Turn: For every swing there is reason | Golf Grip Instruction

  5. Austin

    Oct 8, 2012 at 6:59 am

    Dennis, Thanks for this tip! This is one of the best for immediate results. I took this to the course and it works. I hit 11 of 14 fairways when I have been hitting about 3-4 for 14. Had a ton of birdie putts and was working the ball both ways with your help! Thanks so much! If you are ever in Nashville I owe you lunch/dinner! Thanks again.

  6. Anne

    Oct 7, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    GREAT. THANK YOU

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Instruction

A Drill To Build Better Club Face Awareness

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When it comes to playing good golf, where you strike the ball on the club face is vital.

One of the key skills in golf is being aware of where the club face is as you swing the club around your body in order to be able to strike the ball in the center of the club face. In this video, I share one of my favorite drills for you to practice to improve your club face awareness. It will help you to hit the center of the club face more often.

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Instruction

How the Trail Arm Should Work In Backswing

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Stop getting stuck! In this video, I demonstrate a great drill to help you move your trail arm correctly in the backswing.

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Instruction

Self-discovery: Why golf lessons aren’t helping you improve

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Of all the things I teach or have taught in golf, I think this is the most important: It’s not what we cover in a lesson, it’s what you discover. 

Some years ago, I had a student in golf school for a few days. She was topping every single shot. Zero were airborne. I explained that she was opening her body and moving forward before her arms and club were coming down. “Late” we call it. I had her feel like her arms were coming down first and her body was staying behind, a common correction for late tops. Bingo! Every ball went up into the air. She was ecstatic.

Some time later, she called and said she was topping every shot. She scheduled a lesson. She topped every shot. I asked her why she was topping the ball. “I think I’m picking up my head,” she said to my look of utter disbelief!

I had another student who was shanking the ball. At least 3 out of 5 came off the hosel with his wedges. I explained that his golf club was pointed seriously left at the top of his backswing. It was positioned well OUTSIDE his hands, which caused it to come down too wide and swing OUTSIDE his hands into impact. This is a really common cause of shanking. We were able to get the club more down the line at the top and come down a bit narrower and more inside the ball. No shanks… not a one!  He called me sometime later. The shanks had returned. You get the rest. When I asked what was causing him to shank, he told me “I get too quick.”

If you are hitting the golf ball better during a golf lesson, you have proven to yourself that you CAN do it. But what comes after the lesson is out of a teacher’s hands. It’s as simple as that. I cannot control what you do after you leave my lesson tee. Now, if you are NOT hitting the ball better during a lesson or don’t understand why you’re not hitting it better, I will take the blame. And…you do not have to compensate me for my time. That is the extent to which I’ll go to display my commitment and accept my responsibility. What we as teachers ask is the same level of commitment from the learners.

Improving at golf is a two-way street. My way is making the correct diagnosis and offering you a personalized correction, possibly several of them. Pick the ONE that works for you. What is your way on the street? Well, here are a few thoughts on that:

  • If you are taking a lesson at 10 a.m. with a tee time at 11 a.m. and you’re playing a $20 Nassau with your buddies, you pretty much wasted your time and money.
  • If the only time you hit balls is to warm up for your round, you have to be realistic about your results.
  • If you are expecting 250-yard drives with an 85 mph club head speed, well… let’s get real.
  • If you “fake it” during a lesson, you’re not going to realize any lasting improvement. When the teacher asks if you understand or can feel what’s being explained and you say yes when in fact you DO NOT understand, you’re giving misleading feedback and hurting only yourself. Speak up!

Here’s a piece of advise I have NEVER seen fail. If you don’t get it during the lesson, there is no chance you’ll get it later. It’s not enough to just hit it better; you have to fully understand WHY you hit it better. Or if you miss, WHY you missed.

I have a rule I follow when conducting a golf lesson. After I explain the diagnosis and offer the correction, I’ll usually get some better results. So I continue to offer that advice swing after swing. But at some point in the lesson, I say NOTHING. Typically, before long the old ball flight returns and I wait– THREE SWINGS. If the student was a slicer and slices THREE IN A ROW, then it’s time for me to step in again. I have to allow for self discovery at some point. You have to wean yourself off my guidance and internalize the corrections. You have to FEEL IT.

When you can say, “If the ball did this then I know I did that” you are likely getting it. There is always an individual cause and effect you need to understand in order to go off by yourself and continue self improvement. If you hit a better shot but do not know why, please tell your teacher. What did I do? That way you’re playing to learn, not simply learning to play.

A golf lesson is a guidance, not an hour of how to do this or that. The teacher is trying to get you to discover what YOU need to feel to get more desirable outcomes. If all you’re getting out of it is “how,” you are not likely to stay “fixed.” Remember this: It’s not what we cover in the lesson; it’s what you discover!

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