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Understanding “open-faced hooks”



At the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Dustin Johnson hit an ugly quacker (read snap hook) off the tee on Tuesday afternoon that was headed in the general direction of Haleakala. After the shot, NBC’s broadcast team, Johnny Miller and Gary Koch, decided to take a look at what happened.

They zoomed in to impact using the high-speed Konica Minolta Swing Vision Camera and saw that as Johnson’s club collided with the ball, his club face opened — massively!  The booth went silent briefly, as Miller and Koch were flummoxed by the fact that Johnson’s club face was opened and he still managed to hook it off the planet. After realizing that they had dead air, they probably figured:

“Hey, we have to say something!”

So Miller went on to talk about how Johnson must have opened the face at impact to try and hook the ball less, or that maybe he was trying to fade the ball, but opened the club too late. Sound hard to believe? That’s because it’s total nonsense.

Here’s what actually happened — when the golf ball collided with the toe of Johnson’s club, the face opened and gave the ball hook spin. It’s a phenomenon called horizontal gear effect, which is what created the spin axis that caused Johnson’s ball to hook. To say or believe anything otherwise is to go against what science knows. DJ hit a toe hook; it couldn’t have been more obvious.

This harks back to an article I wrote some time ago about controlling the face after impact, in which I pointed out that a player CANNOT control the face upon and immediately after collision if the hit misses the center of the face. But apparently Miller and the old school team still seem to think you can. I was saddened to hear the announcers try to explain what happened using antiquated theories that have since been proven wrong by Dopplar radar systems such as TrackMan and FlightScope, as well as other new technologies.

I am not going out of my way to criticize Johnny Miller, Gary Koch or anyone else at the network, but I am saying this: The job of commentating on national television brings with it a great responsibility to the viewers. The vast majority of viewers will take the word of these experts as Gospel; no questions asked. So they have the responsibility to stay abreast of all the latest science and what is being learned about impact.

It would be easy for me, as a teacher, to bury my head in the sand, never read another book, never attend another seminar and just go on teaching what I taught before the enlightement era. But I can’t. I am a professional. I charge for my services, and therefore have the responsibility to my students to learn all we know TODAY. I would think the famous ex-players who comment on swings and things should have the same responsibility. In this case, explaining to the audience what caused DJ to hit a toe hook might have been of great help to many watching and listening.

Like it or not, we are living in the “teacher era.” Gone are the days when the top players teach golf. Why? Because staying on top of all the latest information is a full-time job. It is wonderful to hear Miller and others tell us about how they played certain shots, course management, reading greens and how to handle pressure — for that, I’m all ears. But as for impact principles and swing science, Miller and Koch are still living in the days they played, and I think we should hold them to a higher standard.

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” forums.


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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



  1. Dennis Clark

    Jan 31, 2013 at 9:41 am

    path to face insignificant with extreme toe or heel hits. Could be +5, 0, or -5 path and toe will still have hook spin. Lie angle with 8 degree club has minimal effect compared to say 60 degree wedge.

  2. paul

    Jan 22, 2013 at 10:56 am

    Great point! However, until we know how upright/flat his driver head is, we cannot know how much of the hook was caused by the gear effect. It also depends on club path. That is, if he swung 10* in to out, then 9* open face will still draw the ball. If the driver head is 7* upright, which is not unusual for a driver, then it will exaggerate the hook. That means that even if it was not toe shot, you can still hit a hook if by an in to out club path and an upright lie angle. Lie angle contributes to the side spin significantly.

    By the way, I didn’t watch the tournament, but did they actually show where on the club face the impact was made? If so, how far off the center?

  3. Austin

    Jan 15, 2013 at 6:27 am

    Good info and comments. Thanks DC.

  4. John

    Jan 14, 2013 at 11:48 pm

    Sounds like an extreme version of the ol’ “toe-ball draw.” I’m good for at least one and as many as three a round.

  5. paul

    Jan 14, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    Last summer i was driving a ball with a terrible shaft in my 909 D2, i hit a tried to kill it at the start of a long par 5, I caught the ball on the toe and could feel the shaft twist. i saw the ball start off left then hook right (yes Im left). It blew my mind because I didn’t know that was possible. Nice to read an article on it, though it wasn’t that tough to figure out what happened when you hold the club, but probably harder to understand when you are watching it on tv.

  6. Doug

    Jan 13, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    The center and heel portion of the club head travel forward faster than the toe, since they are not “restricted” due to running into the mass of the golf ball, like the toe. This is the same as the clubhead rotating clockwise, while it is in contact with the golf ball. The golf ball rotates CCW (like a gear would) and boom you get hook spin. Not even Johnny Miller can stop the club head from rotating, much less Chuck Norris. The roatation itself (torsional compliance) can come all of the above: shaft twist, club grip twist, gripping, hand/wrist rotation. Yes I am an engineer.

    • andy

      Jan 13, 2013 at 3:30 pm

      Nice exlanation Doug…you should have been in that booth with JM & PK.

    • Dennis Clark

      Jan 13, 2013 at 7:14 pm

      There is also evidence to suggest that the head of the club has no influence at this point; that it is basically a free flying object through the ball sans player control? Again as a teacher, not a scientist, this is not my professional area of expertise but maybe you science-minded types might find it interesting to kick it around. Enjoyed the engineering perspective Doug, DC

      • 4G

        Jan 14, 2013 at 1:06 pm

        That depends on HOW MUCH WEIGHT you have on the toe or the heel. The amount of force generated horizontally = fulcrum point = of the hosel will influence how much twisting there is at that point, therefore the shaft. To counter that effect, if you were to have enough weight towards the toe = would probably mean a HUGE swingweight to that end = you might lessen the twisting gear = but you also would have to be able to hang on to it! And by HUGE weight, I mean as much as it is necessary to counter the hit force generated at impact to equal the stabilizing of the shaft twist at the hosel. Ya dig? The opposite would be true, of course, if you were to have NO WEIGHT at all whatsoever at the toe but all the weight on the heel = that is, way above the total head of the club, lets say = can you imagine the twist? You would have no control over the toe end of the club.

        • 4G

          Jan 14, 2013 at 1:09 pm

          Sorry, what I forgot to add was:
          imagine a door with the hinge. The hinge would be the hosel/shaft. What would you have to to make the door from NOT swinging, thereby making the handle end to move equally in one direction thereby knocking the door down cleanly off its hinge? That’s the resistance at the hinge, you see? And that’s the tricky thing about engineering a club head that works well with all these weight configurations and such.

    • Rohan

      Jan 29, 2013 at 7:49 am

      Hi Guys, glad to see people catching on. I use global play golfs impact analyser and have seen these results for six years now but nobody believed me. Seeing wether the head is moving counter clockwise (ccw)or clockwise before impact and what happens during and after impact is essential to teach and club fit these days

  7. MainMan

    Jan 13, 2013 at 9:22 am

    Surely you aren’t going out of your way to criticize the Announcing Booth, but in an article titled “Understanding The Open Faced Hook”, there is only one paragraph about the open faced hook, and the rest is criticizing the booth. I love your tips and articles, but this one fell kind of short, according to the title. No offense.

    • Dennis Clark

      Jan 13, 2013 at 7:21 pm

      No offense taken and all comments welcome…Maybe a better title might have been, “understanding Horizontal Gear Effect”. Maybe next Ill do something on not hitting the toe…Thx DC

  8. yo!

    Jan 13, 2013 at 1:58 am

    Funny that I came across this article again. Different type of shot but made me think about how a shot is made. Dogleg right and I tried to hit a fade with an open stance and weak grip. It was a soft draw. Not exactly sure how I did that. Thankfully, shot still worked out ok.

  9. stevie lee

    Jan 12, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    even i was able to tell he opened ‘too much’ and created hook by reading your article while back… i was also sad to head what the announcers said about his swing.

    • Dennis Clark

      Jan 12, 2013 at 9:29 pm

      Steve: not so much “he” opened- more like he couldnt stop it from opening when the contact was that much out on the toe. Not even the worlds strongest man can resist the twist. Thanks for reading. DC

      • stevie lee

        Jan 13, 2013 at 10:07 am

        i thought DJ had in to out swing path and opened club face to hit a draw but opened ‘too much’ and that created snap hook. so you are say that his club face got twisted as he made contact with the ball at toe, so my question is that does that contribute to the ball flight as well? or it does not because it got twisted after the impact? or does it contribute ever so slightly? thank you very much!

  10. Josh

    Jan 12, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    Not even a mention of swing path? I know how gear effect works, but I do not believe simply hitting off the toe created the “snap hook”

    • Dennis Clark

      Jan 12, 2013 at 9:27 pm

      Final comment here: face to path causes curve WHEN THE CENTER OF GRAVITY OF THE CLUB AND THE CENTER LINE OF THE BALL MEET. Today i saw a 4 degree closed face (closed TO THE PATH)create right axis tilt and a fade. Again when you see these readings day in and day out, they are as clear as a bell. I read the machine, i watch the ball, voila!Thx for reading. DC

  11. tlmck

    Jan 12, 2013 at 9:11 am

    All I know is I play a nice tight draw with my 2 degree open face angle driver.

  12. yo!

    Jan 11, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    Technical stuff probably not suitable for TV commentators or for their audience. Not sure if Dennis would be a suitable TV commentator, but he is easily one of the best writer with useful information for GolfWRX.

  13. Steve

    Jan 11, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    So, as a follow-up…since the clubhead opened as a result of the off center toe contact, does the shaft twist, does the shaft tur within your grip, or are your hands moved as a result?

    • Amir

      Jan 12, 2013 at 9:05 am

      IMO the whole club goes in the initial direction that it was intended to, but it’s because of the face being closed in relation to its path. Imagine swinging to a tree that is 30 yards right , but your clubface is pointing at a bunker which is 15 yards right (both in relation to the target[the flag]). That difference is what caused the “hook spin” or in trackman terms , axis tilt which causes the ball to spin to the left.

  14. Dennis Clark

    Jan 11, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    I think listening, reading and all forms of learning are best done with a questioning mind. Thx for comments

  15. Nihonsei

    Jan 11, 2013 at 9:16 am

    Yes great article, I read another recently that spoke of open face draws with a sing plane even further right! Thanks for the updated info but science as truth??? That’s like saying that Pi never terminates, oh it? Ohhh???

  16. Mat t Newby, PGA

    Jan 10, 2013 at 10:18 pm


    Great read. As a PGA Professional I cannot tell you how often I am pained by some of the scientific inaccuracies we hear from commentators. Don’t get me wrong there are varying principles and different ways to do things but there are also some things that are simply fact. Frankly it makes our job more difficult because now we have to explain to our clients why that is incorrect, and of course people love hearing what they heard on TV is wrong.

    • Tim Boegh, PGA

      Jan 11, 2013 at 8:14 am

      I agree great read! Being a PGA Professional I have to deal with this every day. Some of my best players in the world are amazed when you explain to them why certain things happens when it comes to ball flight. Better education leads to better players!

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The 3 different levels of golf practice



“I would have practiced as hard, but I would have made my practice more meaningful. I would have worked more on my short game and putting. I would’ve done a lot more drills to make the practice more meaningful, and I would’ve added pressure to the practice as much as possible.” — Lee Westwood

Now here’s the rub. Practice is not monolithic! I approach practice as having three different, distinctive and separate curriculum and criteria.

  • Level 1: Basic
  • Level 2: Advanced
  • Level 3: Extreme

Basic Practice (Level 1) by definition is “repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.” Basically, it’s doing the same thing over and over again to get better at it. My favorite skill that requires practice is the 76-yard “flighted wedge.” I do it, and I recommend it be done at every range practice session. Additionally, I identify and then practice as many different “skills” that are required to hit different golf shots. I have found that a non-pressurized environment is the best way to practice in a basic model.

It goes without saying that golf is not played in a pressure-free environment, so basic practice doesn’t help us play golf. The prime objective of Level 2 Practice (Advanced Training) is to take what you do in Basic Practice to the golf course.

First, create on-course situations that require you to hit the shots you have practiced. There should be rewards for demonstrations of competence, and there should be consequences for demonstrations of incompetence

“When you practice, try to find a situation to fit the shot you’re trying to practice.” — Ben Hogan

For example, a major problem is the unevenness of the lies you will encounter during play as opposed to the lies you used for your drills. From marginal to extreme, lies are difficult to replicate on the practice tee. So, play a round of golf and move the ball into the most undesirable lie that is very close to where you are.

Another example would be duplicating the creativity that is sometimes required during actual play. The prime example of that would be the sensation of “being in-between clubs.” I would suggest that you play an occasional round of golf using only half of your clubs. Take two wedges instead of four. Take only the “odd” or “even” numbered irons. Look at not taking the driver, or not taking all of your fairway clubs. I have not taken my putter, which forced me putt with my sand wedge!

A third example would be to play a round of golf and deliberately miss every green in regulation. Should your ball accidentally finish on the green in regulation just move it off into the rough, a bunker or whatever else could use the extra attention. You can create games where your opponent moves your ball off the green into something that would be advantageous to him.

Level 2 Practice is conducted on the practice ground as well as on the course. What I do and recommend is to take each of the shots, skills and drills used in Level 1 and add some accountability to the range experience. I have my students and clients use a “Practice Book” to schedule activities and to keep track of improvement.

Author Note: I will send you a sample practice book page that many of my players actually use. Request it at

Please be advised that Level 2 Practice can feature games, wagering or other forms of friendly competitions because they should only activate the lesser emotions of irritation, annoyance, anticipation, anxiousness, joy, pleasure and disappointment. Dealing with these feelings in practice will help you recognize and deal with the minor stresses experienced by most recreational golfers.

Stress is the major cause of “CHOKING.”

Stress, by definition “is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” Stress can ruin our ability to perform when we experience the major emotions such as fear, anger, shame, humiliation, euphoria, ridicule, betrayal, doubt and/or disbelief.

Level 3 Practice (Extreme Preparation) is on-course training sessions best suited for very serious competitive golfers. The more a player is able to compete in a simulated or controlled environment that accurately replicates the actual “pressures” that produce the kind of stresses that can effect performance, the better the player will perform when stressed in actual tournaments or events. Please be advised that Extreme Practice DOES NOT feature games, gambling or “friendly” competitions. They don’t control the conditions of play sufficiently to replicate the type of pressure that would induce “stress.”

“Simulation, which  is a technique (not a technology) to replace and amplify real experiences with guided ones, often “immersive” in nature, that evoke or replicate substantial aspects of the real world in a fully interactive fashion.” For many years now, the medical profession has used simulations to train doctors, the military has used simulations to prepare troops for the realities of the battlefield and aviation has used simulators to train pilots. Simulating has the added benefits of being cost and time effective while producing verifiable results.

If it’s possible for airlines to replicate every possible scenario that a pilot could experience in the cockpit by using simulations, then why isn’t it possible to replicate situations, and subsequent emotional responses, that a competitive golfer could experience on the golf course? Let me give you an example of what I mean.

“I got nervous all the time, as nervous as the next guy. It’s just that I caught myself before it became destructive.” Jack Nicklaus

Recent events at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play gives us some evidence of the destructiveness of uncontrolled emotions. Justin Thomas said that he couldn’t get the thought out of his mind of becoming the No. 1-ranked player in the world should he defeat Bubba Watson in the semi-finals, which he failed to do.

“I haven’t had such a hard time not thinking about something so much,” Thomas said. “And that really sucked. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, to be perfectly honest.”

Then there was Ian Poulter being told that with his win over Louis Oosthuizen he had earned a spot in this years’ Masters tournament only to be told 10 minutes before his next match that he had not actually secured the coveted invitation. With elation, joy and satisfaction jerked away and replaced with disappointment, and possibly anger, the Englishman went out and got whipped by Kevin Kisner 8 & 6!

I concede that Justin Thomas’ and Ian Poulter’s situations were so unique that simulation-based practice and preparation techniques may not have been available to them, but now they both must know that their performance was effected negatively by mental stresses. And with that knowledge they may want to get tougher mentally. Level 3 Practice does that!

Not all that long ago, I was approached by a PGA Tour veteran for some on-course, one-on-one training. He was experiencing severe “choking” in pressurized short-game situations. So I took him out on the course and we replicated the exact shots he had problems with in the past. He demonstrated that he could perform each and every shot in a stress-free environment. We went into a “low-stress” training environment and his performance began to suffer. Then, at his urging to get “real,” we went into a “high-stress” practice mode and he melted down. Without going into details, he became so angry that not only couldn’t he hit golf shots, he tried to run me down with the golf cart as he retreated to the safety of his car.

Now, that’s not the end of the story. A few hours later, after some soul searching, he apologized for his lack of self-control and acknowledged that he had recognized the early signs of stress growing internally as we worked. We went back out onto the course and got back to work.

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Winning Ways: Here’s what it takes to become a winner in Junior Girls golf



Every competitive golfer strives to win, and I want to help them achieve their goals. Recently, I wrote a story highlighting the statistics behind winning in junior boys golf, and how they can do it more often. Now, we set out to examine the data on winning in junior girls golf, and provide ways they can improve. The data is based on an analysis of tournament results from all events during the 2017 year from the Junior Tour of Northern California. We then asked stats guru, Peter Sanders, Founder of, to provide the stats related to the winning scoring numbers that we found. Finally, we discuss ways that juniors can practice building skills and work towards becoming tournament winners.

The Winning Scores

In 2017 the Junior Tour of Northern California held 26 tournaments with 850+ members. According to our data collection based on information available on the website, the average girl’s tournament course measured 6145 yards. The average winning score for girls was 146 (36 holes), or 73 per round. Ten of the 22 tournaments where won with scores of 144 or better and the low 36 holes total was a whopping 133! In the data collection we also collected the average 10th place scores girls. The average 10th place score for girls was 159 or 79.5.

The Winning Stats

We provided the numbers to statistics expert Peter Sanders. Peter’s company has been providing Strokes Gained analysis for golfers for the last 29 years. Peter is the founder of, a website that provides golfers at all levels with Strokes Gained analysis, pinpoints specific strengths and weaknesses and highlights improvement priorities. Since the launch of in 2005, Peter has collected over 317,000 rounds. Accordingly, Peter has agreed to share the numbers, below, for a typical female player who averages 73. There are two important points to consider when reviewing these statistics:

  1. In order to have a complete picture of the puzzle that is golf, one must consider the ERRORS, or lack thereof, that play such an important role in scoring at every level. Even the 650+ PGA Tour stats ignore these important miscues. Shot By Shot has included them in their analysis from the beginning and they are highlighted in the infographics below.
  2. The data provided represents only tournament rounds. As such it will primarily represent the high school and college programs that use

Infographics Created by Alexis Bennett

The Winning Preparation

Junior girls are encouraged to use these stats as a benchmark against their own performance to determine where they might need to improve against the “typical 73 player.” After identifying gaps in their game, they can then create practice plans to help improve. For example, a junior might notice they have more 3-putts than the model. To improve, they could work put more time into practice, as well as playing games on the golf course like draw-back and 2-putt.

  • Drawback is a game where after your first putt, you draw the second putt one putter length away from the hole. This often changes a shorter putt (> 2 feet) to a putt of between 3.5 – 5 feet. This putts significantly more pressure on your putting.
  • You may also play Two-Putt, a game where when you reach the green, you (or your playing competitor) tosses the ball away from the hole. You must 2-putt from that spot to move to the next hole (even if it takes a couple attempts!).

Others reading this article might find that they don’t hit enough greens. Improving this area will require more consistent strikes, which may require further technical development and block practice, as well as working on the golf course. To start, I would recommend that every junior implement the yardage rule. The yardage rule works like this; figure out the distance to the very back of the green. For example, this number may be 157. Then figure out what club ALWAYS flies 157, which might be 6-iron. Then choose 7-iron for the shot. This way your best shot will not fly the green, your average shot will likely be in the middle of the green and your less-than-perfect shot will hopefully end up on the front of the green.

During practice rounds, play competitive games with yourself to sharpen your ability to hit greens. For example, if you normally hit 7 greens per round, in practice your goal might be 9. You would track your results over a month and then see your progress.

Beyond building individual skills, like hitting greens or working on putting, junior golfers need times to play competitive rounds on their home golf courses. Ideally, these rounds are played against other people with similar skills and done under tournament like conditions with consequences (loser buys winner a coke or cleans their golf clubs). Playing hundreds of rounds at your home golf course under these conditions gives you a unique opportunity to sharpen your game, learn your tendencies and build skills such as endurance and mental toughness. Most importantly, it teaches you to win and shoot under par!

Please also keep in mind building these skills may take months (or even years). In my own personal experience, when I set out to improve my birdies per round, it took nearly 4 months and 75+ rounds and significant practice to begin to see a change. Depending on your schedule and access to resources like a golf course and instructor, some changes might take a year or more. Regardless, don’t ever worry; building a solid foundation in golf will always lead to rewards!

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PNF Drills: How To Turn Onto The Golf Ball



In this video, I share a great drill to help you turn onto the ball. This will help you rotate through impact.

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19th Hole