Hitting hooks and slices? Here’s how to control your ball’s curvature
As with most golfers, controlling the curvature of the golf ball in flight tends to be the most common issue plaguing players’ consistency on a daily basis. While there are a ton of fundamental reasons why your swing is causing the ball to curve off-line, the simplest reason is this:
- When your ball curves too much, you have a face-to-path ratio that is too diverse.
This ratio determines your ball’s spin axis, or the amount the ball will curve in the air in general. Now, I know an off-center hit coupled with the club’s gear effect can also influence the ball’s curvature, but for the sake of this article we will just assume that you have hit the middle of the blade to make things easier to understand.
So let’s examine the sample shot I hit above showing a big right-to-left curve:
- My target-line is the thin white line directly over the top of the golf balls I have placed at the end of the range.
- My path is 16 degrees from the inside to the outside as shown by the blue line.
- My face at impact is 3.6 degrees open. With a centered hit, whenever the face is left of the club’s path the ball will curve from right to left.
- Thus the ratio between my face (3.6-degrees open) and my path (16 in-to-out) at impact shows a difference of -12.4.
- This ball had a spin axis of -13.6, meaning it was curving left. This is shown by the purple curving line tracing the ball in flight.
KEY: Whenever you have a big difference between where you face is pointing and where your path is going, you will tend to have a big curve (as shown in the sample shot above.) In order to hit the ball with less curve, you need a face-to-path ratio that is very low. This means that your path and your face are going in mostly the same direction give or take a degree or two, as shown below.
One final thought. You can alter the alignment of your body at address to make up for a face-and-path relationship that are in-line, but a touch too much to the right or too much to the left of your target. Please do not alter your aim while you do the drill I’m describing.
So how do we train our hands and body to produce straighter golf shots with less curve, and what drill can you do on the range to best learn how to control this ratio? Line up square to your target-line and then make full-swings in slow-motion trying to hit the ball as straight as possible. Some amount of curvature is inevitable for the majority of players, but the goal is to have the least amount of curve possible while you are hitting these shots.
As you make these swings please, remember to hit the same shot over and over. This means hit the ball the same distance and with the same curvature tendency each time. The better you can get at this drill, the easier it will be for you to understand and feel how to hit the ball straighter when you go back to hitting full speed shots!
Enjoy the process and have some fun. At worst, you are designing a “B” game for yourself if your “A” game is in the tank that day!
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Kelley: Recycle old drills to capture that feel
Sometimes it can be beneficial to re-introduce an old swing drill back into your training. Regardless if you felt the drill clicked or didn’t click at that time, you will more than likely notice a difference this time around.
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for its not the same river and he is not the same man.” – Heraclitus
Let’s apply that famous quote to the golf swing. The first part, “not the same river” can apply to the physical swing itself. Chances are your swing has changed since first learning or practicing the swing drill. You can be more comfortable with the motion, or you could have made swing changes over time, making the drill feel vastly different now.
The second part of that quote, “not the same man” applies to you, yourself. More than likely, your physiology is different today and now at this very moment. Each new day you have changed. Players have gone back to a drill from years ago to find they have discovered a completely different feel and understanding of that particular drill.
For example, here is a baseline drill I have students revert back to on a regular basis. The foot-back drill both cleans up the set-up angles and gets the lead and trail side of the body moving efficiently.
This is a great drill to get the feeling of set-up angles and how the lead and trail side of the body can move in the backswing. However, further down the road, this drill can be used to get the feeling of covering the ball at impact, a multi-purpose drill depending on where you place your attention or how you feel.
As Nick Price once said, “Every player has two to three habits that cause problems, we have to be on the lookout for them.” Developing baseline drills you can revert back to helps these tendencies stay in remission and can help keep the structure to your swing.
Clement: How to smoke the golf ball…with your eyes closed
You hear this all the time! When there is no ball, I have an amazing golf swing but when the ball is there, my swing goes into the toilet. Remove that ball from your sight and enjoy some great ball striking!
Clement: How to GENTLY hammer your drives 300 yards
Shawn shows you why strong grips don’t hook the ball and how a simple adjustment will have you belting it past the 300-yard mark.
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Jan 21, 2014 at 10:10 pm
So basically for players who are struggling with their slice (and I’ve seen coaches do this so it’s not like I invented this) they can do an exaggerated draw with a more extreme inside out path, giving them a ton of room or angle to learn how to close their club face. I think if you tell someone to go from slicing to hitting it straight, it’s nearly impossible since the margin of error is so small. But like in the example, club path angle is basically how much margin of error (for the club face) you can have to hit the ball within the angle between the target line and the club path.
To me the path is easier to be consistent about, but the face could mean on the green or in the bunker. Having a more extreme path allows the less skilled player to keep their misses to just one side of the target.
If the club path and target line aligns with the left and right extremities of the green, then the chance of getting on green increases.
Jan 21, 2014 at 10:45 pm
Remember this is just a feel drill for people to “educate” their hands in order to understand clubhead/clubface control hitting baby shots This is NOT a cure all for path and face issues- it’s just the starting point.
Jan 21, 2014 at 9:34 pm
What club were you hitting?
Jan 21, 2014 at 10:41 pm
Jan 20, 2014 at 11:47 pm
Open clubface to draw the ball, and closed clubface to fade it. Relative to the target that is!
Nice work Tom!
Jan 21, 2014 at 10:06 am
Jan 24, 2014 at 2:20 am
Not sure if this is in jest, but the opposite is true. I don’t want to mislead anyone that is new to the game. Closed=hook, open=Slice. The key in his example is that he hit a hook because even though the face was open, it was more closed than the swing path. The target means nothing really. For example, If the face is closed 5*, but the swing path is 7* left (out to in), you’ll slice.