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3 ways to get your game “off the hook”

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Hooking the golf ball is often referred to as a “better golfer’s problem,” while slicing is seen as the domain of the duffer.

My response: “So what?” The left rough is every bit as deep as the right rough, and O.B. left still gets re-teed! Hooking the ball is every bit as detrimental to your golf game, and it needs to be corrected. But, not unlike slicing, the correction often involves a fix that is entirely counter-intuitive.

Here’s three ways to eliminate the nasty hook from your game.

Weaken your bottom-hand grip

Often I find the bottom hand (the right hand for right-handers) is the culprit. I’ve seen a lot of low hooks with a neutral left-hand grip, but the minute the right hand gets under the club, even a little bit, look out left.

If you’re hitting a low hook, try to get the “V” on top of your right hand pointed to your right eye, or at least your right shoulder. Also, if you’re fighting a hook, I might suggest a slight turn to the left with both hands, but I personally don’t like to get the left-hand too weak. The left-hand “V” is pointed to right shoulder for most powerful players.

In general, I believe grips are much stronger than they were years ago. If you see the finish of modern elite players with the golf club more across their body and parallel to the ground when they finish, this is generally an indication of a stronger grip.

Johnny Miller has a great video on this concept:

Assuming you get the grip correct, let’s tackle the swing.

Swing left and get your body moving 

When a golfer hooks the ball, the strong impulse is to swing more and more right of the target (inside-out), which is like pouring salt in the wound. You need to develop a “straighter” swing path, one that’s less out to the right, and more across. It will literally feel like you are coming over the top.

That’s right. If the golf ball is going left, only a more left swing path will straighten it out. Golf is a crazy game, I know!

The key to swinging more left and correcting that inside-out path is to feel the upper body begin opening as you start the downswing. The right side should stay high and come OUT toward the golf ball. I doubt very much that this will actually happen, but you need to feel like it is. The lower body will not, in and of itself, correct your swing path. In fact, focusing on opening the lower body often leads to dropping the club more inside, which we definitely don’t want. If you can feel like you “open up” early with your chest, the arms may very well stay UP longer, thus forcing the club on a better path into the golf ball.

Drill: Hit balls on a downhill lie, and feel like you are swinging very steep, down and left through impact. If you come too far from the inside, or “underneath” the ball, you’ll hit the ground first. Focus on making solid contact, and this feeling may fix your hook.

Move your ball position forward

Here’s another paradox: move the ball well forward in the stance to fix a hook. With the golf ball up front, you have a much better chance of contacting the golf ball on the “inside” part of the arc. By inside I mean, a good swing arc is from inside to inside, so by moving the golf ball forward, it will help you catch the ball on the latter part of that arc, which is naturally headed more left.

Drill: Hit drivers off the ground, or “off the deck.” Move the ball out by your left toe, open the face of the driver a little and hit some outside-in slices. You will feel the difference immediately.

Final thoughts

So, in conclusion, to fix the hook you should try to weaken the right hand a bit, move the golf ball forward in your stance and get that body moving through impact! Be aggressive with the turn through the ball, and you’ll see less hooks and a higher ball flight!

Note: I’m currently teaching in Pennsylvania for a few months, so if any of you are near Western Pa., give me a call. Or if you would like to take advantage of my online analysis program, visit my Facebook page or email me at [email protected].

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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. Dennis now teaches at Bobby Clampett's Impact Zone Golf Indoor Performance Center in Naples, FL. .

20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Gus

    Sep 24, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    are you a wizard? i just started hooking the ball after finally overcoming a 5-year slice, and for the first time, like you said in the first tip i’m noticing my finish with the club parallel and close to my back, hands by my ears, sort of like Rory’s finish. everything you delineated in this article i realized is in my game–definitely some great ideas to take to the range.

  2. Dennis Clark

    Sep 14, 2015 at 12:31 pm

    Yes. The swing may be a little too steep too.

  3. Anthony

    Sep 14, 2015 at 11:27 am

    I weaken my right hand over the summer (right handed golfer). Immediately took the snap hooks out. I am hitting my irons so much higher and straighter. It was not easy to weaken my right hand though, I needed to use a grip reminder to even hit the ball when I first made the change.

    Now that I have neutralized my grip, I am leaving the driver a little out to the right though. So now i am experimenting with strengthening my left hand but keeping my right hand more neutral, at least with the driver. Good idea?

  4. Double C

    Sep 14, 2015 at 9:08 am

    The weak right hand tip is great. I tried it on Saturday and hit it the best I have all year. It makes it very difficult to hook the ball.

  5. Dennis Clark

    Sep 13, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    you’re welcome; always good to hear improvement. That’s why we do this work!

  6. Nevin

    Sep 13, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    Thank you for the very helpful article. I used suggestions one and two today and it definitely helped with my tendency to hook left especially when there is water left.

  7. Evan

    Sep 11, 2015 at 11:21 pm

    Any pros in your stable, Steve? I believe his audience (and clients) are amateur players. Why would a pro fighting a hook be reading a GolfWRX article… They’re not. Not sure what you’re criticizing, his advice is solid and he has been teaching this audience (amateurs) successfully for years.

    Pipe down and pay attention, you might learn something.

  8. Dennis Clark

    Sep 11, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    be careful of this; an open club face tends to take the club away a little too inside; a closed face tends to take it away outside. square is good

  9. Ron Schataz

    Sep 11, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    Making sure that the clubface is in the proper position as you take it back is important as well. A closed face will promote a hook. I practice taking the club back about belt high and making sure the clubface is not hooded before taking my actual swing. This gives me some muscle memory and puts a positive swing thought in my head as well. It has cured my hook, too.

  10. Derek

    Sep 11, 2015 at 7:35 am

    Great insight Dennis and I had help resolving my slice by opening my stance closing my shoulders slightly at address and swinging in to out. I stopped slicing straight away but had some amazing hooks, especially with the driver. I tried a weaker left hand grip and tried to swing more in to out thinking it would help but didn’t so had a laugh reading this. I definitely have a strong right hand grip and it would be easy enough to calm the in to out swing path and getting my body rotation through the ball. Thanks for the drills and looking forward to giving them a go.

  11. mlecuni

    Sep 11, 2015 at 3:21 am

    Nice video from Mr Miller, i like his explanations here.

  12. Zachary Jurich

    Sep 11, 2015 at 12:48 am

    Ive spent the better half of the last 2 years playing a high hook with virtually every club in the bag while at same time playing the ball a lot more forward than most. Im capable of hitting great shots in bunches, but sometimes my irons can really start going left. I’ll have to give weakening my right hand a shot! Thank you Mr. Clark

  13. Dennis Clark

    Sep 11, 2015 at 12:29 am

    exactly, and when the pressure gets on, it is even harder to turn the body. Relaxed muscles help a lot

  14. other paul

    Sep 10, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    I hit a high hook all summer. I had a fast lower body, slow upper body (as in shoulders barley open at all, and fast arms and hands. All I did was speed the body up and open a bit more. Voila. 170 yard 9 irons. Love it. So pumped to finish the season now.

    • Jack

      Sep 10, 2015 at 11:26 pm

      That’s nice. You hit your 9 iron further than most pros.

      • Timbleking

        Sep 11, 2015 at 2:58 am

        Yeah dude! Me as well.

        Sh** happens…

  15. My bad

    Sep 10, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    *I think people quit rotating

    • Dennis Clark

      Sep 11, 2015 at 6:11 pm

      Yep. especially when under pressure or too tight. RELAX and turn through

  16. Gubment Cheeze

    Sep 10, 2015 at 7:18 pm

    I had hooks so bad the ball wouldn’t get off the ground
    My fix was actually strengthening my bottom hand and keeping the palm facing up…limited face rotation
    But I think you have to have a nice swing path too

    • Dennis Clark

      Sep 11, 2015 at 12:32 am

      Paul Azinger played world class golf with a strong grip and his swing thought was “knuckles up” through impact. It can be done just tough to do.

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Instruction

Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 2)

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Golf is very much a monkey-see-monkey-do sport. If you ever go to the local range, you are sure to see golfers trying to copy the moves of their favorite player. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it does not. While I understand the logic of trying to mimic the “secret move” of the most recent winner on tour, I always balk when the person trying to create their best impression fails to realize the physical differences between them and the best golfing athletes in the world.

Read part 1 here. 

In addition to most golfers not being at the same fitness levels as the best players in the world, they also do not have bodies that are identical to their favorite player. This single statement proves why there is not one golf swing; we all are different sizes and are going to swing the club differently due to these physical differences.

You have to understand your swing

The biggest reason I believe that golfers are better than they think is most golfers I meet do not understand what their swings should look like. Armed with video after video of their golf swing, I will always hear about the one thing that the golfer wishes they could change. However, that one thing is generally the “glue” or athleticism of the athlete on display and is also the thing that allows them to make decent contact with the ball.

We are just coming out of the “video age” of golf instruction, and while I think that recording your golf swing can be extremely helpful, I think that it is important to understand what you are looking for in your swing. As a young coach, I fell victim to trying to create “pretty swings”, but quickly learned that there is not a trophy for prettiest swing.

It comes down to form or function, and I choose function

The greatest gift I have ever received as an instructor was the recommendation to investigate Mike Adams and BioSwing Dynamics. Mike, E.A. Tischler, and Terry Rowles have done extensive research both with tour-level players as well as club golfers and have developed a way to test or screen each athlete to determine not only how their golf swing will look, but also how they will use the ground to create their maximum speed. This screen can be completed with a tape measure and takes about five minutes, and I have never seen results like I have since I began measuring.

For example, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a golf swing that tracks more to the outside during the backswing and intersects the body more towards the trail shoulder plane during the backswing. A golfer with a shorter wingspan than height will have a swing that tracks more to the inside and intersects the body closer to the trail hip plane. Also, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a more upright dynamic posture than a golfer with a shorter wingspan than height who will be more “bent over” at the address position.

Sport coats and golf swings

Have you ever bought a sport coat or suit for a special occasion? If so, pay attention to whether it is a short, regular, or long. If you buy a long, then it means that your arms are longer than your torso and you can now understand why you produce a “steeper” backswing. Also, if you stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your middle-finger tips touching the top of your kneecaps, you will have perfect dynamic posture that matches your anatomy. If it appears that you are in a taller posture, then you have your second clue that your wingspan is greater than your height.

Translation to improvement

Using this and five other screens, we can help the athletes understand a complete blueprint of their golf swing based off their anatomy. It is due to the work of Mike, E.A., and Terry that we can now matchup the player to their swing and help them play their best. The reason that I believe that most golfers are better than they think is that most golfers have most of the correct puzzle pieces already. By screening each athlete, we can make the one or two adjustments to get the player back to trusting their swing and feeling in control. More importantly, the athlete can revisit their screen sheet when things misfire and focus on what they need to do, instead of what not to do.

We are all different and all have different swings. There is no one way to swing a golf club because there is no one kind of golfer. I encourage every golfer to make their swing because it is the only one that fits.

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How golf should be learned

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With the COVID-19 pandemic, golf is more popular than ever. Beginners being introduced to the game often find that golf is very hard, much harder than other sports they have played. To simplify the golf swing and make the game easier, it needs to start with a concept.

Golf should first be learned from a horizontal position. If the ball was placed four feet above the ground on a large tee, players would naturally turn in an efficient direction with the proper sequence to strike the ball on the tee.

Take for example, a person throwing a ball towards a target. With their eyes out in front of them? having an awareness to the target, their body would naturally turn in a direction to go forward and around towards the target. In golf, we are bent over from the hips, and we are playing from the side of the golf ball, so players tend to tilt their body or over-rotate, causing an inefficient backswing.

This is why the golf swing should be looked at as a throwing motion. The trail arm folds up as the body coils around. To throw a ball further, the motion doesn’t require more body turn or a tilt of the body.

To get the feeling of this horizontal hitting position or throwing motion, start by taking your golf posture. Make sure your trail elbow is bent and tucked with your trail shoulder below your lead shoulder.

From here, simply lift your arms in front of you while you maintain the bend from your hips. Look over your lead shoulder looking at the target. Get the clubhead traveling first and swing your arms around you. Note how your body coils. Return the club back to its original position.

After a few repetitions, simply lower your arms back to the ball position, swing your arms around you like you did from the horizontal position. Allow your shoulders, chest and hips to be slightly pulled around. This is now your “throwing position” in the golf swing. From here, you are ready to make a downswing with less movement needed to make a proper strike.

Note: Another great drill to get the feel for this motion is practicing Hitting driver off your knees.

Twitter: @KKelley_golf

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Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 1)

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Golf is hard. I spend my career helping people learn that truth, but golfers are better than they give themselves credit for.

As a golf performance specialist, I give a lot of “first time working together” lessons, and most of them start the same way. I hear about all the ways the golfer is cursed and how s/he is never going to “get it” and how s/he should take up another sport. Granted, the last statement generally applies to an 18-plus handicap player, but I hear lots of negatives from better players as well.

Even though the golfers make convincing arguments for why they are cursed, I know the truth. It’s my job to help them realize the fates aren’t conspiring against them.

All golfers can play well consistently

I know this is a bold statement, but I believe this because I know that “well” does not equate to trophies and personal bests. Playing “well” equates to understanding your margin of error and learning to live within it.

With this said, I have arrived at my first point of proving why golfers are not cursed or bad golfers: They typically do not know what “good” looks like.

What does “good” look like from 150 yards out to a center pin?

Depending on your skill level, the answer can change a lot. I frequently ask golfers this same question when selecting a shot on the golf course during a coaching session and am always surprised at the response. I find that most golfers tend to either have a target that is way too vague or a target that is much too small.

The PGA Tour average proximity to the hole from 150 yards is roughly 30 feet. The reason I mention this statistic is that it gives us a frame of reference. The best players in the world are equivalent to a +4 or better handicap. With that said, a 15-handicap player hitting it to 30 feet from the pin from 150 yards out sounds like a good shot to me.

I always encourage golfers to understand the statistics from the PGA Tour not because that should be our benchmark, but because we need to realize that often our expectations are way out of line with our current skill level. I have found that golfers attempting to hold themselves to unrealistic standards tend to perform worse due to the constant feeling of “failing” they create when they do not hit every fairway and green.

Jim Furyk, while playing a limited PGA Tour schedule, was the most accurate driver of the golf ball during the 2020 season on the PGA Tour hitting 73.96 percent of his fairways (roughly 10/14 per round) and ranked T-136 in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. Bryson Dechambeau hit the fairway 58.45 percent (roughly 8/14 per round) of the time and ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.

There are two key takeaways in this comparison

Sometimes the fairway is not the best place to play an approach shot from. Even the best drivers of the golf ball miss fairways.

By using statistics to help athletes gain a better understanding of what “good” looks like, I am able to help them play better golf by being aware that “good” is not always in the middle of the fairway or finishing next to the hole.

Golf is hard. Setting yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations is only going to stunt your development as a player. We all know the guy who plays the “tips” or purchases a set of forged blades applying the logic that it will make them better in the long run—how does that story normally end?

Take action

If you are interested in applying some statistics to your golf game, there are a ton of great apps that you can download and use. Also, if you are like me and were unable to pass Math 104 in four attempts and would like to do some reading up on the math behind these statistics, I highly recommend the book by Mark Broadie Every Shot Counts. If you begin to keep statistics and would like how to put them into action and design better strategies for the golf course, then I highly recommend the Decade system designed by Scott Fawcett.

You may not be living up to your expectations on the golf course, but that does not make you a bad or cursed golfer. Human beings are very inconsistent by design, which makes a sport that requires absolute precision exceedingly difficult.

It has been said before: “Golf is not a game of perfect.” It’s time we finally accept that fact and learn to live within our variance.

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