By far and away the most common ball flight among amateur golfers is the slice, a shot that curves unintentionally, and usually uncontrollably, from left to right (for right handers). If you’re reading this article and you’re a mid-to-high handicapper, there’s a pretty good chance that you, too, struggle with this type of shot. How do we know that? Because it’s been estimated that as many as 70-80% of amateur golfers have this particular shot shape!
The slice can be an extremely destructive shot. Not only does it rob you of distance, resulting in longer approach shots to the green, but those approach shots often need to be made from thick rough or from behind trees – shots which are also almost always made from somewhere well to the right of where you were initially aimed.
So how can you correct these wayward shots? That’s the purpose of this article. We’ll look at the adjustments that you can make to your grip, alignment and swing path that will enable you to deliver a square face at impact which will, therefore, reduce the amount of harmful sidespin that you’re imparting to the ball. But before we get to the fixes, it will help to understand what causes that sidespin to happen in the first place.
WHAT CAUSES THE BALL TO CURVE IN THE AIR?
Before we get into the adjustments you can make to lessen your slice, it’s vital that you first understand the actual root cause of the problem. Until you recognize what is actually creating the excessive sidespin, it’ll be a lot harder to implement the changes necessary to fix the problem. So, let’s begin by describing a little about the physics involved.
IT'S ALL ABOUT YOUR FACE ANGLE AT IMPACT
Put simply, slice sidespin is a direct result of the club face at impact being “open” to the path that your club head is travelling on as it approaches the ball. That is, at the moment that the club head makes contact with the ball, if the face itself is aimed to the right of your swing path (as you can see in the photo), left-to-right sidespin will be imparted, and a slice will be the result. It’s really that simple.
Everyone who slices the ball has this impact condition, to one degree or another. A player whose club is open to their swing path just a little, will still impart left-to-right sidespin, but the amount of ball flight curvature will be less than for someone whose club face is significantly open to their swing path.
So, now that you know what impact conditions are causing your slice, you can clearly see that, to reduce or eliminate your slice, your entire focus needs to be on your club face angle, attempting to deliver the club face to the ball so that it is more square to your swing path -- or, at least, less open. All the grip and swing adjustments we’ll discuss are simply mechanisms to achieve a club face that is more square at impact.
There are several different common swing flaws that amateur golfers exhibit that contribute to this open-face impact condition. Some golfers will have one of these flaws but, unfortunately, most will tend to have more than one.
The first step is identifying which ones are the culprits causing your open club face. Then, once you’ve identified them, you can begin to make the appropriate adjustments to correct them. And that’s what we’ll discuss next.
THE MOST COMMON REASON FOR AN OPEN CLUB FACE
There are many possible flaws that can contribute to the open club face that characterizes the sliced ball flight. The three that we’ll highlight here are the most common ones exhibited by amateur golfers:
• A grip that is too weak
• Improper alignment of the shoulders at address
• An over-the-top, out-to-in swing path
FLAW #1: AN OVERLY WEAK GRIPThe first place that slicers of the ball should look when attempting to reduce their left-to-right sidespin is the grip. The way that you place your hands on the club has a dramatic effect on your ability to square the club face.
Grips are usually described as being “weak” or “strong,” based on how the hands are oriented on the club.
A weak grip is defined as one in which the hands are rotated counterclockwise (more toward the left side of the club), so that the V’s that are formed between your index fingers and your thumbs are aimed at the left shoulder. This type of grip makes it very difficult to square the club face and almost always results in the club face being open at impact. Unfortunately, as you might guess, this type of grip is often the hallmark of chronic slicers.
By contrast, a strong grip is one with the opposite orientation. The hands are rotated in a clockwise direction (toward the right side of the club), with the V’s in this case pointing toward the right shoulder. Adopting a strong grip will enable you to square the club face much more easily
A good checkpoint to make sure that your new grip will be strong enough is to make sure that, as you look down at your left hand at address, you can see at least 2-3 knuckles and that the logo on your golf glove is clearly visible.
FLAW #2: IMPROPER ALIGNMENT OF THE SHOULDERS AT ADRESS
One of the interesting dynamics of the golf swing is that the path of your swing tends to mirror the direction of your shoulders at address. If your shoulders are aligned parallel to your target line -- as they should be -- you’ll have a good chance of producing a proper swing path
But a curious thing happens to golfers who have been slicers of the ball for a long time. Because they have become so accustomed to seeing their ball curve to the right, away from their target, they often start to subconsciously aim to the left to compensate. This orients their shoulders well to the left of their intended target line (see photo). So, when their swing path naturally follows this improper shoulder line, it results in a swing from out-to-in, which cuts across the ball with an open club face.
The solution is to make sure that, as you take your stance, your shoulders are aligned parallel to your target line (along with your hips and knees). In addition to the new stronger grip you’ve adopted, this will give you the best chance of hitting straighter shots with less of the sidespin that you’ve been producing.
FLAW #3: AN OVER-THE-TOP, OUT-TO-IN SWING PATH
One of the most customary and identifiable swing flaws of a chronic slicer is a move that is referred to as coming “over the top.” Coming over the top describes the motion that
occurs at the very start of the downswing and consists of the premature and over-active use of the arms and upper body, which results in the club head being thrown outside the proper downswing plane. With the club head then out of position (outside the line), it must be pulled back across the ball through impact (an “out-to-in” swing). This almost always results in a glancing blow with an open club face – the classic cause of left-to-right sidespin.
If you watch professionals or low handicap amateurs, you’ll see that they initiate the downswing with the lower body, not with the upper body. This allows them to keep the club head on the proper downswing plane, approaching the ball from the inside (an “in-to-out” swing).
If you want to lessen the severity of your slice, you must allow your lower body to start the downswing, initiated by a slight bump of your left hip toward the target while momentarily restricting your arms from taking the lead. This will prevent your upper body from controlling the downswing and will enable you to drop the club head onto the proper inside swing path... just like the pros do.
The first step in correcting your slice is to understand what it is that causes the excessive left-to-right sidespin. And, as we’ve shown, the root cause is a club face that is delivered to the ball open to the swing path on which your club head is moving.
With this understanding, you can now make the adjustments described above, each of which will make it easier for you to square the club face at impact.
Many of you have accepted your slice as something you’re simply stuck with for life. Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. By adopting these grip, alignment, and swing path recommendations, you’ll start to see a better, more consistent ball flight and won’t find yourself in the right rough quite as often. Good luck!
- Bill Sullivan