Fixing the Slice

Almost every tip from TV and magazines talk about fixing the nasty slice, which is is also the natural shot for most beginners to the game.  My struggles as a beginner was no different than most.  A typical round consists of more times spent in the trees on the right or playing an entire hole from the opposite oncoming right fairway (if lucky).  At the range, I was able to shoot a ball 170 yards straight out and then the right turn signal comes on and the ball takes a hard right towards the fence.  The same pattern would happen for anything longer than an 8 iron.  If the ball gets in the air, 90% of the time it’ll deflect off an invisible shield near the green off to the right.  The other aspect of these shots were that they are often weak high glancing blows and it’s a total fluke to ever find a fairway (on the right edge).  During my early golfing life, a 175 yard staying in the fairway would be a small victory in of itself!

These days, my misses are either pushes or hooks which is mostly a matter of clubface control that I’m working on.  I wanted to share my experience and journey from being a 90* slicer to someone who now fears the hook more than the slice.

Sequencing

The one video that made a tremendous difference in my entire swing philosophy was when I discovered Shawn Clement on YouTube a few years ago.  He demonstrates the correct lower body movement that was never explained so clearly before.  As a slicer, my swing was upper body dominant.  Looking back, I realize the big “ah-ha moment” was that I am not supposed to do this: get to the top and throw my entire right side beginning with my right shoulder outwards towards the ball.  At the top of my back swing, I would leave my left shoulder in place as the pivot point and rotate my right shoulder back into and towards the ball.  By then, nothing good can happen; I have no room to hit and have no choice but to seriously cut across the ball out-to-in, often creating pulls with short irons and huge slices with longer clubs.

Shawn Clement’s video was a complete revelation.  I tried his movement and it was completely foreign to me at the time.  I’ve never initiated my downswing ever by:

  • Pushing left side back to clear (as opposed to throwing out my right side), which conveniently also fixed some early extension problems;
  • Activating and starting with my lower body (as opposed from the shoulders and arms first).

It took me one winter to ingrain this move.  I did the “glass cleaning” butt wipe motion on anything- be it a kitchen table edge or a clean wall, in my spare time.  (Yes, I was almost caught doing this in the elevator at work on more than one occasion!)

As I learned more about the golf swing, I realized this is similar to what Hogan described with his elastic band imaginary.

Hogan’s elastic band feel – “pulls” the left hip back on the down swing

At this time, I was finally start to make a breakthrough and it got easier to break 100, simply from not being out in the woods all the time and losing strokes to punch outs or out of bounds.  However, I needed one more key ingredient to cement the fix.

Grip

The second half of the fix involves my grip.  Almost all beginners are taught to hold their club with a neutral grip.  I played like this for a few years and have gotten used to rotating my arms on the backswing and the counter rotating them back on the downswing.  I never thought about it or understood the cause and effect of it other than this was a consistent way to hit the ball (although with mixed results).  Over time, my grip slowly got even weaker which only accentuated my swing problems.  I took one lesson on a whim and my instructor only gave me one take away to work on.  I showed him my slicing 7 iron and in return, he showed me how wide open my clubface was at the top with the toe pointing down.  He changed my grip so it’s 3 knuckles up on the left hand and move my right hand more under the grip.  He wanted me to hook the ball instead and with this new grip, I was able to hook within 3 swings.  It felt awkward and uncomfortable.  But it also changed how I swing- I  subconsciously knew I didn’t really have to rotate my arms (and consequently open the clubface) anymore.  To be honest, I struggled with hooks for an entire season and started weaken my grip a touch in the off season.  Also, as a side effect, I did find at least a club’s worth of extra distance with a grip change alone.

Here’s another great video from Shawn Clement that discusses the grip with a much better explanation.

My advice for trying to make a grip change as someone who has made the change from neutral to super strong, then back to neutral and finally back to strong again is do not do this in the midst of a golf season.  It’ll wreck your rounds and it’ll take alot of repetition to get comfortable enough to convince yourself you will not slam the club into the ground with the hooded face or blade one into the next fairway with an open looking face.

Now we’re golfing!

So there you have it- it probably took me 4 years of casual golf to discover these two basic understanding in golf.  If you follow this blog, you know I still struggle with other things but not having to deal with a slice into the woods made the game so much better!  In fact, getting rid of the nasty 90* slice was actually what got me more serious into trying to improve in golf.  As we all know, the learning is never ending and I hope you can learn from my struggles so you can enjoy this game sooner rather than later like I did.

How did you get rid of your slice?

Did anyone ever start out and immediately figured out how to hit it straight from the get go?  (You must be a natural athlete!)

 

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