It’s not just swing movements that cause slices and hooks – even if you had a perfect swing, if you have a weak grip position, you can still slice the ball. If you have a strong grip position, you can still hook it. Even your ball position affects grip and path, so how do you know if it is your swing or your grip or your ball positions?
Each position has a right or left influence on the ball. Here are the relevant questions:
- What are weak and strong grip positions?
- Swing path vs grip positions?
- What does ball position have to do with it?
What are weak and strong grip positions? With the club head resting on the ground, if you turn one or both of your hands on the grip towards the target, you are effectively weakening your position. Many players start with one or both thumbs down the center of the shaft – I call this the 12 o’clock position – and this is a very weak position. With this position, if the ball is going to the right, this means the clubface is not rotating to a square position.
If you turn one or both hands away from the target, you are effectively strengthening your grip, which promotes more clubface rotation through impact. If your hands are rotated too far away from the target, the clubface will rotate too far through impact causing a hook.
Swing path vs grip positions? Generally, if your grip positions match your clubface impact positions, you will hit shots that do not curve but may go right, straight, or left of the target – these are pushes, straight shots, or pulls. If the ball is not curving but is off line, this is a good thing and much easier to correct.
Pushes and pulls are usually swing-path related. If you are hitting pushes (straight but right for right-handers), try finding a lie where the ball is 4 – 5 degrees above your feet. With the intent to hit the ball straight, this will train you to change your path.
If you are hitting pulls (straight but left for right-handers), try finding a lie where the ball is 4 – 5 degrees below your feet.
What does ball position have to do with it? Generally, the farther back in your stance the more the ball goes to the push or slice direction and the farther forward to the pull or hook direction. Many players start with a centered ball position, which is ok for a short club (like a wedge), but it promotes a push or slice with a long club. The farther back in your stance is, the stronger your grip needs to be, and the farther forward in your stance is, the weaker it needs to be (but be careful in weakening to NOT turn your hands beyond thumbs on top or 12:00).
Here’s the take-away: Start by strengthening or weakening your grip to get it to match your swing path – for most players strengthening their grip is more necessary. Get the ball to stop curving by matching your grip and swing.
Then, try changing your swing path to change direction by hitting balls above your feet for pull direction change or below your feet for push direction change.
And last try changing your ball position to change direction by moving the ball a couple of inches forward to move the ball to the pull direction, or back in your stance to move the ball to the push direction.
A little experimenting in the proper direction can make a big difference!
Bob Duncan is a PGA Life Member, a Master Clubfitter, and developer of the Golfer Positioning System.