Every good professional golfer, from an aggressive swinger like Sergio Garcia to a controlled technician like Annika Sorenstam, reduces the loft on his or her middle and short irons just before impact. That’s called “covering the ball.” If you took the club out of my hands at impact, you’d see that my right palm faces the target and is angled slightly toward the ground. I’m swinging down and through the ball. The shaft of the club is staying vertical long after the clubhead passes my left toe, and my right hand won’t turn over until it gets to my left pocket.
Every bad player does the opposite–usually because he or she isn’t convinced the loft on the club is enough to get the ball airborne. Once you try to scoop the shot into the air by rotating the right palm under and up toward the sky, at best you’re going to hit a high, weak shot. In fact, most of the worst swing problems beginners have, from reverse pivoting to coming over the top, create more loft. With that right palm upward, not only does the club have added loft, but the face is flared open, causing even more of a slice. It is impossible to hit consistently good shots if you add loft.
Fixing a slice
The first thing to remember about slicing is that it’s the easiest thing to do in golf. If you want to hit a slice, take the club back to the top, then swing down as hard as you can. Your arms beat your hands down to the ball, and your hands can’t quite catch up. You don’t have time to square the clubface. So the first thing you can do to beat a slice is work on tempo. And tempo isn’t just taking it back slower. Most people hear that tip and think slow–slow–slow, OK–kill it! The key to good tempo is to keep the club speed the same during the backswing and the downswing.
But tempo alone won’t fix a persis-tent slice. For the slicer, two things are happening in the impact zone. First, you’re gripping the club too tightly with the left hand. The tension in those fingers keeps you from releasing the clubhead through impact. Not one person in a thousand grips the club lightly enough. One way to free the muscles in the hands and wrists is to try taking your regular grip on a 6- or 7-iron, then letting go with the last three fingers of your left hand. Take a few practice swings, then hit some balls. The modified grip makes it much easier for the club to release.
Second, your right palm is facing upward at impact, which means the clubface is open. I’m sure you’re familiar with the results–high, weak shots to the right. You’re going to have to learn how to hit the left side of the range. The best way I know to beat that slice is to take some half-swings, consciously turning the right palm downward at impact each time. You should start slinging hooks out there in no time. Work your way up to three-quarter-speed shots, ones that still hook. Then, just get more and more aggressive with your swing. The harder you swing, the straighter the ball will fly. That’s because when your arms speed up, the clubface will open slightly. Those same hard swings that used to produce big slices will now straighten out the hook.
Practice this move to get into good impact position
I’ve developed a drill that will help get your arms, club and body correctly aligned at impact. Take your regular stance, then make a regular backswing. Instead of swinging through, bring your arms down to hip height, then stop. At that point, make sure that your right elbow is touching your right hip. Then point the butt end of the club directly at the ball. From that position, swing through, hitting the ball. Practice this drill. You’ll be in great position at impact and your ball striking will improve.
Use a neutral grip to get a good release
In the neutral grip (near left), which I recommend for most players, the V’s created by the crease of your thumb and the side of your palm point toward your right ear. In a weak grip (center), those V’s point toward the middle of the forehead. In a strong grip (right), the Vs point toward the right armpit. I like the neutral grip, because it helps both hands work together and release through the hitting area.
Play enough break and you’ll make more long putts
It might be a cliche, but the old adage about missing on the “amateur side”–the low side of the hole–holds true for most players trying to break 90. Most amateurs never read enough break in a putt of 10 feet or longer. As a result, they hit it, and the ball breaks across the hole and below it, and it never has a chance to go in. If you allow for a little extra break, the ball still has a chance to catch the top edge and fall in.
Use the scorecard as your course computer
In the extra boxes on your scorecard, make it a habit to keep track of some numbers that will help you determine which parts of your game need work. Create a mark (a check or an X will do) that shows when you hit the fairway from the tee on a par 4 or par 5. If you missed to the left, shade the lower-left corner of the square. If you missed on the right, shade the lower-right corner. In the center of the box, jot down the club you used for your second shot on the hole. You’ll get an idea of what clubs you’re hitting a lot and the end result. In the lower box, jot down the estimated distance of your first putt on the green. In the upper-right corner of the same box, record the number of putts it took you to finish out. When you finish your round, a two-minute glance at your scorecard will tell you everything you need to know about the day, and what to work on at the range.
Hit with the palm down for crisp shots
Good players reduce the effective loft of the club at impact by “covering the ball,” or angling their right palm toward the ground.