Do you struggle with slicing? Many golfers do. The dreaded slice is the most common mishit for recreational golfers. Golf instructor Roger Gunn, below, provides a look at the elements in a golfer's swing and setup that might be causing those slices, and how to correct the problems.
Note that this is one in a series of articles by Gunn on diagnosing the causes of different types of ball flights or mishits. This article is written from the right-hander's perspective, so lefties should reverse any handedness or directional elements in the following discussion.
Let's start by making sure you're clear on the type of impact that causes the slice. When the ball is slicing to the right, that means it's curving in a left-to-right motion across the sky. For the ball to do this, it must be spinning in a clockwise direction.
Imagine that the ball is on a peg, and that all it can do is spin one way or another. To spin the ball clockwise, the club has to swing more to the left with the clubface pointing slightly to the right. In a golf shot, this is exactly what happens to make the ball curve across the sky as a slice. This can often be confirmed by looking at the divot. On the course, the divot produced by a slice swing is often pointing well left with the ball ending up well right of the divot's direction. This is a classic slice.
Our discussion of the grip, stance and swing will revolve around the different elements that can cause this type of impact.
The grip has little to do with the direction of the swing, but everything to do with where the clubface looks at impact (e.g., open, closed or square clubface position).
Grips can be very individualized. A grip that produces a perfectly straight shot for one player can cause a huge hook or a slice for another. That being said, you can make certain generalizations about the grip regarding slicing.
If your hands are turned too far to the left on the club, it's much more likely to return with the face looking to the right at impact.
Here's the guideline: In your stance, with the clubface square to the target, you should be able to look down and see at least two knuckles on your left hand. If you see three or even four, that's fine—but at least two. If that's the case, your grip is not contributing to your slice. Another guideline is to look at the "V's" formed between the knuckle and thumb on both hands. These should point up to somewhere near your right shoulder.
It certainly seems logical that if a golfer is missing often to the right, then before too long he or she would aim more to the left to compensate. With slicers this is, in fact, the case. But aiming to the left will cause the swing's circle to be too far to the left, exacerbating the slicing motion.
Doublecheck that your aim is not too far to the left, especially with your shoulders. You can lay a club on the ground, parallel to your target line, to check your aim. Or you can have a friend check your alignment. Just make sure that your feet, knees, hips and shoulders are parallel to that club on the ground and to your target line.
Checking your stance and grip can often eradicate any slice without changing the hitting motion at all. Let the ball's flight be your guide. If it's curving less to the right, then you're on the right track. If it's flying straight or curving left, then your slice is cured.
There are numerous backswing issues that can affect your impact position. For slicing, the two basic flaws are a backswing that is going too much up (too steep), or a clockwise twisting of the shaft, or both.
If your backswsing is too much up and not enough around, then the club is going to approach the ball on an angle that is too steep. In other words, too sharply toward the ground. A properly squaring clubface would then create an impact that is hitting the ground too hard. In an effort to hit the ground a bit lighter, the golfer with this problem often opens the face on the way through, causing a slice.
To fix this issue, take a look at your backswing at the top. Make sure the shaft is over your shoulder at the top, not over your head. To achieve this position, you may have to feel your left arm cross your chest just a bit, creating a flatter or more rounded backswing. You may feel a bigger turn this way too. Good! Engaging those bigger muscles will only help you generate more power.
The next important element of the backswing will be the clubface position. One of the biggest mistakes slicers make is to turn the club clockwise to begin the backswing (immediately opening the clubface on the takeaway, in other words). This movement feels like the club is going around properly, creating a good turn. Unfortunately, this opening of the club simply creates an open face at impact. True, the clubface should "open" on the backswing, relative to the target line. However, this natural opening is done with the turning of the shoulders and torso, not because of a twist in the hands.
When you are making your backstroke, just hold on to the club. No effort to twist your hands or hinge the wrists should be made. When you get to the top, you can check for the proper position by looking at your left wrist. You should be able to lay a ruler underneath the face of your wristwatch and have it touch both your arm and the back of your hand. In other words, the back of your left wrist should be straight.
If you've fixed a problem or two and now have a good grip and stance as well as a good backswing position, I'd be surprised if your slice is still here. If the first few areas discussed so far check out, you're 90-percent of the way to eliminating that slice.
To begin the downswing, make sure you start down without any lift or push forward with your arms. Your weight should shift to the front foot and your body should turn toward the target. While this is happening, you should feel a slight drop of your left arm down your torso. This will give you the feeling that you're approaching the ball by way of your right pocket. This movement will virtually guarantee that the club is coming from the right direction.
If the ball still has a tail to the right, you can add this sensation: Try to get the feeling that the club is closing a bit too soon. Feel as though the clubface is closed by the time it gets to your right leg. This should be done through softness in the wrists, with a feeling of letting the club swing. It should not be done by forcing the club to turn over with your hands. Some practice should give you the feeling.
There's good news about working on this, or any other swing problem for that matter. You have the best teacher in the world with you at all times—the golf ball. The way the ball flies will give you objective feedback about your swing.
You'll want to remember that you are improving if your 30-yard slice is now a 15-yard slice. No matter how strange a new move feels, always listen to what the ball tells you. You may be sure that the clubhead is turning over soon enough, but if the ball is still tailing to the right in flight, then you'll have to feel the club close sooner still. Not until you curve the ball to the left have you closed the clubface too soon! The feel can trick you, but the ball won't.