Even as technology has pushed golf equipment to the physical limits of ballflight correction and control, the slice remains the average player’s Waterloo. It’s an insidious condition resulting from certain swing flaws that, through the decades, haven’t changed. Do certain things, especially in the downswing, and you’re guaranteed to produce that dreaded banana ball. In this extensive step-by-step lesson, PGA professional Dale Abraham — director of instruction at Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert, California, during the winter months and an instructor in Telluride, Colorado, during the summer — shows how to rebuild your swing into a draw-producing machine from address through follow-through and stop your slice. Do these drills and say goodbye to half your golf course’s hazards … and hello to the fairway.
Starting your backswing the correct way and having it reach a position at the top that sets you up for a good downswing is an important part of striking the ball consistently. Most amateurs have backswings that are off plane and cause issue on the downswing and, most importantly, cause compensations at impact. Relying on timing to achieve a consistent impact position is nearly impossible when the ball is only on the clubface for approximately .004 seconds. Instead, make a motion that is easier to repeat and sets you up to achieve a more consistent impact position. Here’s how to do it:
1. Grip a club cross-handed (Photo 1) or with your left hand lower than your right (for a right handed golfer). Make backswings and feel how your right elbow folds, your left wrist stays flat and you have lots of angle in the back of your right wrist at the top of the backswing (Photo 2). Your right elbow should feel fairly low and close to your body, no more than 3 to 4 inches away from your rib cage. Your arms will swing to the natural height, plane and length that fits you. After making swing cross-handed, try to achieve the same position with your normal grip. This will be your desired backswing position.
2. Starting at your normal address position, take your right hand and grasp your left wrist. Your right palm should be facing up and toward the target, not down and toward you. (Photo 3) Make a backswing and feel the natural plane you swing the club and your left arm on (Photo 4). This is your desired backswing arm plane. Make this motion several times and then try to make the same motion with your normal grip.
3. You can also learn to swing it back on-plane with the following drill. Set up as if you are going to hit a normal shot. Keeping your normal set-up posture, bring the club up so that the butt end of the grip is touching your belly button and your arms are extended normally; you will grip the club just below the grip on the shaft. (Photo 5) While keeping the club in your belly button for the first few feet, make a backswing with the feeling of how your turn and your upper arms stay connected to your ribs/chest. As the club head approaches waist high, allow your wrists to hinge and right arm to fold as you continue to turn (Photo 6). Blend this motion in to one smooth back swing and you are on your way to setting up the draw downswing.
Golfers are often astonished at their shoulder turns when they see their swings on video or in 3D. Making the proper shoulder turn with the correct spine angle gives the golf the necessary room to “drop” the club to the inside as they start their downswing. Without this room, golfers will inevitably “come over the top” and swing the club to the left of the target, thus causing the ball to slice. Here’s a drill to give you the feel of the proper shoulder turn on your backswing.
1. Without a club, get into a set up position as if you were going to hit a middle iron.
2. Place your hands on your hips and turn your head and body to your right to look at something directly behind you, allowing your left heel to lift slightly if flexibility dictates.
3. Now, without turning your body back to its original position, just turn your head back so that you can see the ball. This new position is your desired shoulder turn and spine angle for your backswing. Your spine should be angled slightly away from the target and you should feel pressure from your right foot and leg pushing into the ground.
4. If you feel restricted due to lack of flexibility, your right leg may straighten or your hips may sway to the right on the backswing. If this is the case, very common by the way, flare your right foot out 15-20 degrees to allow for more hip turn.
This position will help you make the desired downswing.
On average, the clubface is responsible for about 80 percent of the initial starting direction of the ball, making it the single most important aspect of hitting the ball the correct direction. The path is responsible for the remaining 20 percent and most of the curvature of the shot (where you hit the ball on the clubface also affects the curvature). To be consistent we need to be able to get the club to impact in a predictable and repeatable manner. Most amateurs suffer from a poor clubface position at impact due to an improper grip. With the wrong grip, centrifugal force and inertia pull their shoulders, elbows and wrists into their natural alignment at impact and the clubface into an undesirable position. Trying to fight these forces and square the clubface causes all sorts of compensations and a swing that relies solely on timing. Again, the ball is on the clubface for .004 seconds. It’s just not possible to time something out that happens that quickly. Instead, get your grip on correctly and allow the forces generated in the swing to help square the face.
1. With a club in your right hand only, start by bending forward from the hips and letting your left arm hang in front of you. Your hand should be turning in somewhat depending on your build and posture. (Photo 9A) Keeping this hand position turned in, curl your fingers in slightly to form a channel for the club to sit in. Now, slip the grip of the club into the channel in your fingers. This is your new left hand grip. You should see at least two to three knuckles on your left hand and maybe all four depending on your natural posture. The more rounded your back is — someone who sits in an office all day, travels a lot, has a long commute — will most likely have this type of posture and need his left hand grip to be turned more to the right on the club. Make sure the meaty pad of the left hand is over the top of the center of the grip.
2. Make sure the grip is in the fingers of the right hand and not in the palm. The line formed by the right hand thumb and index finger should point to the right shoulder.
The thumbs and index fingers of both hands should feel as if you were creating a channel for a pool cue as if playing pool.
Check your clubface position at the top of your backswing. At the top, the club face should be parallel to your left forearm plane. If the face is hanging more toward the ground it is in an open position, and if it’s pointed toward the sky it is in a closed position. You can slice it from either position depending on how you turn the club over as you swing into impact.
3. Typically speaking, if your arms are relaxed and you don’t artificially manipulate the club, the correct grip should allow your arms to naturally turn over as you swing through impact. Make a couple of swings as if you are hitting a ball from a tee that is waist high. Feel how your arms naturally turn over. This feel is what you want when making a normal swing.
4. Make swings with only your left hand on the club. Place your right hand behind your back or in your right pocket and then swing using only your left arm. Most of you will keep the club face pointing to the sky after impact thus slicing the ball. If you rotate your left arm correctly, the club face will point more toward the ground and behind you and your left elbow will fold and point down to the ground, not toward the sky.
5. If you are still slicing the ball and leaving it to the right of the target, make a very short swing from waist high to waist high. On the follow through, when the club reaches waist high, stop the club head and see if you can make the club face point to the ground at this point. This encourages the feel of starting the rotation sooner in your downswing and over rotating it at a slower swing pace. When you add length and speed to the swing you will not be able to rotate it as much nor as soon.
To hit a true draw, a ball that starts to the right of the target and curves back to the target, one of the requirements is a club path that is directed to the right of the target or “inside-out” at impact. It’s important to understand that the ball curves away from the path, so to get a ball to curve to the left, we have to swing the club head to the right of the target. If you are swinging to the left or “over-the-top” you are going to continue to slice. Here are a few of my favorite drills to stop slicing by correcting your club path:
1. At Set-up: point your sternum on inch behind the ball. This set up position will help you make a better turn and help you swing the club more from the inside on the downswing.
2. Take your driver and make swings where you try to make a divot that points 90 degrees to the right of your target. It’s ok if you hit the ground behind where the ball would be teed up. Just focus on what you need to do to make a divot that points as far to the right as possible. Don’t worry about your backswing either; if you feel as if you need to take the club back on the inside to make a divot that points right, that’s ok. Once you have this feel and are allowing the club to turn over as described above, try to hit a ball with this type of club path. The golfers I’ve tested with this drill all swear that they are swinging way to the right of the target, but when measured with TrackMan or FlightScope the data shows that they are swinging ever so slightly to the right of the target. Remember, golf is the one sport where what you feel like you are doing and what is actually happening can be polar opposites. So, feel as if you are swinging 90 degrees to the right just so that you can get the club approaching the ball a few degrees from the inside.
3. Use pool noodles as illustrated to promote a draw swing path. Swing below the back pool noodle and above the front noodle. This promotes a swing direction and path that is to the right of the target.
4. A typical slice starts the downswing by spinning his hips, throwing his hands out toward the ball and backing up with his weight. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen this move and how much power loss, inaccuracy and inconsistency this move causes. To transition correctly and to allow the club room to drop to the inside, there should be a lateral component to the downswing and then a rotary movement. Just as in tennis where you step and shift your weight to hit a forehand or in baseball where you step and then shift your lower body to throw or hit, we need the same type of shift with our lower bodies to create the room for our arms and club to drop into the “slot.” Practice shifting from the top of the backswing to the downswing where your pelvis shifts toward the target but your belt buckle remains pointing toward your right foot. As you shift in this manner, allow your arms to drop down to waist high so that now your hips and club shaft are pointed in the same direction, approximately 45 degrees to the right of the target. This shifting motion promotes the desired inside-out swing direction or rightward club path that will help you hit a draw. It may feel weird at first, but stick with it and see if you can overdo it to the point where you are hitting hooks. If you can hit a hook, you can turn up the speed to your swing and straighten out the ball flight.
Work on all of these positions and drills through the rest of the year and beyond, and you’ll leave that nasty slice behind. For good.