Golf Tip - How to correct a slice

Seven deadly slices: How do you slice? Let us count the ways--and find your cure

It's probably the most asked question in golf: "Why do I slice?" And almost certainly the most misunderstood. In my experience, most golfers don't know why they hit slice after slice after slice.

Most people think they slice because they swing from "out-to-in," or because they "cut "across the ball. But neither is correct. If you slice, it is for one reason and one reason only: The face of your club is open at impact relative to the path of the clubhead.

It's true. While an out-to-in swing does exaggerate your problem, it does not, in itself, cause you to slice. What it does do is take time away from you. When you swing to the left, the club is coming down on top of the ball, so you have less time to square the clubface--as opposed to those who make a big turn, have a wider arc and come into the ball from the inside. They have more time to square the clubface.

The same is true of cutting across the ball. The only way you can cut across the golf ball is with an open clubface. You can swing across all you want, but you will never hit a slice until the face is open. Where that open clubface comes from is the subject here. Look in these seven places and you'll find the particular cause of your left-to-right ball flight. You'll also find the one cure that should work for you:

  1. The wayward left hand
  2. The too-weak grip
  3. The sin of steepness
  4. The terrible shoulder tilt
  5. Over-rotation at 2 o'clock!
  6. The mismatched loop
  7. The cupped left wrist

1. The wayward left hand

  • Stand as if at address.
  • Rotate left forearm and cock wrist as you "swing" back.
  • Back to "impact," turn your hand so that the palm is facing away from you.
  • Turn your hand almost to the point of palm upward.

The key to hitting straight shots is the back of your left hand. If the back of your left hand is aligned to the right of the target at impact, the face will be open and you will hit a slice. If the back of your hand faces the target at impact--or even feels that it's facing the target a little before impact--and your grip is fairly neutral or strong, there is no way you can hit a slice. See below for two drills that will help you get the back of your left hand where you want it at impact.

Practice left-hand rotation

To get your left hand square at impact, try the following exercise:

  1. Without a club, and with your right arm by your side, stand as if at address.
  2. Rotate your left forearm and cock your wrist as you "swing" back.
  3. Back to "impact," the more you turn your hand so that the palm is facing away from you, the better you square the clubface . If the palm is facing toward you, you'll leave the clubface open.
  4. The feeling you need is one of turning your hand almost to the point of palm upward. That's a hook swing, but not a bad feeling to have if you've been slicing.

Rehearse impact

To increase the feel of having the proper position of your left hand--and the rest of your body--at impact, pose the impact position by placing the clubhead against a club stand or some other resistance. If your grip is neutral or strong, and your left hand is facing the target, the ball has to go straight from this position. After you get the feel, try to reproduce the impact position for real.

2. The too-weak grip

A weak grip has your hands turned too far to your left. With this grip, you can square the back of your left hand and still slice. So it follows that if you are squaring your left hand at impact and still slicing, then your grip is too weak. In that case, turn your hands to the right on the club into a strong position.

A stronger grip makes it easier for you to turn your left hand over and means you don't have so far to go to get the clubface square.

Take care, though. If you're trying to rotate and square your left hand, but still can't do it, then there is something wrong with your swing--not your grip.

I tried it: The too-weak grip, Steve Bale, Estero, Fla., 10-handicapper:
"I had weakened my grip so much to keep from going left that I had developed a slice. I had an outside-and-across swing and made a real hard chop at the ball, so strengthening my grip helped a lot. It straightened me out."
Hank's advice: "The grip neutralizes mistakes. If you've got a slice swing, then a hook or strong grip is a Band-Aid. I'm glad the strong grip helps, but ultimately you need to address other issues, like your swing path."

3. The sin of steepness

Teeing the ball higher than normal helps fight steepness--anything to get your swing more rounded and less up and down. If you're like most golfers, you tend to swing the club on too steep a plane, which again makes it difficult for your hands to turn over and square the club through impact. This tendency is a natural consequence of practicing off bare lies or hard mats--where you have to hit down even more to make a solid hit. Trouble is, that downward hit also encourages a slice.

If you swing the club almost straight up and down with your hands and arms, your arms are going to reverse rotate and you will block the face open through impact.

So you need the club swinging more around your body. Try to feel as if you're making more of a baseball-type swing. Practice actual baseball swings above the ball. Alternatively, hit shots off a sidehill lie, the ball above your feet.

4. The terrible shoulder tilt

Practice without a club. Put your arms across your chest, then turn your shoulders level--back and through. This is another version of an upright swing, with the same result. The difference is that the steepness stems from a tilting of the shoulders on the backswing and through-swing. This time your swing is upright not because your arms are lifting the club up and down, but because your body is tilting, not turning.

You want your arms swinging around your body, which you can do only if you are making more of a level shoulder turn. Practice without a club. Put your arms across your chest, then turn your shoulders level--back and through. Once you have that level-turn feel, try to reproduce it with a club in your hands.

5. Over-rotation at 2 o'clock!

Try to swing the club square to your arc on the way back, rather than rotating it open.

If your swing shape is good and you're still slicing, the problem could be that you're rotating the clubface too much as you move it away from the ball. In effect, you're opening the face too much and giving yourself that much farther to go to square it again through impact. Try to swing the club square to your arc on the way back, rather than rotating it open. "Two o'clock" is a good checkpoint. Your thought should be to keep the clubface looking at the ball longer on the takeaway.

6. The mismatched loop

Reverse your loop. Swing the club up and out away from the ball to the top. Then drop it to the inside on the way down. This is another way your downswing can get too steep. It usually stems from a misguided attempt to fix the steepness in your swing by making more of an inside move away from the ball.

So you turn level and swing flatter on the way back, but unfortunately you get too flat and have to get steep to get to the top, then even steeper coming down. So you're in the same place coming down--too steep. You just got there in a different way.

The cure here is simple. Reverse your loop. Swing the club up and out away from the ball to the top. Then drop it to the inside on the way down. That's the opposite swing shape to the one you had previously. If anything, you will hit a hook. If you don't hit a right-to-left shot, exaggerate the reverse loop even more.

I tried it: The mismatched loop, Len Jennings, Cape Coral, Fla., 17-handicapper:
"The mismatched loop was interesting, because it told me a bit about my swing. But truthfully, I didn't feel comfortable looping the club inside. It felt awkward, like I couldn't get back to the ball."
Hank's advice: "You're not trying to feel comfortable, you're trying to feel correct. You just have to fight through the uncomfortable stage. That's true when you change anything in the golf swing."

7. The cupped left wrist

This symptom can stem from any one of the previous faults. I tend to see it more in those who have longer and looser swings (those who bow their wrists into closed positions tend to have shorter and quicker actions), but it doesn't really matter. A "cupped" left wrist at the top of your backswing is common among slicers. Instead of cocking your wrists up, you have bent them sideways.

You should have your left wrist flat at the top. Try to cock your wrists up on the backswing, flattening your left wrist at the top of the swing. This will put your clubface in a square position--and "square" is the cure for "slice."

Sources: Hank Haney with John Huggan, Golf Digest