If you’re like the majority of amateur golfers, you struggle with a slice. Chances are, as well, that you know what causes it. Whether it’s from your golfing buddies, a steady diet of YouTube videos or those four subscriptions to monthly golf magazines whose back issues are littered around your office, you’ve been well informed that your slice is caused from a club face which, at impact, is “open” relative to the path of the club. And so, you’re armed with the knowledge that you feel you need to correct the situation. You tell yourself, “All I need to do is get the club face square to my path and the ball will fly straight”. And this is where the desire to control creeps in- which is why your slice sticks around and quite often gets worse.
The trouble with trying to control the club is that the golf swing, particularly the downswing, happens much faster than your ability to control the club. Imagine the sequence of “events” which must transpire for you to achieve successful control of the club heading into impact. First of all, you must have a model of how to achieve a square club face. This model may be in the form of a particular sensation in your hands, a picture in your mind of what should be happening, or a series of instructions to guide you through the downswing. So, during your swing, you must compare your actual position(s) to the model that you have. This involves analysing whatever element you deem critical and comparing it to the model that you have created of the ideal swing. Once you have made this comparison, you must decide what element(s) to adjust and send the corrective signal(s) to the offending appendage. The adjustment is made and then the comparison process begins anew. Considering that all of this is supposed to happen within the fractions of a second that comprise a downswing is it any wonder that the clubface has no hope of squaring up?
A better idea is to abandon all attempt to control the clubface altogether. In order to do this, we must obviously start with a good grip (see one of my earlier blogs on the proper grip). Then we must try and reconnect with our inherent ability to use the hands to create speed and to square the clubface. The following exercise is one of the ones I like to use when just starting out with my students to convince them that their hands know how to square the clubface, and they know how to do it with speed.
Start with a tall posture- back relatively straight, feet shoulder width, arms relaxed but extended in front of you. Hold a club with your proper golf grip so the clubface is a bit higher than waist height and the clubface square (the bottom groove of the club should be vertical). In this position the shaft of the club should be level with the ground. Now, begin to swing the club around you, keeping the shaft level with the ground as you do. Be sure that your swing still involves a shoulder turn- after all, your torso is the “engine room” of your golf swing. If it helps, you can imagine yourself standing in a circular cut-out in the middle of a waist high table. You want to keep the shaft of your club resting on the table as you swing it around you. The key here is to get the club swinging with as much speed as you can generate while still keeping in balance. You’ll know you’re there when the “swoosh” of the club is as loud as possible. It may take a few swings to get there but once you do, you’ll be creating a nice wide arc with the hands opening on the way back and closing on the way through. Start to sense the “cracking of a whip” sensation with your bottom hand (right hand for a right handed golfer) in order to minimize tension and maximize speed.
Please keep in mind that this exercise is training your hands to create relaxed speed and is not meant to suggest that this is the actual plane that the swing takes during your actual golf swing. What most of my students realize after performing this drill for the first time, however, is that (a) their hands know how if they just let them; (b) trying to control the club always leaves the club open and (c) speed is only maximized when the hands and arms are relaxed. Once you have given your hands their new found freedom, take this sensation into your golf swing by getting into your regular golf posture and feeling the hands work around the more upright plane of your golf swing. You should now be able to trust that your hands will know what to do if you let them and stop trying to control. Build up some trust with this sensation on the range and always practice and play with square alignment.
Enjoy your new found freedom and watch your slice disappear! For best results, work with your local PGA Professional.
Good golfing, Kirk Nederpelt, PGA Professional