12/01/2016

You might think the most common shot hit off a tee is the driver. But if you know me, or most of the guys I play with, you’d know that’s wrong. The most common shot hit off the tee is the slice.

It doesn’t matter if we’re carrying driver, 3-wood or 5-iron, the ball starts down the middle and then it begins to turn right, and right, and right some more until it’s over the trees and heading toward double-bogey land.

But the good news is, the slice is not an incurable golf disease. To fix it, you first have to understand why you hit that two-fairway-banana.

Understanding the Slice

There’s a great two-minute video from USGolfTV on YouTube with instructor Joseph Mayo and longtime PGA Tour player Grant Waite that addresses the cause of the slice. On a day that feels like early winter, I put on my headphones so I won’t disturb my wife and watch as the two golf swing experts begin.

They start by suggesting that the slice is not caused the way I always thought it was: the clubface too open at impact.

“That’s nowhere near descriptive or inclusive enough,” Waite says, “for what causes the slice.”

“So what is the reason, Grant?” I whisper under my breath at the computer screen.

“Basically we know that where the clubface is pointed is the initial start line of any ball you hit,” he responds. “And the swing path is responsible for the curvature, and the ball always curves away from the path.”

[bctt tweet=”Basically we know that where the clubface is pointed is the initial start line of any ball you hit.” username=””]

Grant Waite won the 1993 Kemper Open, so you know he knows how to hit a good shot and what happens on a bad one. His beautiful golf swing was an enviable one for his entire playing career.

“Most people who are playing a slice are actually starting the ball at the right spot, which is left of the target,” the New Zealand pro says.

“So if the ball is starting out straight or slightly left,” Mayo continues, “then you know [the direction of] your clubface is pretty good and you need to work on your [swing] path.”

“Basically we know that where the clubface is pointed is the initial start line of any ball you hit,” [Mayo] responds. “And the swing path is responsible for the curvature, and the ball always curves away from the path.”

 

Learn the Draw

In another YouTube video, Todd Kolb, a PGA teaching professional, suggests that if you‘re tired of hitting slices, you should take the time to learn how to draw the ball instead.

To hit the draw then, a ball that moves from right to left for a right-handed golfer, you probably know from countless magazine articles – even other videos – that you need to close your clubface and strengthen your grip.

“I’m here to tell you that’s just wrong,” Kolb states matter-of-factly.

View the full video here:

This seems like a weighty misapprehension to clear up in a three-minute video, but Kolb handles it simply.

“We know through advanced technology studying ball flight,” Kolb explains, “that the ball starts out on the basis of the direction of the clubface. The clubface can be square, it can be open, or it can be closed. Those are the only three options.”

So far, so good.

“If I want to draw the golf ball and I start by strengthening my grip, what sort of clubface position do you think a strong grip is going to promote?”

Closed is my guess.

“Exactly,” Kolb agrees, and I feel like I’m involved in this lesson. “If the clubface is closed at impact, pointing left of the flagstick, where’s the golf ball going to start?” Kolb asks.

“Left,” I shout at my computer with the beginning of an “aha” moment.

“It’s going to start left of the flag,” Kolb confirms, “and then it’s going to turn further left. From a conceptual standpoint then it makes no sense to strengthen your grip.”

“What should we do then?” I ask aloud, drawing a funny look from my wife across the room.

“We want a neutral grip,” Kolb says into my headphones. “We want a swing path that starts to the right of the target. The ball starts to the right of the flagstick and then draws back toward the flag.”

I think to myself: The slice happens when the relationship between the clubface and the swing path differs. If the path of the club moves further in one direction than the face is pointed, I’ll hit a slice.

 

“We know through advanced technology studying ball flight,” Kolb explains, “that the ball starts out on the basis of the direction of the clubface. The clubface can be square, it can be open, or it can be closed. Those are the only three options.”

 

It’s going to take some work to cure my slice, but between these two videos I now understand what causes the slice and how it can be overcome.

I take off my headphones and tell my wife I think I’m going to the driving range for a bit.

“Maybe you should wait until it stops snowing,” she answers.