The drills to help you fix your slice: Why you should start with the face, fixing how you start the downswing and the drills you need to know.
This tips come from TG TOP 50 Coach Gareth Johnston, PGA Professional and Director of Golf at Calcot Park
In the vast majority of cases, all attempts to cure a slice should begin with the clubface. Judging by the general preoccupation I see with swing path and cutting across the ball, this might come as a surprise to some of you.
In fact, that famous out-to-in path is typically an attempt to compensate for an open clubface at impact. If you’re serious about getting on top of your slice, it’s important you appreciate the dominant influence of the clubface… and here is a simple drill that will help you.
THE PUTTER FACE DRILL
Set two canes or shafts on the ground, either side of a ball teed low. Take your putter and address the ball as for a long-game shot.
Now make a very short swing with the putter, no more than a couple of feet back and through. Focus on swinging the club straight up the target line – up the chute – but play around with the aim of the face through impact.
OPEN AND SHUT FACE
On one strike, deliver the face as open as possible; on the next close it. Then try one square. But in each case keep the path the club takes neutral. You will quickly see that you can strike the ball in all directions without changing the path
FACE IS KING
Even five minutes spent striking balls like this with a putter is enough to teach you one important lesson – the clubface is king! To get the ball under control, we need to harness the clubface. That done, we can focus on that compensatory swing path… and that’s what we’ll do over the next few pages.
TAME THE FACE
The typical slicer slices because at some stage in their set-up or swing, they create the conditions for the clubface to be open at impact. Here are three possibilities that can cause it. Work through them all to get yourself squaring the face better
FACE CHECK #1
YOUR GRIP BUTT CHECK:
Take your trail hand off the club and check your gloved-hand grip. A weak hold – one that wants to open the face – exposes the butt of the handle. If you can see plenty of the butt as you look down, chances are your lead hand is too far under the handle; from here it will try to find its natural, hanging position during the swing… rolling the clubface open.
FINGERS, NOT PALM
Make sure the handle sits more against the fingers than the palm, running from just above the end of the little finger to the middle of the index finger. Close the hand round the grip from here.
Check your grip again. See how, with the correct hand positioning, the butt is much more hidden – you should only be able to see the top of it. Also check your thumb and fore finger extend the same distance down the handle and your thumb sits just right of centre at the top.
FACE CHECK #2: DOWNSWING CUPPING
The second, very common face opener is the way we start the downswing. Pulling the club down with the hands and arms tends to cup the lead wrist, a weak position that again opens the face. We’ll take a closer look at that before learning two ways to avoid it.
When your lead wrist cups on the way down – in other words, the knuckles move closer to the forearm – the glove badge starts to look at the sky, and the clubface follows suit. With the face wide open at this point, it is almost inevitable you’ll deliver a similarly open face to the ball.
FLATTER WRIST, SQUARER FACE
Now look what happens when the lead wrist flattens: the glove badge starts to look more forwards and the face strengthens in harmony. The feel of this stronger forearm/ wrist position has been compared to revving the throttle of a motorbike. You can experiment with making this motion, but also work on a better move from the top that promotes it. Here’s how.
ARMS FOLLOW, NOT LEAD
The correct downswing sequence works from the ground up, legs, hips then core pulling the arms through. When you achieve this sequence, your lead wrist naturally finds a flatter or even slightly bowed position at impact. Compare this to an all-arms attack, which causes the club to flick through and the lead wrist to cup.
FROM THE HIP
Train the feeling of your arms being pulled into position by taking a mid-iron and gripping it halfway down, on the steel. Practise a move through the ball where the butt of the club never flicks back into your hip. Retain a gap between the two and you’ll train a much stronger delivery position where that lead wrist stays at and strong.
You can also work on increasing the cup in the trail wrist to create that flatter lead wrist and a better impact. Find a box for a dozen balls and hold it in the palm of your hand at the top, like a waiter carrying a tray. Only with the wrist cupped can you support the box properly.
RETAIN THE FEEL
Take that same feeling of the cupped trail wrist into the swing. Hold on to that angle as you swing down and you will see how it flattens the lead wrist and keeps the face strong and square. An angle in the back of the trail wrist also encourages the trail elbow to fold and stay closer to your side, improving your downswing attack path.
FACE CHECK #3: POOR FOREARM ROTATION
Many slicers, aware the face is open approaching the ball, get into a pattern of heaving across the line in an effort to square it up. A more effective solution is to wake up the dormant forearm rotation that will do the same job without compromising swing path. Here’s a simple drill to do just that.
CREATE AN OPEN FACE
Take a mid-iron and hold it out in front of you, shaft horizontal. Rotate the clubface 15-20o open, then take your grip. The leading edge of the face should roughly mimic the angle of your trail forearm – right for the right- hander. Now, simply hit shots with this new grip intact.
WORK YOUR FOREARMS HARDER
This unpleasant feeling of exaggerated openness will create a stronger urge to square the face, but commit to doing this through increased forearm rotation and not through swing path. When you start hitting shots close to straight, turn the face back to square; you’ll be amazed how much easier it feels to avoid that big cut.
THE PATH DRILL (part 1)
BACK TO THE WALL
I’m using a propped-up bench here, but you will ideally perform this drill against a smooth wall. It can be done internally as there is no hitting. Set up to a ball so your backside is around a foot from the wall. Swing to the top and hold the position.
This drill is about training a move that reverses the typical over- the-top action of the slicer. Your simple goal is to drag the clubhead down the wall as your start your downswing. Feel the club in contact with the wall from the top down to your delivery position.
Work on this move and you will quickly feel how your trail shoulder wants to drop downwards, rather than spin forwards away from the wall. This holds your downswing on a good path, keeping you on or even slightly under your backswing plane.
As you perform this drill, note how it works in harmony with the face-aim drills of flattening the lead and cupping the trail wrists. This is a drill that promotes a squarer face as well as a squarer path.
The great thing about this drill is you have instant feedback on when the club moves out of position. The moment you feel the clubhead leave the wall, you know you are making the old over-the-top move. Keep at it until keeping the head on the wall becomes more comfortable.
PATH DRILL (part 2): TRY BASEBALL
For so many slicers, the out-to-in path stems from the start of the downswing. Typically, the slicer pulls the club down with the hands, arms and shoulders, taking the club outside the ideal plane and promoting a heave across the ball. The curious thing about this swing trait is that we already know and use the more effective, ground-up movement pattern… and sometimes we just need to be reminded of how it works. To do that, hit a few baseballs…
1. FACE THE PITCH
Start by flipping the driver around in your hands, gripping up near the head. Adopt the pose of a baseball player about to receive a pitch. Feel how issues like wrist cock, posture and balance instantly take care of themselves when you focus on the more instinctive and natural action of hitting a ball.
2. INSTINCTIVE MOTION
Picture a ball thrown towards you… and move as if to bash it back over the pitcher’s head. Be aggressive with your action. Repeat this a few times and you will begin to sense how your body prepares you to hit the imaginary ball.
3. LOWER BODY LEADS
You’ll start to feel how your lower body “sets” you into position, lead foot flared and knee pointing almost towards your target. The big muscles in your thighs and backside fire, driving you forwards. But your hands and arms initially do very little while your lower half establishes this powerful hitting platform.
PATH DRILL (part 3): GROUNDWORK
Again, I’m using the bench to help illustrate the drill, but the ideal tool for this one is a long cardboard club box; your pro should have one. Lie the box parallel to your target line and just a fraction the far side of the ball; as you set up, the toe of the club should almost touch it. Set up square to the box and your target line.
Simply hit shots. This is another feedback drill. On a perfectly neutral swing path, the toe of the club will whip past the box without making any contact at all; but with any sort of out-to- in path the club will strike the box before impact.
Work on this drill in tandem with both the wall and baseball drills. Use it as a barometer of how the path of your swing is improving. When you start to miss the box – or even catch it slightly on the throughswing – you’ll have grooved a square or slightly in-to-out path.