The Happy Hooker
With apologies to Xaviera Hollander
For as long as I've been playing golf, I have sliced the
ball. When I'm "on", it's a
gentle fade. When I'm "off",
well, you know... I tell people it's
genetic, built in to my very DNA. Of
course, it's just physics, but it's a trait which is shared by about 85% of all
I read a lot, and I've seen all the instructors on the Golf
Channel share their favorite tips for curing slices (Martin Hall, Jim McClean, David Ledbetter, Sean Foley, Hank Haney, Butch Harmon, ...). These
guys all know what they're doing, and all of their tips actually work. Close the club face at setup, roll your
forearms through the swing, drop your trailing foot
back a step at setup, the list goes on. They
offer drills with alignment sticks, and tees stuck in the ground, and all
manner of other ways to ingrain their wisdom into your muscle memory. Through the years I've come to realize two
things: 1) There's a fine line between a gentle
fade and a snap hook, and 2) Golf is
Slices are caused by sidespin. Well, so are hooks for that matter, just the
opposite direction. And right handers and left handers have
exactly the same basic physics to deal with, just mirrored (a rightie's slice goes right, a leftie's slice goes left).
Side spin is imparted to the ball when the club face hits it. If the club face is square to the club's path
(a very rare event), then no side spin happens and the ball goes straight in
whatever direction the club is traveling.
But if the club face is tilted one way or the other with respect to the
swing path, then sidespin happens. The
ball will start traveling perpedicular to the club
face, and if the club face is aimed right of the swing path you get right-hand
sidespin (a slice to a rightie, a hook to a
leftie). If the club face is aimed left
of the swing path, you get left-hand sidespin (a slice to a leftie, a hook to a
In the old days, my favorite hit was a slight pull fade, in
which the ball starts out a bit left of my intended target line and gently
curves back to the right to bring it pefectly in line
with where I meant to hit it. If you
could do this every time, then you should "turn professional", as Sam
Snead once advised. Lee Trevino, Jack
Nicklaus, and Ben Hogan (to name just a few) would all agree with this. But no, to hit it the same way every time
would require hours of practice every day, which I have never had the gumption
to attempt. I'm just as likely to hit a
straight pull, which winds up in the trees on the left, a snap hook (also known
as a double-cross) where the ball starts left and spins even further left (when
I'm unwise enough to over correct with one of the anti-slice measures mentioned
earlier), or a straight slice, which starts straight and still ends up in the
trees to the right (or the pond on the right, depending on the hole). The one thing these misses have in common (and
yes, the hit too) is that I tend to start every swing coming from outside to
in, or over-the-top, in the parlance of the swing gurus.
As you can tell by my self-assumed title, "The Bogey
Golfer", I am unwilling to devote the practice time that it takes to
actually get good at this game. Instead
I'm always looking for a quick fix, a panacea.
I finally found it. This one came
from Martin Chuck (Revolution Golf).
Consider the plane formed by your forearm and the golf club as you're
swinging. If you can keep them aligned
through the swing, you can cure the over-the-top problem. With this one swing thought in mind, I can
now reliably hit a draw (where "reliably" means more than half the
A few caveats:
- What works for me may not work for you.
- It's not 100%. -- I can still hit slices when I'm least expecting it.
- There's still the issue of degree. There's also a fine line between a draw and a
- I still don't practice as much as I should.
- This didn't have anything to do with my lousy
But now, I know how to hit a hook. And I'm happy about that.