STOP THAT SLICE!
Do you fight the slice like most golfers? Would you like to stop it? I’m sure the answer is yes. The slice (ball flight that curves from the left to right for right-handed golfers) could be caused by many things. Today, I’m going to explain how squaring up your shoulders at address can help you to cure that annoying slice.
The slice, simply, is caused by an open club face at impact. Any time the club face is open at impact (pointing to the right), the ball will curve left to right. Sounds simple, right? Well, it is actually. Hitting a slice is easy. Stopping it can be difficult. The club face must be relatively square to the target line at impact to stop the slice.
One of the major causes of the slice is an improper setup with your shoulders. When you setup, ideally, your toe lines will be parallel to your target line, like a little railroad track. Equally important, your shoulders should be parallel to your toe line. From my experience, most slicers’ shoulders are open at address (aiming left). The problem with that is two-fold. One, your arms will generally swing along your shoulders since their attached. This will cause your arms to swing left too soon. The club then pulls across the target line with an open club face. Two, this pulling across move magnifies the slice because your compounding an open club face with a pulled-left swing.
Here comes the good news! The fix is pretty simple, but you need a friend to help: 1) take your normal setup, 2) have a friend place a club along your toes, 3) then, have your friend hold another club facing you along your shoulders, and 4) while your friend holds his place (tell them to stay still), step back about 10 feet behind the ball. Check to see if the shafts along your shoulders and toes are parallel. If so, great. If not, I’m guessing your shoulders are aiming left. Rarely, are they aiming too much to the right.
If your shoulders were aiming left, practice seeing more of your left shoulder at address from your left eye. You may have to move your ball position back an inch or two in your stance to help you do this. It will feel odd at first, but eventually it’ll become natural. I bet you’ll feel like you’re going to hit the ball way right. But, believe it or not, this is good. To stop the slice, you need to feel like you’re swinging to the right.
This is just one step towards stopping that ugly slice. But, it’s an important one. When your shoulders are square it gives you the freedom to make a full shoulder turn. This, in turn, allows you to come back to the ball more from the inside (this is good). When you come back to the ball from the inside you will be able to start the ball closer to your target line.
In a nutshell, open shoulders = shallow/little shoulder turn on your backswing = arms swinging left too soon = big slice = no fun!
I would highly recommend checking your shoulder alignment soon and often. This is something that can easily be taken for granted, but it’s something PGA Tour players check every day.
You just hit a pretty good approach shot, yet you find your ball on the fringe a couple of feet off the green. You’re 30 feet from the hole and you could get up and down with 7 different clubs in your bag. What to do? I say putt it. Every time.
Here’s why I putt it every time:
1) A bad putt is always better than a bad chip. A bad chip could end up anywhere, where a bad putt will still probably be within a few feet of the hole.
2) The risk outweighs the reward when it comes to chipping. In my opinion, when you miss a green your realistic goal is to get down in two. Obviously, you’d love to make it, but the odds are against you. I believe putting it every time will result in a lower total number of shots over time. You may have a slightly better chance of making it by chipping, but guaranteeing the up and down is more important in my opinion.
3) The fringe won’t affect the putt much at all. Believe it or not, your ball is airborn for the first foot or so on your putts. The loft of the putter face (typically 4 degrees) makes the ball fly for a short distance. Then, the ball skids for a bit, and finally, it rolls. That being said, when your ball is on the fringe it will barely touch the fringe when you putt it. This tip should help with your distance control when putting from the fringe. Most of the time you can putt it just as hard as you would if there was no fringe at all.
There are a few exceptions to the rule and those being: 1) there is a sprinkler head/ball mark/etc. in your way, 2) the fringe is exceptionally long, or 3) your name is Phil Mickelson.
To summarize, I recommend simplifying your short game by putting it every time you have a chance. It’ll take all the guess work out of play and consistently lower your scores.
The next time you go to a driving range either for practice or prior to a round, I highly recommend you start your session by hitting plenty of pitch shots. And, if you’ve ever had a lesson with me, you know I like to start our lessons by having you hit some short wedge shots. There are a few reasons why I recommend this:
1) Injury Prevention – The last time I checked, none of us are getting younger. Warming up with short swings is a great way to prevent an injury when hitting golf balls. You should never start with full, aggressive golf swings.
2) Rhythm and Balance – Warming up slowly with pitch shots is a great way to groove a nice rhythm for the day. Plus, it allows you to work on your balance. If you can’t maintain your balance when pitching, then you’re probably going to struggle with your full-swing balance. Practice holding your finish on pitch shots. It will lead to better balance for every shot you hit.
3) Improving Your Form – The pitch shot is simply a mini-golf swing. The better your technique is on pitch shots, the better full-swing technique you’ll have. Focus on syncing up your arms and body on pitch shots, it’ll help you stay connected with your full swing.
4) Scoring - The pitch shot is a very important shot in golf. You’ll hit some version of a pitch shot on many, if not most, of the holes you play. Warming up with pitch shots will help your score. I would recommend warming up with all your wedges hitting them at different heights and distances.
When it comes to golf, all of us would like to be better and more consistent. In fact, I don’t recall ever hearing someone say, “Man, I was just too consistent today. I wish I was more erratic and less predictable on the course”. There are plenty of ways to get better at this game, and there are also plenty of ways to become more consistent. Becoming more consistent with your fundamentals can, and most likely will, make you a better player. Some of those fundamentals are your grip, alignment, pre-shot routine, and setup (aka the ‘GAPS’ – some like to use posture for p, but I prefer to include posture in the setup). Today, I’m going to explain the importance of the pre-shot routine and how you can go about making your routine efficient and consistent.
I’m guessing many of you aren’t real sure what your routine is or, if you do, it’s very inconsistent. To take your game to the next level, it’s important to have an effective and reliable routine. Once you have a quality one, you’ll be more relaxed under pressure and have less clutter in your mind over the ball.
The keys to a good routine are simplicity and repeatability. A good pre-shot routine is relatively simple and to the point. Too much thinking, too many practice swings, or too many swing thoughts lead to inconsistent results. When you practice, it’s ok to have different thoughts if you’re working on your swing. On the course, however, all these thoughts can lead to “paralysis by analysis”. I prefer to have only one swing thought on the course . For each round, your goal should be to pick one swing thought and stick with it. Keep it simple, very simple.
The second step to a good routine is making it repeatable. Do the same routine for every full shot on the course. Your routine should have the same number of practice swings, take approximately the same amount time, and have the same pace to it each time. Whether you prefer one or two practice swings, whether your routine takes 10 or 20 seconds, and whether you have a fast or slow pace, it should remain the same every time. Trust and commit to your routine and you’ll become a more consistent player.
At this point, I’ve explained the importance of the pre-shot routine and the keys to a quality one. Now, I’m going to explain my routine and why I do what I do. Before I do this, I want to tell you that there are hundreds of great routines out there. You don’t have to follow my routine by any means. I’d like you to do is pick a routine that matches your personality and tendencies, then full commit to it.
The first thing I do, after choosing a club, is visualize my ball flying to the target. Positive visualization is very important to making us better players. I then take one practice swing ‘feeling’ that shot. Next, I grip the club behind the ball. I do this because it takes away one more variable. Over the ball, I want to think about the target and if I’m thinking about my grip I’m certainly not thinking about the target. After gripping the club, I walk up to the ball at my normal pace, not too fast or slow. Then, I set the club down and take my stance. Once set, I take one last look at the target and swing.
Once I’ve determined what club I want to hit my routine takes approximately 12 seconds. If my routine is more than a few seconds off, it decreases my chances of hitting a good shot. When we get nervous, we all act differently. Some of us slow down while others speed up. I recommend learning your tendencies so you are aware of what happens when you get nervous. Knowing this will allow you to pace yourself better prior to hitting a shot. When your routine becomes consistent you’ll be more relaxed as well because you’ll have something you can trust on the course.
For many of us in the northern states, it’s a challenge to improve our games during the winter. However, I believe it’s a good time to work on our fundamentals that are less enjoyable to work on in-season. The pre-shot routine is one of these. It may take 500 or so repetitions before your routine becomes natural, but be patient. Eventually, your routine will become second nature to you.
So, when the temperatures dip into the 20′s this winter, grab a club and practice your routine inside your home. Decide what routine would be best for you, then perfect it. If you can work on your routine a few times a week, you’ll probably have it down by the Spring. Then, you’ll start the season a better player prior to hitting a single shot.
Good luck and Happy New Year!