It’s the bane of many golfers worldwide, and one that frustrates them to no end the dreaded slice.  On courses far and wide, slicing reigns supreme, especially preying upon those with double-digit handicaps.

Every golf teacher knows that the slice is the result of a clubface angle that is open to the clubhead path to a much greater degree than is desired. A clubface angle that is only slightly open to the clubhead path results in a fade, a much-sought-after ball flight among many skilled golfers.

Dustin  Johnson, for example, became dominant when he was able to consistently  fade  the  ball  into the  fairway  with  his  driver.  The difference between a fade and a slice is sometimes difficult to discern, but in general, a fade features a ball flight where one part of it is mainly straight. You might see a ball go up  to  its  apex  in  a  fairly  straight  manner  and  then curve gently on its downward flight, or curve slightly going up and then falling straight down. A fade is a ball flight that is in control and lands gently. A slice, on the other hand, features the ball constantly curving throughout its flight, and when the ball lands it tends to roll out.

Let’s review the setup first as it relates to a slice (we will assume the golfer is right-handed for the rest of this article). Most slicers have a left-hand grip that is too weak, with the V pointed to the left of the chin, and sometimes the club’s grip is held in the lifeline of the palm. Ball position tends to be too far forward, which  results  in  a  clubhead  path  traveling  outside-in  through  impact  in  comparison  to  the  stance  line. Stance alignment may be either open, resulting in a clubhead path traveling left of the target line through impact, or closed, resulting in an over-the-top move during transition. Shoulder alignment for a slicer also tends to be quite open in relation to the stance line, a likely result of the ball position being too far forward. But even with a proper ball position, most slicers still have open shoulders, so this needs to be corrected.

Once  the  slicer  is  in  a  proper setup  position,  he  now  has  a  fighting  chance  to  hit the ball straight, or at least with a manageable fade. The key now is to swing into a position at the top of the  backswing  (actually  a  position  within  transition) from  where  the  golfer  can  have  a  more  correct clubhead  path  and  clubface  angle.  Most  slicers and  double-digit  handicappers,  for  that  matter start  the  downswing  with  their  arms  and  hands instead of the lower body. No less than Ben Hogan wrote in his book  Five Fundamentals that the hands should do nothing active until just above hip-height on the downswing, carried there by the turning and movement of the hips.

Most golfers would be surprised if they could feel what a good golfer feels at the start of the downswing. A good golfer’s arms and hands are literally doing nothing at all, just falling and moving in response to the action of the lower body. This is a key element that  must  be  learned  by  a  slicer,  or  else  they  will continue to struggle. The “pump” drill can be effective here. In this drill, the golfer starts the downswing by keeping  the  angle  intact  between  the  lead  arm  and club shaft until the hands are just above hip height, then  bringing  the  arms  and  hands  back  to  the  top of  the  backswing,  “pumping”  the  club  down  again before returning the club to the top of the backswing a second time, and then swinging through and hitting the ball.

Many  slicers  also  overuse  the  right  hand  and arm  during  the  downswing,  throwing  the  clubhead outside in an over-the-top manner and perhaps early releasing before impact. These golfers are dramatically underusing their left side. Two drills that can help are swinging one-handed with the left arm only (holding the  upper  part  of  the  left  arm with  the  right  hand), and  letting  go  with  the  right  hand  at  the  moment of impact. This helps train the left side to do its fair share of the work. Swinging one-handed with either hand also helps train the correct clubhead path into the ball, as golfers should find it impossible to do anything but swing the way they are aiming.

Another problem slicers have is they tend to open up their shoulders too quickly on the downswing. The right shoulder needs to move more downward instead of out towards the target line. A golfer may feel the shoulders dramatically tilting by doing this, but this is the correct feel if they open up their shoulders too quickly. It can also help if the golfer tries to keep his back to the target on the downswing as long as possible, as this helps to deliver the clubhead from the inside.

The root cause of all of this, of course, is failure to start the downswing properly with the lower body. In the USGTF Technical Committee’s experience, getting a golfer to more properly use his lower body to start the downswing is a difficult chore for the teacher. Golfers who started the game as kids tend to use the lower  body  effectively,  because  when  they  started playing  the  club  was  relatively  heavy  to  them  and they  naturally  used  and  trained  their  lower  body  to start the downswing. Golfers who take up the game as adults mostly find the club relatively light, hence their propensity to have an arms-and-hands-dominated swing. But training the lower body is still encouraged.

As for squaring the clubface to the clubhead path at impact, the most common problem is failing to allow the clubhead to release properly through impact, where the clubhead rotates counter-clockwise. Golfing legend Tom Watson advises players to feel the left hand rotating from palm down before impact to palm up after. A golfer using a split-hands grip and making some practice swings will find that the clubhead will rotate naturally through the impact area. There are also training aids on the market that will give the student a feel for this, but swinging a broom also achieves the same aim. Finally, the teacher can physically move and rotate the student’s arms and hands through the impact area to give the student the feeling of proper release and rotation through impact.

Some  teachers  will  tell  you  that  the release   should   just   happen   naturally, the  result  of  the  lower  body  leading  the downswing  and  the  upper  body,  arms and  hands  following.  This is technically correct, but if a student is not allowing the clubhead to rotate through impact, whether from tension or for any other reason, this movement must be trained. And how do we know that a slicer is releasing the clubhead properly through impact? Video won’t lie, and virtually everyone has a smartphone today with high-speed replay capability. Another way of knowing the player is releasing the club properly is if they are now hitting at least a gentle fade. A straight ball or a draw is not necessary in order to know the release is more correct.

There is debate among teachers whether the club-head  path  or  the  clubface  angle  must  be  addressed first,  and  this  leads  to  an  interesting  observation. While  ball  flight  laws  tell  us  that  the  clubhead  path must travel reasonably close to down the target line to hit a fade, draw or straight ball close to the intended target,  many  times  a  student  is  able  to  square  the clubface  angle  to  the  clubhead  path  while  pulling the  ball  to  the  left,  and  it  may  be  impossible  to  get these  students  to  swing  parallel  with  the  way  they are  aiming.  In  these  cases,  it  may  well  be  desirable to have the student simply aim right and pull the ball back  to  the  target.  With  the  driver  in  particular,  we know  that  a  golfer  hitting  the  ball  on  the  upswing will be swinging slightly left of the low point of their swing, so this may be something even good players need  to  do.  Films of Hogan and Sam Snead show them doing just that with the driver.

Many of you reading this are experienced teachers who are well versed in fixing slices, so please consider this material as a refresher. For those of you newer to teaching, hopefully you will have found an additional teaching tip or two to help you solve one of the most frustrating problems in all of golf.
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