Golf Tips: Understanding Why Golfers Hook and Slice Off the Tee

AKRON, OH - AUGUST 24: Tiger Woods reacts to a bad tee shot during the final round of the NEC Invitational at the Firestone Country Club on August 24, 2003 in Akron, Ohio. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
AKRON, OH - AUGUST 24: Tiger Woods reacts to a bad tee shot during the final round of the NEC Invitational at the Firestone Country Club on August 24, 2003 in Akron, Ohio. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images) /

The hook and slice can be the downfall for amateur golfers, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some steps to better understand what causes the erratic shots off the tee and how to fix it.

For amateur golfers, the hook and slice off the tee can be one of the most frustrating mistakes and it also happens to be one of the most common. As tantalizing as this flaw can be, most golfers don’t take action to try fixing it. They just continue to accept it and even adjust their game to incorporate a hook or slice.

It’s hard for amateur golfers to improve their game because most don’t set goals for themselves to get better. Some golfers don’t have access to a teaching pro to fix their problems and don’t understand the causes for making them hit the ball a mile left or a mile right.

However, the hook and slice doesn’t have to be a difficult fix or cost you a fortune. All it takes is taking a moment to understand the physics of the golf swing. Don’t let the phrase “physics of the golf swing” throw you off. It’s not a hard concept to comprehend, it just sounds scary.

Legendary swing coach David Leadbetter spoke at the PGA Merchandise Show down in Orlando this past month and discussed the problem with teaching in today’s golf.

"“The problem with a lot of teaching today – especially with all the analytical aspects we have to the game – is that people are constantly working on the effect. They will look at TrackMan and say ‘they are four degrees out so put the ball further forward’ and that may work, but there’s probably something going on there. TrackMan doesn’t tell you why it has happened, it tells you what has happened and that’s the danger with these teachers who neglect that. They are working so much on the what rather than the why. Those numbers come from somewhere, they don’t just drop out of the sky. A good teacher will be able to get to the root cause – whether that be a setup problem or a grip problem. A good teacher has instinct.”"

Rather than getting technical with your swing and using metrics to understand a bad swing, try understanding the swing itself.

When a golfer hits a perfect shot that goes straight as an arrow, that means their club face was square at the point of impact. With this information in mind, it’s fairly easy to apply this theory to poor tee shots.

So what does it mean when a golfer slices? Think of it as just that, a golfer “slicing” through the golf ball.  A slice, for a right-handed golfer, is when the ball travels in an arc form from left to right. A slice can be caused by a number of factors, but it happens when golfers have the clubface open at impact and have an outside-in swing path.

Use this video to better understand the cause of a slice:

A hook, on the other hand, is when a (right-handed) golfer hits their shot starting to the right and it severely cuts back to the left. The reason behind a hook is having the clubface closed at impact, creating spin and causing the hook. This too can be caused by a number of factors, but some include alignment, too quick of a swing, or using too much right hand at impact.

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Now take this understanding of why a ball hooks or slices and apply it to fixing the problem. If you hook the ball, try opening your stance more when you address the ball. Another fix could be pulling through with your left hand rather than snapping your wrists at impact. If your swings is too quick, the hands may get to the ball too quickly which creates a closed clubface.

If you happen to slice the ball, try using more right hand in your swing. Knowing that a slice is caused by an open clubface, putting more right hand into your swing at impact can help the clubface get square at impact. If you’re a right-handed golfer, you can also stagger your stance at setup so the right foot is further back than the front left foot (flip this around if you’re left-handed).

These are just a few simple solutions to combat the dreaded hook and slice off the tee. The biggest takeaway from this article is that golfers need to start thinking about their golf swing and try to understand what is causing their mistakes.

Next: PGA - LPGA Collaborative Initiative: For the Good of the Game

The golf swing is compiled of many moving parts and can be complicating, but only if you make it. Where your golf shot ends up depends on how square the clubface is at impact. Understanding this concept can take your golf game a long way.