Let’s go on a little journey. Close your eyes. Ok don’t close your eyes you need to keep reading. But picture this. It’s 1 pm on a beautiful Spring day. 65° with a slight breeze out of the Northwest. You’re staring down the fairway of a 443 yard straight par 4 at your favorite local golf course. You’ve played this hole 1,000 times. You know exactly where you want to put the ball to set up the next shot.
You step up to the tee like you know what you’re doing and put your clubhead behind the ball. Check your feet. Check your grip. Check your aim. Do your little wiggle.
You start your backswing, pausing slightly at the top when the shaft is perfectly parallel to the ground. Your downswing and follow through feel solid and you begin to get excited at the prospect of watching your golf ball fly straight down the middle of the fairway.
And it slices hard to the right. Straight into the woods to share the same fate as hundreds of other balls you’ve lost.
But how could this be?! You’ve put in hundreds of hours (like 4) at the driving range and practiced all the drills YouTube has to offer but you still can’t get rid of that pesky slice. What gives? It’s not because the Golf Gods hate you and you’re not being punished for a lifetime of sin and gluttony.
The truth is there are only two possible reasons you keep slicing the golf ball. That’s it. Just two.
There’s no secret formula that only the pros are privy to. Solve these two issues and you are guaranteed to significantly decrease or eliminate your slice.
So what are those two reasons you ask? I hold the key to solving all of your agony and frustration and I’m holding out on you?! Calm down Bubba.
Here’s the big secret: you are swinging the club on an outside to inside club path and/or (probably both) you have an open clubface at impact. That’s it. That really is why you slice the ball every time. There are no other circumstances that can produce the same flight path.
Physics doesn’t allow it. And you don’t mess with physics.
Sounds easy enough. Fix these two simple things and you’ll never slice again right? Straight down the middle of the fairway every time huh? Not exactly.
There may only be two main reasons you slice the golf ball, but there are many contributing factors that lead to this undesired flight path. Let’s take a look at a few of the most common mistakes amateur golfers make.
Not everything here may apply to you. Start with the first section and see how you fare. If you’re good there move on. Hopefully you’re able to take away some valuable information and finally straighten out that swing. Or maybe we develop a bond that lasts a lifetime. Dream big.
The first thing any golfer who slices should do is check their grip. There’s a good chance you’ve been playing with a weak grip and weren’t even aware of it.
A weak grip occurs when the lead hand (the left hand for you right handed golfers) is rotated too far under the club. When you grip the club weak, even if you do everything else correctly, it makes it more difficult to rotate your arms and hands properly through the shot, causing you to meet the ball at impact with an open clubface. Slice city.
Quick fix – Rotate your lead hand inward slightly to a more neutral grip. You should look down and see around 2 and a half knuckles.
Just be sure not to rotate your right hand too much along with it. The V’s your thumbs make when gripping the golf club should point at the right collar on your shirt (provided you’re wearing a shirt that is).
One last honorable mention regarding grip. Don’t squeeze the club so damn tight! Imagine you’re cradling a little baby bird. You’re trying to keep it safe and warm. The last thing you want to do is squeeze it until you can see the white in your knuckles.
Outside to Inside Club Path
Another big mistake that a lot of amateur golfers (Non Pro golfers, if you will) make is coming “over the top”. No we’re not talking about the cult classic 80’s arm wrestling movie here. This over the top move causes you to swing the club on an outside to inside swing path. This occurs when you use too much upper body during the transition and the beginning of the downswing.
Instead of rotating and letting your club drop into the “power slot”, your hands take over which causes the clubhead to be thrown outside of the intended swing path. That’s bad. The clubhead then travels to the inside, across the ball. Again…that’s bad. You’ll either pull the ball if the clubface is square at impact, or slice the ball if the clubface is open at impact.
Quick fix – Work on slowing down your tempo and shifting your weight from your back foot to your front foot during the transition and start of the downswing.
This allows the arms and hands to drop naturally into the power slot, which will help keep the clubhead on the proper line and stops it from being thrown to the outside like you’ve been doing.
Once you have that down try to work on flattening out your swing. Especially with drivers and long irons. Most amateurs begin the backswing on an inside path, instead of bringing the club straight back. When you start the club back on this inside path your hands get much higher at the top of your swing because your hands are much more narrow to your body on the way up.
Since you have no space to come down naturally, it causes you to throw your hands out on that outside to inside swing path.
Quick Fix – Bring the club back straight (instead of to the inside) and rotate so that your back is facing the target at your apex. Hold that position for an extra second or two (this will feel odd at first) as you start your weight shift and try to keep your right elbow tucked close to your body on the way down.
This should get your hands in a much lower position at the top of your swing, and will allow your hands to fall into the correct position as you start your weight shift. As you come through the impact zone it should almost feel like you’re reaching out to the right. When you put all this together your club will be swinging on the much more preferred inside to outside swing path.
Now we get to the big one. Parallax vision. Other than the grip I personally believe this is the single biggest issue amateurs have when it comes to slicing the golf ball. And there’s one simple trick that even the great Golden Bear Jack Nicklaus used to counteract parallax vision on the golf course. But before we get to that, let’s break it down and try to understand what parallax vision is and how it affects our golf game.
So just what the hell is parallax vision? If you’re anything like me you’ve never heard this phrase uttered anywhere near a golf course. But it is an important factor in making your ball go straight. And that’s what we’re all after right…straight balls. Right? I’ll see myself out.
Ok let’s get geeky for a moment, shall we? According to Wikipedia, parallax is a displacement or difference in the apparent position of an object viewed along two different lines of sight. Nearby objects show a larger parallax than farther objects when observed from different positions. Simply put, when you look at the same object from two different viewpoints it looks like it’s in different spots. The closer you are to the object that you’re viewing, the greater this illusion is.
This also means parallax can be used to measure distances. And we’re not just talking about the distance from your couch to the beer store here. We’re talking intergalactic distances. The parallax effect can be used to measure the distance to nearby stars in our own Milky Way galaxy.
Other than our sun, the stars that are the closest to Earth are three stars in the Alpha Centauri system, between 4.2 and 4.3 light years away. These are Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B (which form a binary pair), and Proxima Centauri. If we observe these stars for a period of time they will appear to move against the much more distant background stars.
As the Earth orbits around the Sun we can record the position of the star and then 6 months later (½ revolution around the sun) record the position again from a different viewpoint. Based on these two recordings you can calculate the parallax angle and therefore the distance to said star using the simple calculation d=1/p, where d=distance and p=parallax angle.
A quicker, slightly easier and less expensive experiment you can do is hold your hand out in front of your face and don’t move it. Now close your left eye. Now quickly open your left eye and close your right eye. Do this several times and it will look as though your hand is jumping back and forth against the background when in reality it’s not moving.
This is because you’re viewing your hand from two different viewpoints. Now move your hand even closer to your face and it will appear that the movement is even greater. This apparent movement is the parallax effect and it happens because the brain subconsciously uses information from both eyes to estimate placement and distance.
Ok that’s great and all but I’m not trying to measure the distance to Alpha Centauri A. How will that help me achieve straight balls?
Glad you asked. The same principle that helps us measure large distances and makes your hand look spastic also applies to your golf slice.
Parallax vision on the golf course occurs every time you address the ball. When you stand behind the ball and eyeball your target, your line of sight to the target is different than when your eyes are beside the ball at address. Thus you perceive the target to be in a different location than where you just looked at.
This optical illusion causes you to aim left (for you right handed golfers) of the intended target. What happens next is that slicers will try to pull the ball to stay on what they THINK is their target line. However, the more to the left you swing on this imaginary target line, the more open your clubface is to this path at impact. Once again, slice city.
As you can see by my crude illustration below, parallax vision can have a big impact on your perceived target line and where your golf ball ends up. The white dotted line shows the intended flight path while the solid white line represents your ideal set up for this flight path (feet and shoulders parallel to the target line).
The red dotted line represents where you perceive the target to be, due to that nasty optical illusion parallax we’ve been talking about. This causes your misaligned set up, which causes you to pull the ball (as mentioned above) to try and stay on your now defunct target line. The result is your outside to inside swing path and open clubface at impact, which produces the blue line below. Slice city!
Quick fix – Stand behind your ball and find your target and ideal target line. Drop your eyes straight down that line and find a spot 4 to 6 inches in front of your ball. This can be a blade of grass or a piece of dirt or whatever you can find. Keep that spot in your sight as you step beside the ball. Set your clubface behind the ball as normal and align to your spot. From this point on you don’t look back at the target. Trust your spot. Trust your swing.
Ok boys and girls that’s all we have time for today. Make sure to join us next time when we’ll be talking about some more of your favorite golf tips and topics. Also let us know if you’ve ever been affected by parallax vision or have issues with swinging over the top. We always love hearing from you. No seriously, we do. Not being facetious at all.