Question: Golf Swing Path - I slice my wedge irons very badly. The ball goes off at a right angle. This is ruining my scores.
Answer: Golf Swing Path
Thank you for sending in such a great question. I am sorry to hear how much this has been affecting your game. As you can probably tell from watching the various pro tours around the world that tournaments are won from 100 yards and in. Case in point...Bill Haas. His water shot in the playoff of this years Tour championship will be talked about for years.
Simply put, every level of player misses every type of shot. The difference between a good score and a great score is where the miss is made and how the player recovers. We will deal with where to miss in another on lesson on course management. There is no doubt that if you are hitting your wedges straight right then you are adding extra shots to your recovery.
When you describe your shots coming off the club face straight right it means that the ball is making impact with either the tip of the toe or the heel/hosel of the club. It is missing the centre of the club face. Therefore your golf swing path needs to be corrected.
When you are dealing with this type of impact then it is typically tension that causes the problem. You may be relaxed taking the club back but tension in your arms and wrists are preventing the club from coming back into impact on the proper club swing path.
In the backswing the arms and wrists must rotate a little in order to keep the club face square, or on line for proper impact. In golf, whatever happens on the backswing must reverse on the downswing. Therefore, if there has been rotation going back, but our arms get stiff and prevent our club face from rotating back to the ball, we will come into the ball heel first. When this happens the ball hits the hosel and not the club face as your club is not coming in on the best golf swing path. Then more often than not the ball heads straight right.
Tension is detrimental to a golf swing. We can't hit effective shots when there is tension in our hands, wrists and shoulders.
So, how do you get tension free? The answer is both physical and mental. I am not a sports psychologist and therefore will not attempt to write an article on the inner workings of the brain. However, please see previous articles written about pre shot routines (add link). The pre shot routine can alleviate tension by helping you "let go of the shot". Your routine can help you prepare for your shot and help your brain be less concerned about the end result of your shot. Focussing solely on the consequences of the end result will bring on tension and poor contact. Focussing on your routine, will incorporate your target such that it is merely part of your routine for executing a great shot.
Physically speaking, a hosel shot either comes from a lack of arm rotation (tension-as discussed) or from a lack of body rotation at impact. If you use a little body/hip rotation during the back swing but then use all arms to hit your shot then you can hit the straight right shot as you will not be coming in on the proper golf swing path.
The most effective way to hit this shot is to turn your body, hips and arms through impact at the same time. This way the face rotation and timing will be better at impact.
A great way to feel this is to hold you club like a hockey stick. Use a split grip. Swing back part way and then make your downswing and follow through. If you have a lot of tension or stop your body from rotating through the ball, then you will see your top hand way out in front of the ball with no hope of rotating the club face back to impact. The key to this drill is to make sure that your body and arms are moving at the same time. If you try to hit the ball with just your hands then you will likely over activate your bottom hand which will lead to poor contact (fat and thin shots).
Another great drill for feeling the timing is one that you can do at home. First, grab a long handled broom or mop. Set up like you were going to hit a pitch shot but tuck the butt end of the handle underneath your lead armpit and then take your grip half way down the handle. Now make your backswing. You should feel that the only way to make your swing is by turning your arms, shoulders and hips together. If you don't then the handle will come out of your armpit, and force your lead arm away from your body. It is a nice drill as it helps keeps your arms snug to your body. Arms getting away from your body leads to a poor golf swing path.
This type of shot is less frequent with the short irons like the pitching wedge and sand wedge. This impact type is typically caused by the downswing being dominated by the shoulders. The shoulders over rotate while the lower body barely moves. You can tell if you do this if your divot is way left of target and if your weight is all on your back foot. Neither of these actions is likely to result in a well struck shot as it will throw off your golf swing path..
When the shoulders over rotate and the lower body doesn't move then there is not enough room for the hands and arms to swing through impact properly. Therefore the hips have to fall back to create enough space. When that happens we end up swinging at an extreme outside to in motion. This is not an ideal golf swing path as it will create a glancing blow on the golf ball at impact.
A great drill to practice this is the golf swing path drill. In order to setup the drill place a ball on the ground and take 6 tees. Put your club down behind the ball and place one tee one the outside of the toe and one outside the heel of the club. Now put tees the same distance apart but a couple inches behind the ball and then again in front. This will create a path for your club to follow as you try to hit some practice shots. The concept is to not hit any of the tees as you hit your chips, pitches and even into your full swing.
Luke Donald had a great 2011. He is #1 in the world for a great reason...consistency. The key to his consistency was his iron and wedge play from 100 yards and in. This is how he had 13 top ten finishes in 18 tournaments. No one was better around the greens than Luke. Take a look at the video below to see how smooth and unified his body and arms are when he hits his pitches. His action is definitely worth copying.
Thank you for sending in this great question and I hope you find this answer helpful. Good luck with you practicing and playing. I hope you reach your golf goals sooner.