Golfswingdoctors Database of Major Golf Swing Problems and
Solutions - Hooking, Topping, Shanking and the proper flight of
the golf ball
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Problem ID: Hooking the ball;
We define a hook as a shot that flies straight then suddenly curves to the left for
right-handed players (right for left-handed players) by more than one-half a
fairway. We define a draw as a shot that flies straight then gently curves to the
left (right for left-handed players) by less than one-half a fairway. If you can keep
this type of shot in the fairway by aiming for the opposite side of the fairway, it is
not a problem, but if you have to aim outside of the fairway to keep it in the
fairway this type of shot needs correction.
Possible correction (ID1): A hook is caused by a closed face at impact. The
biggest culprit of a hook is too much right hand in the swing. What helped me
reduce the right hand in my swing was a conscious effort to take the hands out of
the start of the swing. I make a conscious effort to begin my swing with the upper
back muscle closest to the target and to continue my swing with the shoulders.
During the swing I have light pressure on the club and try to keep my hands and
wrists relaxed. By using the big muscles of the back to swing instead of the little
muscles of the hands and wrist, I am able to stay on plane with my swing and
strike the ball solidly and more consistent. By using the bigger muscles to guide
the club and relaxing the little muscles I also found that the hands automatically
ended up in the proper position at impact, the arc of my swing was more fluid and
my ball striking became more consistent without the big hook I used to have.
Possible correction (ID2): A similar cause of a hook is too much rolling of the
wrists. This happens in a hands dominated swing where you are trying to square
the club at impact or you’re trying to kill the ball. In my case the rolling wrists were
a byproduct of my baseball power hitting days. Fortunately in golf you do not
have to force your hands over to gain distance as you do in baseball. Again what
worked best for me was using the bigger muscles to guide the club and relaxing
the little muscles (hands) which let me square the club naturally, at impact.
Possible correction (ID3): Another cause of too much rolling of the wrists could be
your grip. If the line of the back of your left hand (right if you swing left-handed) is
facing upward in a strong grip position, your hands will roll over a great deal
during the swing. This action could cause a hook. To reduce a big roll over, use
a weaker grip. This is obtained by turning your left (right) hand a little
counterclockwise. This puts your hands in a position where they can not roll over
Possible correction (ID4): You may be cupping your wrists. In a hands dominated
swing, rotating the wrist to a parallel position may cause you to cup the left wrist
(right wrist if you are left-handed) at the top of your swing. The easiest way to fix
this is to stop using a hands dominated swing (see correction D1), but if you are
committed to this type of swing, try the following. During the take away from the
ball, drag the club back along the ground until the extension of your arm causes
the club head to rise. Keep your arm extended during your entire back swing
letting you arms and shoulders dominate the back swing. Fight the urge to let
your wrists take over the back swing at the top.
Problem IE: Hitting behind, topping or sculling the
Possible correction (IE1): Your body is moving down toward the ball. This
sometimes happens involuntarily in our back swing because we lose our
reference to the ground. When we are concentrating on the ball, we sometimes
move our eyes closer to the object we wish to hit. By moving our body closer to
the ball we also move closer to the ground. Since we are now closer to the
ground than we were at set up, we will more times than not strike the ground.
What has helped me correct this problem is a conscious effort to maintain the
same separation from the ball during the swing as I had at set up. Remember, do
not dip down and keep your head level through the swing.
Possible Correction (IE2): You are swinging too hard. Sometimes when we try to
hit the ball hard we allow ourselves to drift back so the majority of our weight is on
the back foot and the weight stays there during the hard swing. This movement
feels natural because it makes sense to coil before striking something hard, but
in a golf swing, the coil should be in your hips and back, not in your legs. Since
we are now further behind the ball than we were at set up, we will more times than
not strike the ball on the upswing causing a topped shot or a screaming line
drive. Remember to start your swing with a good tempo. If you want to hit the ball
hard accelerate in the middle of your downswing where your swing is in the
proper balance instead of at the top of your back swing which could knock your
swing off balance. Swinging harder will more often cause you to lose distance by
miss hitting or spraying the ball. Timing is everything. Stay under control by
swinging at a speed which is only a percentage of your hardest swing. Stay within
yourself and your game.
Possible correction (IE3): You are swinging too hard. Sometimes when we try to
hit the ball hard our first movement during the downswing is a movement toward
the ball. By moving our body closer to the ball we also move closer to the ground.
Since we are now closer to the ground than we were at set up, we will more times
than not strike the ground. Remember to start your swing with a good tempo. If
you want to hit the ball hard accelerate in the middle of your downswing where
your swing is on plane instead of at the top of your back swing which could knock
your swing off plane.
Possible correction (IE4): Check your ball position. The golf swing has a natural
low point. The ball should be positioned in your swing so that you strike the ball
one ball length before the swing’s low point. If the ball is positioned too far in front
of your low point or too far behind your low point, chances are you will hit the ball
thin or top it. Take a few swings in your yard without a ball to determine your
swing’s low point.
Possible correction (IE5): You are looking up before you strike the ball. Since we
all like to marvel at our golf shots this is a tough habit to overcome. To hit
consistent shots your eyes should remain on your ball striking point until after
you hit the ball. This is easily accomplished by keeping your head down through
contact with the ball and letting the momentum of your swing cause your head to
lift up. What has helped me to fight the tendency to look up after my golf shots is
that I do not allow myself to follow the shot until after I pick up a blade of grass
close to my ball striking point or the tee where I hit the ball.
Possible Correction (IE6): You are lifting up on your swing. Sometimes we are so
intent on getting the club under the ball to get it airborne, that we dip the back
shoulder on the downswing and try to lift the ball up into the air. As a result, we
miss hit the ball. Take your normal swing keeping your head down while swinging
through the ball. Remember to trust the loft of your club to get the ball in the air,
not your swing.
Problem IF: Shanking the ball
This is a phrase that no golfer even wants to dare to mention, thinking that it
might actually bring some type of bad luck and cause the shanks to happen to
them. You really shouldn’t be too afraid of the word, especially if you understand
what causes this problem.
Most of the time, the shank occurs when the golf ball makes first contact with the
hosel of your club, causing your ball to shoot out to the right. So another words,
when you are about to make contact with the golf ball, the sweet spot of the club
face is not even close to being hit, your club is way out of position.
Another possible cause of the shank could be due to a little additional movement
within your swing. If your weight is not distributed evenly during your swing, upon
take away, you may have a tendency to lean towards the golf ball, thus causing
the ball to be a little closer then when at address.
And yet another cause, but not too often, is that your hands at the bottom of your
swing are suppose to roll over naturally but instead, roll under, causing the club
face to fly open at impact, creating a shank like effect golf shot.
So why do these things happen? The major cause of the shank is that you took
your eyes off the ball and hit it on the hosel of the club, not the sweet spot.
Sometimes when the golf ball is positioned in a slightly different location at
address other than within your normal swing path, and you take your eyes off the
ball, your hands and club will revert to your natural swing path. In most cases of
the shank, the golf ball position is a little too close to you, thus striking the hosel
of the club, instead of the face. Keeping your balance within your swing with no
leaning or going up on tippy toes, can also prevent this from happening.
Everyone needs some sort of hand-eye coordination in order to play golf. I bet if
you took a few golf balls, placed them in various spots in front of you, kept your
feet in the same position, and swung, you could hit every golf ball on the club
face. Even though this would not be your normal golf swing, stance or address,
you would concentrate a little harder, keeping your head down to try to make
good contact. Your hand-eye coordination would allow you to do this.
Therefore, the simple key in preventing the shank is to keep your eyes and head
down on to what you are hitting, allowing your hand-eye coordination to make
that perfect strike.
As for the hands rolling under - do not dip your shoulder and reach for the ball as
this type of movement can cause your hands to roll under. Remember, keep your
eyes on the ball, maintain good balance and stay within your swing.
Problem IG: Not getting enough loft on your golf
What is your true trajectory?
First, find the true trajectory for your swing. If you are addressing the ball a little
back in your stance your clubs will be de-lofted (have less loft) at impact, even
though it seems you strike the ball OK. This type of de-lofting is even more
noticeable with the longer irons.
Take some practice swings and notice where the bottom of the arc is in your
swing. Where is the iron brushing the ground? Memorize this point in relation to
your stance. Set up the ball in your stance at the point just before where the iron
begins to brush the ground. Do this for each club in your bag. This will ensure
that you strike the ball at the lowest part of your swing (also known as hitting
down on the ball) and will reveal your true swing trajectory.
Swing through the ball
Golf balls are designed to fly best when struck with a hard descending blow.
Sounds easy, huh? Actually it’s not as hard as it seems. Once you place the ball
properly in your stance make sure you hit it with an accelerating clubface. This is
done best by finishing your swing. If you have an abbreviated follow through, you
are probably decelerating the club through your swing causing the ball to fly
lower than it should. Make sure you accelerate the club through the ball and
finish your golf swing - you’ll love the result.
Don’t de-loft the club face
Every club in your bag is designed to place your hands ahead of the ball at set
up (address). This design feature is there to place you in the proper set up
position and is more progressive as you get to the longer clubs, therefore it is
less noticeable in your wedges and most noticeable in your 3 iron.
If you move your hands more forward at address than the natural position of the
club, you are initiating a forward press. A forward press de-lofts the club face and
will result in a shot with a lower trajectory, which is more noticeable in the longer
irons. Some people initiate a forward press because they feel it gives them better
control of their long irons, but in reality a full swing forward press causes you to
pick up the club on the backswing - producing a swing that is steeper than
normal, which severely reduces your hitting zone (area where the club head
travels close enough to the ground to allow the golf ball to climb it’s face and
produce a quality shot) resulting in more shanks, grounders and sculls -
especially in the longer clubs. Having said that, a forward press has it’s place -
hitting out of fairway bunkers, heavy rough and punch shots - but not in a normal
Overall, try not to change the natural set up of your golf club at address. In a
proper golf swing your hands lead the club face through the ball and if you allow
your club to place you this position at address, you’ll have one less thing
preventing your hands from being in the proper position when you strike the ball.
What role does swing plane play in loft
Swing plane plays a role in loft, but it’s minor for most golfers relative to striking
the ball at the bottom of your swing and not de-lofting the club. In general, most
people with flat swing planes (most good wind players or most of the Texans on
tour) hit the ball with a low trajectory while getting loft on the golf ball and not
sacrificing distance, while people with more upright swing planes (most tall
players and the number one player in the world) typically hit the ball high into the
air also without sacrificing distance.
While your swing plane may determine the type of shot you play, it typically doesn’
t have an effect on your distance or loft. For most players swinging aggressively
through the ball and striking the ball at the bottom of your swing have the most
effect on loft. Therefore, focus on swinging through the ball with a full follow
through, while making sure the ball is in the proper position in your swing. As long
as you're happy with your distance, a swing that produces a lower ball flight will
actually help your scoring since low ball flights tend to hold the green better and
are less affected by those windy days that give everyone else fits.
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