Driver First Aid: Stop Slicing
BY Paul Smith
If I had to list the top question I get asked when people come to see me, whether for clubs or for lessons, it would be: “How do I tame my driver’s big slice?”
The answer? Well, when you drive, that little white ball knows every little thing you just did to it and what happens next has nothing to do with it being mad at you. It only did what you told it to do. Rubbish in, rubbish out. Think of the ball as a little computer – it responds to your programming.
What Causes A Slice
When the club face meets the ball, it sits on it for a tiny amount of time, and we can call that “from the Impact point to Separation Point”. In this fleeting instant, the ball learns, via its compression against the face, direction, everything about its flight, apart from what the wind may do to modify it. The line of compression and rotation of the face through the ball is its programming.
Most players have built a slice into their games but have no idea why it occurs. Indeed, many players try to work this out logically and aim farther to the left and see the ball slice even farther. “Seems as if golf” is at work here, so read on and many a light bulb should illuminate forthwith.
First and foremost, the place to begin looking at slicing issues is to see where the ball is positioned in your stance. 90% of the time it is way too far back. As we have seen in previous articles, if you swing in an arc through to the low point under your left shoulder, the driver needs the ball positioned very close to low point to stand any chance of being hit straight. The further back in the stance it is, with any semblance of a good swing, the harder it is not to “fight the rights”. Imagine that with a perfect swing the club face is always closing. If we take an extreme position and tee up the ball behind our sternums, then the club face will be far too open to the intended flight line, so it will always push right from there.
So my first anti-slice aid is to make sure you have the ball forward under your left shoulder. For many of you, it will seem as though you need to position the ball outside your left shoulder. Get a mate to look at your set up and tell you where it is, and get used to thinking “I will never reach it” for a little while. For many of you this should tame much of the slice and give you the straighter flight you seek. It has given your hands more time to rotate to a squarer club face at impact, hopefully with a closing face.
If you overdo it, however, you may “pull” or “hook” the ball. Tinker with ball position, and see what happens to the ball flight. Faders may now see the ball starting left of centre and landing dead- centre.
A real banana slice, where the ball starts left and then goes right, is caused by the club face aiming left of the target at separation. Yes, left. Sir Isaac Newton shows us in his laws of physics that any other direction under that circumstance is impossible. So how does the ball end up going off to the right?
Consider what the face is doing during the fleeting moment of impact to separation. Put simply, this is the rotational motion of the clubface. If the face is opening to the target line during the time the ball is squashed on the face, we now have a ball that will gain clockwise spin. So the slice is an opening clubface. In actuality, the ball compresses in such a way that the ball’s shape is what causes the spin to occur, via a Venturi effect.
We see many players doing this, as they have a perception that if they keep the club face square to the target line, it will fly straight. Remember, we swing in an arc. To keep the face square to the line we would in fact be opening the face through the ball. Hence for the left/right slice the ball comes off left first, and then the actual Venturi effect created by the ball being squashed on the face will eventually turn it right as the speed dissipates.
So this slice is caused by faulty hand action and often an errant swing path, which has caused your body to swing to the left across the originally intended swing plane. This is known as bending your plane line.
First Aid For Slicers
First aid for this is initially to get the ball set up correctly and to learn the correct left hand motion. But because the hand action has been opening in the past, we need to learn to have them closing as opposed to opening during contact. Now I stress this is Driver First Aid, and I would not teach this to a student with a driver but rather with an iron. Yet I know many of you out there hit the range, and 75% of balls you hit are with your drivers.
So tee up your driver on a tall tee. Get set up with the ball forward in the correct near low point slot, and then open the clubface as though you are going to hit it out of bounds way to the right. Now make a swing with the purpose of hitting it straight. If you managed to hit the ball anywhere near straight, you have just managed to learn how to close the clubface. If it has gone to the right then your left hand is not closing the face. Most players grasp this pretty quickly and after a few shots can go back to aiming straight. Try it, and you may see a little draw at first but certainly not a huge slice anymore.
To tame a driver in the long run you will need to build the foundations of your shorter swings solidly. That too is where you work out which parts of the swing are causing the problems and tackle them one at a time – over time. If your ball position is inconsistent, then it will be harder to isolate issues. Fix that first. Keep ball position consistent. Then watch your ball flight, and you can work out what the club face is doing.
So if any of you come to see me and ask about your driver issues, please expect to find yourself on the chipping and pitching areas because there is where we will work out these club face versus ball flight issues for more lasting effect.