So you've been pulling your iron shots. You've checked your alignment and all systems are go. Logic dictates that your swing path must be outside-to-inside, with the clubface square to this path. Hence, your shots start left and fly straight rather than curving left or right. A classic pull.
It can get a little complex from here. There are several swing flaws that may cause an over-the-top path – starting the downswing with the shoulders, “casting” the club with the hands, and hanging back on your right side, to name a few.
Once you've diagnosed which ailment you've got, you'll almost certainly find a cure right here at Golf-Info-Guide.com. In fact, these video tips will help you determine and fix the problem causing your over-the-top swing:
Pulling Shots - Stop Too Much Out to In Swing
When you think about the kinds of shots that give amateur golfers trouble, you probably think first about the slice. It is true that the slice is the biggest problem faced by the average golfer, and almost every player in the game has had to learn how to get rid of a slice before they went on to improve and lower their scores. There is no shame in fighting a slice, as it is a common problem that takes plenty of hard work and smart decisions to eliminate from your game.
However, beyond the slice, there is another ball flight problem that is nearly as common – the pull. When you consistently pull the ball to the left of your target (for a right handed golfer) you will have trouble posting any good scores. One of the biggest problems with the pull is that it tends to get worse the more you try to fix it. For example, if you keep aiming farther to the right in order to compensate for the pull, you will simply pull the ball harder and harder back to the left. It is a vicious cycle, and it is a problem that can be just as hard to fix as the slice.
Ironically, both the slice and the pull come from the same origin. If you swing down with an out to in path, meaning the club is getting closer to your body as it moves through the hitting area, you will risk hitting a pull or a slice. What makes the difference between the two? The position of your club face. If the club face is open at impact while you are pulling across the ball to the left, a slice is almost certainly going to result. On the other hand, if you have the face square to the path while swinging out to in, you are going to hit a pull. So, starting from the same basic swing shape, you can wind up with two very different results based on the position of the club face at impact. In fact, many players will deal with both a pull and a slice in the same round as they change the timing of their release at the bottom of the swing. Release early and you will get a pull, release later (or not at all) and you will get a slice. Either way, your ball will be nowhere near the target, and you will get increasingly frustrated as the round goes on.
This article is going to deal with the issue of pulling shots, but the instruction contained below will actually help you fight your slice as well. If you can alter the shape of your swing to reduce the amount of out to in motion that takes place through the hitting area, you will reduce the odds of hitting both a pull and slice. Getting rid of these two outcomes – or at least, making them less likely – will go a long way toward helping you gain consistency from round to round.
All of the instruction contained below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
The Root of the Problem
If you are swinging too much across the ball at impact, things are going wrong much earlier in your swing that are leading to this negative outcome. It is important to understand the cause and effect relationships which exist within the swing – swinging across the ball at the bottom of the swing is a mistake that is made much earlier, and you are only paying the price when you get down to impact. Fix the root cause of the problem, and you will quickly be able to solve the pulls.
There are two potential root causes for your pulled shots that need to be examined. Each of the two points below could possibly leading you to pull the ball left, so you will need to investigate your own swing to see which is actually to blame. If necessary, consider asking a friend to record a video of your swing so you can watch the recording back to determine exactly why you are pulling the ball to the left on a regular basis.
- Inside path going back. If you take the club away too far to the inside early in the backswing, you will be setting yourself up for a pull when you finally get back to the ball. That means, believe it or not, that your pull will have been created within the first few inches of the swing! It is never too early to pay attention to your mechanics, because each step along the way in the golf swing is crucially important. By taking the club back to the inside, your entire backswing will be narrow, and your hands will be in close to your body at the top of the swing. When that happens, the club has to move up and away in order to make room for the downswing, and you will inevitably swipe across the ball at the bottom of the swing. Instead, you should work on tracing a line with the club head that goes straight back away from the ball on a continuation of your target line. This type of takeaway will give your swing more width, and you will be able to drop the club to the inside in the downswing. Attacking from the inside is the best way to develop power while also starting your shots perfectly on line. The takeaway might not seem like a crucial part of the swing, but it has the power to quickly fix your pulls if you get the club moving back on the right path.
- Lack of lower body movement at the top. The top of the swing is when everything really gets started in terms of sending the club into the back of the ball. Once the backswing is complete, you need to start the move forward by rotating your lower body aggressively toward the target. Unfortunately, many amateur golfers fail to make this move, and instead they simply throw their hands and arms down toward the ball. Without proper lower body rotation, your body will actually be in the way of your downswing, and your arms will again (just like the point above) have to move away from your body in order to get to the ball. The fix here is obvious – get your lower body moving right from the top of the swing. As soon as the club is finished moving back, use your legs to start moving forward and allow the rest of your body to follow in turn. It may help to think of the downswing as an 'uncoiling' of your body. First, your lower body turns toward the target, then your torso and your shoulders, then the arms and the club. As long as everything is in the right order, you will be able to avoid hitting a pull.
While the out to in swing is certainly to blame for your pulls, there are a couple of potential causes of that mechanical breakdown. Take the time necessary to determine which of the swing faults above is causing your problems, and then get down to work on making the corrections that are necessary. Once you have attempted to fix your swing, record another video to see for yourself if the technical mistakes have been resolved.
Rushing at the Top
Although the root cause of your pulled shots can vary as outlined above, most players who struggle with the pulls have one thing in common across the board – a rushed motion at the top of the swing. When you get to the top of your backswing, there should be a slight pause in the motion of the club as you initiate the downswing with your lower body. Most players who hit a pull don't have any pause at all. Instead, they rush through the transition, forcing the club to come down into the hitting area before it is ready. A rushed golf swing will never be a good golf swing, so you are going to have to learn to slow down at the top if you are ever going to eliminate the pull from your shot patterns.
One of the likely causes for rushing through the top of your swing is the urge to hit the ball hard. Many golfers think that they need to force the club down immediately in order to build speed, but that really isn't how power works in golf. Instead, power is created gradually, meaning you have time between the top of your swing and impact to accelerate the club smoothly. Trying to rush will only mean you max out your speed early in the downswing – which will lead to the club actually decelerating as it approaches the ball. It would be a shame to waste power prior to impact, so think about your swing as a process that all ramps up until max speed is achieved precisely at the point when you strike the ball.
To work on eliminating the urge to rush through the top of your swing, try hitting some short shots on the driving range or even the short game practice area (if you have enough space). Take out your pitching wedge and pick a target that is 50 yards away from where you are standing. Of course, you can probably hit your pitching wedge well beyond 50 yards with a 'normal' swing, but you aren't going to be making your usual swing. Instead, you are going to swing about halfway back, pause for a moment, and then swing forward through the ball. The pause should be pronounced, and it should be obvious to anyone watching what you are doing.
At first, this pause is going to feel extremely awkward, and you will probably hit some poor shots. Stick with it, however, as this is a great tool for learning how to manage the speed of your transition. As you gain confidence, slowly start to pick longer and longer targets until you are making a full swing – with the pause still in place. Now that you are hitting full shots, you should see that you can achieve your full power with any club while still making a pause at the top. Take that knowledge and go back to making your regular swing – hopefully, the urge to rush will have been successfully eliminated through the use of this simple drill.
It is when you are hitting your driver that you are most likely to rush at the top, so pay particular attention to your transition when hitting the big stick from the tee. A pull with your driver is going to be particularly damaging to your game because the ball will have plenty of time in the air to fly well off-target. The driver swing is long and it takes time to develop – don't rob yourself of that time because you are nervous about the outcome or because you want to smash the ball as hard as possible. Allow the whole swing to develop gradually, and only head down toward the ball when you are sure that your backswing is complete and your body is in position.
The Problem with Pulled Shots
All golfers miss the target on a regular basis. Golf is a hard game, and even the best players in the world hit the ball directly at the target only a few times per round. The rest of the shots are missed to some degree, so the challenge really becomes controlling your misses in a way that allows you to keep your score on track and under control. One of the big problems with making an out to in swing and hitting a pull is that you may have a hard time controlling that pull properly when you are on the course. If you don't know exactly how much pull you are going to get, aiming your shots becomes more of a guessing game than anything else.
Pulled shots are always something of a gamble, but they can get especially tricky when you are dealing with a hazard to the left of the target. As you stand over the ball, you can't help but think about the water or bunker that is waiting on the left side of the hole to grab your ball and cost you a couple of strokes. The mental challenge in this case is just as significant as the physical one, as you will have to maintain focus and confidence in order to execute your swing properly without fearing the pull. Putting in as much work as possible on the practice range to eliminate your out to in swing path will be the best thing you can do for your confidence when facing challenges such as this one. With many good range shots in your memory bank to rely on, hopefully you will be able to step up to the ball and make a great swing.
Another issue with the pulled shot is that it can't really be worked around any obstacles such as trees that may be looming down the fairway. A pull is actually a shot that flies mostly straight, so you will have very little room to play with when picking out a path for the ball to find its way onto the fairway or onto the green. For example, if the hole curves to the left and there are trees on the inside of the dogleg, it will be nearly impossible to get around the corner without hitting a draw rather than a pull. Will be forced to either aim farther right and hope you can skirt by the trees, or lay up and try to hit your next shot close to the hole. This lack of flexibility in picking your shots is something that is hard to get around when you swing out to in and create a pull.
Finally, one last complication that you will have to deal with when pulling the ball frequently is the inability to judge your distances correctly. When you pull the ball, there is loft taken off of the club and your shots tend to fly farther than they would otherwise. That means you could wind up long left of the target on a regular basis – and that is rarely a good place to be. However, if you take less club in order to compensate for the pull, only to hit the ball mostly straight, you will likely wind up way short and potentially in trouble. You can see the problem here right off the bat – how do you know what club to pick if you don't know whether or not you are going to pull the ball left? This is a challenge that you may not be able to overcome with any kind of passable results.
Adjusting to a Better Path
As this article has laid out, making a swing which goes from outside to inside is a sure way to hit pulled shots – and maybe even a few slices. So, your job is obviously to correct that swing path to get the club attacking the ball from a better angle. If you can come into the ball straight down the target line, or even slightly from the inside, you will be well-positioned to strike a solid shot. Players who hit a controlled little draw come at the ball on a path that is moving slightly from inside to out, along with having a square or partially shut club face. Working toward that position should be your goal, but it will take plenty of time and effort to get there.
The good news is this – with some hard work and smart thinking on the practice range, you can certainly get to a point where you are attacking the ball from the correct angle. Once that is the case, however, you might find that you still aren't hitting the ball as you would like. Instead of striping straight shots down the center of the range or the fairway, you may be pushing the ball out to the right. Why is that the case? It comes down to the release you learned while you were fighting your pulled shots.
Even if you don't know it, you have probably learned how to 'hold off' your release at the bottom of the swing in order to limit how far you pull the ball to the left. This is a subconscious response by your hands to the improper path that the club is taking into the ball. You feel the club moving from outside in, so you prevent the release to keep the club face pointing toward the target as long as possible. Believe it or not, this adjustment is actually productive when you are fighting the pulls, and it will probably help you shoot better scores. However, once your path is fixed, that same adjustment will now lead you to hit a push way out to the right of the target. To strike good shots from the proper path, you need a full release of the club head through the hitting area.
To get that release, you have to simply trust your swing and turn the club loose through the ball. Fire your right hand through impact and try not to worry about those pulls that used to haunt your game. With the correct path now in place, hitting a straight pull is an unlikely outcome – so trust yourself to fire through the hitting area and look up to see the ball sailing straight for the target.
Swinging out to in is a mechanical fault that will cause you plenty of trouble out on the course. While it is possible to hit some decent shots along the way, your game will always lack power, consistency, and variety when you swing on an outside in path. Take the time on the practice range to correct your path issues and the course should open up to you like never before.