Golfers who normally hit a draw will sometimes let loose with a huge push-slice, where the ball starts well right of target and curves ever farther in the wrong direction. This is called a “block,” and it's generally caused by a mismatching motion between the upper and lower body.
When the hips slide laterally on the downswing, or turn too rapidly to the left (for a righty), the shoulders and arms lag behind. The club's path is from the inside – as it is for a draw – but the lack of hips-and-shoulders synchronicity prevents the hands and forearms from releasing fully through the shot. The inside path starts the ball right, and the open clubface imparts left-to-right spin.
The first thing to check is your ball position. If it's too far back (right) in your stance, the club will catch it from an inside angle before the arms have had time to release the club.
If ball position isn't the answer to why your natural draw occasionally morphs into a block, try this simple drill:
- With the driver, stand with your feet about a foot apart. At this narrow width, your hips must rotate rather than slide; otherwise, you'll lose balance.
- Hit a series of shots at 75-percent of your normal swing speed.
The drill will help sync up your hips and shoulders and promote a rotary, not lateral, action on the downswing.
Blocked Shots to the Right – Causes and Cures
Missing the ball in one direction consistently is never a good thing for your game. While it might be better than missing shots all over the course, you will still struggle to put together good rounds if you are fighting a consistent miss. One miss that many right handed golfers struggle with is the blocked shot to the right. Rather than a slice, this is a shot that simply starts to the right of the target then flies on a mostly straight trajectory. The slice is the more famous' swing problem for amateur golfers, but a straight block can be just as damaging to your score.
If you are a player who struggles with a blocked ball flight that sails to the right of your target, there is good news – hitting this type of shot means you are close to making a good swing. The block to the right is considered a 'good' miss by some golf teachers because it indicates that the majority of your body positions are correct at impact. Simply by making a couple of minor adjustments and improving your timing, you could go from hitting blocks to hitting great looking shots after a short practice session.
One of the big problems with knowing that a blocked ball flight is lurking in your swing technique is never knowing when that miss is going to sneak up on you. It is possible to be playing a good round of golf when suddenly you may be blocking a shot or two way to the right and have everything suddenly get off track. Of course, if those blocks happen to come when there are hazards lurking to the right of the fairway or green, the damage on your scorecard could be significant. In order to play your best golf, and to go around the course without that fear in the back of your mind, it is important to refine your technique to reduce the chances of hitting blocked shots.
As you already understand, there is no such thing as a perfect golf swing, and no such thing as a perfect golfer. You are always going to hit bad shots from time to time – it is simply part of the game. However, to reach your full potential on the course, you want to work on refining your mechanics in such a way that limits the damage when you do make a poor swing. By 'controlling' your misses, you can stay away from big numbers and keep your rounds on track even when you aren't swinging your best.
All of the instruction contained below is based on a right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please reverse the directions as necessary.
Cause and Cure #1 – Spinning Out
Lower body rotation is the key to making a powerful and consistent golf swing. The best players in the world use their lower body to power the downswing, and you should be following their lead. When your legs are able to initiate the turn to the left in your downswing, you will be setting yourself up for a great delivery of the club head into the back of the ball. Many amateurs struggle with this concept, which is the reason that most players are unable to hit the ball long distances which still maintaining control over the shot.
If you have successfully learned to how to use your lower body in the downswing, you are well ahead of the game compared to most other players on the course. Unfortunately, that ability can get you into a bit of trouble from time to time. When you start to use your legs aggressively in the downswing, the possibility exists for them to get too far out ahead of your body at impact. If your arms – and the club – fall behind your lower body rotation too far, the club will not square at impact and the shot will be pushed out to the right. This is considered a 'pro' miss because many of the best golfers in the world will struggle with this swing problem from time to time.
While it is frustrating to fight this kind of a problem in your swing, you can take heart in knowing that you have the hardest part of the swing in place. Using your lower body aggressively is something that many players never figure out how to do, so checking that off of your list is a big step. At this point, you simply need to learn how to control that lower body rotation so that you can avoid big misses to the right. That is easier said than done, of course, but it is the last step between you and a powerful, repeatable golf swing.
The best way to work on keeping your lower body underneath you successfully in the swing is to practice hitting fades on the driving range. To hit a fade, you have to stay over the ball and allow your arms to pass across your chest at impact. This is the opposite of what happens when you spin out of the shot early. Even if you prefer to hit a draw when you are on the course, hitting some fades on the driving range can help you control the movement of your lower body in the downswing.
Try the following practice routine during your next visit to the driving range –
- Start by taking your seven iron out of your bag, and set aside ten golf balls to use for this portion of your practice session. The seven iron is the perfect club to use because it is long enough to see a pattern in your ball flight, but it is not as hard to hit as your longer irons. As you make progress with your swing, you can move into longer and longer clubs if you wish.
- For this drill, you are going to pick two targets. The first will be an intermediate target that you use to track the path of your ball flight. The other target will be the one that you intend to hit when the ball comes down. For that ultimate target, try to find something on the range that is the appropriate distance for your seven iron. Once you have that target picked out, find an intermediate target that is to the left of your ultimate target, and about 50-75 yards from where you are standing. With those two targets selected, you are ready to move on to the next step.
- Take your stance and align your body to start the ball at your intermediate target. You should go through your full pre-shot routine just as you would for any shot out on the course.
- Make your swing with the goal of flying the ball over your intermediate target, and landing it at your eventual target. To do so successfully, you will need to hit a slight fade using a nicely controlled swing. If you were to allow your lower body to get out from under you in the downswing, there will be very little chance of hitting the shot successfully.
- Hit all ten shots using your two targets as a guide. Keep track as you go to determine how many of the ten shots were successful.
After working through this drill, go back to your normal swing without trying to fade the ball (unless a fade is your normal shot). Think about how you kept your lower body under control during the drill, and translate that feeling into your regular swing. Anytime you start to have trouble blocking the ball on the course, think back to this practice session and use it to get your swing under control once again.
Cause and Cure #2 – Sliding Past the Ball
Spinning out of your shots is not the only way to create a block with your golf swing. Another swing fault that can lead to blocking shots out to the right occurs when you slide past the ball. In this case, rather than rotating too quickly, your lower body is moving laterally toward the target instead of turning as it should. This is a bigger swing problem that can lead to a host of problems with your ball flight. Also, this is a mistake that is more-commonly seem among amateur golfers. If you consistently push your shots to the right and you make weak contact while doing so, there is a good chance that you are sliding past the ball.
Often, a slide comes from a simple misunderstanding of how the golf swing is supposed to work. Many players mistakenly believe that there is a significant amount of lateral movement in a proper golf swing. These players will try to move right in the backswing onto their right foot, and then slide forward onto their left foot in the downswing. This is the wrong way to go about swinging the club, and it will never lead to the same power and accuracy that can be created by a rotational swing.
The best way to take the slide out of your swing is to make it physically impossible to move too far left on the downswing. Use the following drill to eliminate this costly mistake from your game.
- You won't be hitting any balls with this drill, so you can complete it anywhere it is safe to make some golf swings. You will need a golf club (it doesn't matter which one) and your golf bag.
- To set up for the drill, stand your golf bag up on the ground where you wish to swing. This drill works best with a stand bag, but you can do it with a cart bag as long as it will balance in a standing position while you swing next to it.
- With your bag in place, take your stance so that the outside of your left foot is up against the bottom of the bag. Your foot doesn't need to be touching the bag, but it should be within a couple of inches.
- Now that you have your stance established, go ahead and make a golf swing. If you slide to your left in the downswing, you will be immediately notified of your mistake – because you will physically contact the bag with your left hip and/or leg.
- Repeat this swing drill over and over again until you can successfully make downswings without sliding to your left.
This drill is great for reinforcing the rotational aspects of the golf swing. It offers immediate feedback, so there will be no doubt as to whether or not you slid left as you swung the club through the ball. If a slide to the left has been an ongoing problem in your game, consider making this drill a regular part of your practice routine. Over time, this drill will help you learn the proper feelings in the downswing, and you will quickly become a more rotational player – which should eliminate your tendency to block shots to the right of the target.
Cause and Cure #3 – Stubborn Left Hand
The left hand controls much of the golf swing. While you are swinging the club up to the top of your backswing, it is the left hand doing much of the work, as your right hand just goes along for the ride. That all changes, however, as you approach the ball. Your left hand needs to be driving toward the target, but your right hand also needs to jump into action to release the club properly through the shot. A good release is critical to getting shots on line, and players who are blocking the ball out to the right may be struggling with this tricky part of the golf swing.
The release is tricky simply because it happens so incredibly fast. You don't have enough time at the bottom of your swing to think about what you are doing, so it becomes important to get your swing 'organized' before you get to that point. If you are able to put your body, and the club, in the right positions earlier in the downswing, the release should take care of itself.
How do you know if the release is the cause of your blocked shots? Check your finish position. When you finish your swing, is the club wrapped nicely around your back as you watch the ball sail through the air? Or is the club out in front of your chest, with the shaft pointing up to the sky? If it is the latter, you are likely not getting a full release through impact. You always want to swing up to a full release on a standard shot, largely because it is a great indication of a complete release at the bottom of the swing.
There are a number of ways you can work on your release, but the following drill is one of the most effective.
- Head to the driving range with your clubs and a bucket of balls. You can complete this drill with any of your clubs, so take them all with you so you can work on your release with a number of different sticks.
- If the driving range has a target at 100 yards, use that as your aiming point for this drill. If there is no 100 yard target, simply pick out a target that is as close to 100 yards as possible.
- Start with your seven iron for this drill. As mentioned above, you can use a variety of clubs once you get the hang of the drill, but seven iron is a great place to start.
- Address the first shot as normal with your alignment directed at the target you have picked out. However, prior to starting your swing, you will want to bring your feet in close together. Step in with both your right and left foot so that your shoes are only a few inches apart. You should be standing such that you can keep your balance safely, but your stance should be much narrower than a regular golf stance.
- Hit a shot at your target from this narrow stance. You will find that the only way to hit the ball cleanly with any kind of power is to fully release the club head through impact. If you don't release the club, the shot will travel a very short distance because your lower body isn't going to be able to power the swing.
Hit as many shots as you would like using this drill. The more balls you hit from a narrow stance, the better you will understand how your release should be working through the hitting area. After you get comfortable hitting your seven iron using this drill, try some of your other clubs – even the driver. If this drill is effective in helping you release the club at impact, you will notice that your tendency to block the ball to the right quickly goes away.
Other Notes Related to Blocked Shots
You obviously want to get rid of your blocked shots as quickly as possible. However, if you are in the middle of a round and are dealing with the blocks, you might not be able to get your swing corrected in time to play the rest of the holes in front of you. In that case, you need to have a game plan for how to complete your round as best you can before heading to the range to work out your swing problems.
One way you can work through a round even with the blocks is to pick smart targets that will allow for confident and aggressive swings. This is largely common sense. If you are struggling with a miss to the right, don't pick a target where a right miss will put you in serious trouble. For example, if you are playing a hole with out of bounds to the right of the fairway, consider hitting a fairway wood or long iron from the tee to lessen the chances of hitting your ball beyond the while stakes. Similarly, aim to the left side of the green when necessary to steer clear of hazards waiting on the right.
Another adjustment you can make on the fly is to make softer swings and take more club to reach your target. If you arrive at a shot that would normally call for a seven iron, hit a six iron instead to keep your swing under control. By using more club, your body will naturally swing slower to account for the extra club that you are holding. When you swing slower, you reduce the chances of blocking the ball out to the right of the target. This isn't a foolproof method by any means, but it is a simple strategy that can help you to finish our your round successfully.
As a final strategy tip to employ when you are fighting a block, consider moving the ball back slightly in your stance. When the ball is moved back, most golfers will do a better job of staying balanced while taking out some of the lateral movement from their swing. That minor tweak may be all you need to straighten things out while you finish up the round. You don't want to leave the ball back in your stance on a permanent basis, but it can serve as a great temporary correction.
Blocking your ball out to the right of the target is a problem that you will want to get corrected as quickly as possible. Review all of the content above to find the specific cause of your blocks, and then work through the appropriate cure until you have successfully straightened out your swing technique. Remember that blocking the ball to the right is actually a sign that your swing is pretty close to being on track, so you shouldn't be in for a long and difficult improvement process. Make the minor fixes that are necessary and you should be soon hitting beautiful shots that fly straight at your targets.