In Part I of this lesson, we discussed how a lack of synchronicity between hips and shoulders causes blocked shots, or shots that start right and slice father off line. Let's look at a second cause of blocks, and another easy cure.
Taking the club back too far inside the target line sets you up to return it to the ball on an overly inside path, and prevents the hips from rotating to match the shoulders. On the downswing, the lower body has a head start, so to speak, causing the upper body to trail behind, hit from the inside and fail to release the club sufficiently through impact.
To determine if your backswing starts too far inside, take the club back to hip height and stop. If the shaft points behind you, there's your problem. (It should be parallel to the target line.)
The cure is to simply take the club back straight down the target line for the first several inches. Maintain the triangle formed by the arms, wrists and hands as you pull the clubhead away from the ball, making sure the shoulders rotate in unison with the triangle.
Here's a good drill to ingrain the proper takeaway:
- Place a light object, such as a clubhead cover or empty golf ball sleeve, about six inches behind the ball, directly on the target line.
- Keeping the clubhead low, push the object back and out of the way as you start the swing, letting the club arc naturally away from the target line.
When the hands reach hip height, the club should be parallel to the target line.
CAUSES AND CURES-BLOCKED SHOTS TO THE RIGHT
Regarding athletics, the trusted Webster's dictionary defines a block as “a halting or impeding of progress or movement.” In golf, a block can mean two things. First, it describes a type of shot or ball flight. For a right-handed golfer a block is a shot that flies straight right of the target with no curve. When a shot is hit off-line with no curve that typically means that the club face is square to the path the club is swinging on. Pretend you had wet paint on the bottom of your club. To hit a block the paint would draw a path that points to the right of your target line when you swing. That means that your clubface would be perpendicular to that line, or square.
Second, the term block can describe when a golfer holds back the release or the release is “impeded” as stated above. A common cause of a held release is getting the lower body too far ahead on the downswing, trapping the arms behind. Trying to hold onto the angle between the wrists and the club on the downswing is another problem that regularly causes a block.
In truth, there can be many reasons for hitting a blocked shot. The good news is that there are even more ways to cure them. But before we get into the details, let's looks at some facts about blocked shots to the right.
Fact 1: Your grip will always play a large factor in determining where your clubface position is at impact. One of the first things you should look at when you have a consistent ball flight problem is your grip. Make sure that your grip fits your swing and if you aren't sure then find out from a professional!
Fact 2: If you want to make small adjustments to your ball flight, then make small adjustments to your swing and set up. If you absolutely cannot take one more blocked shot, then try to hit a pull. Make big adjustments one at a time and be ready for big changes. Make a decision as to which strategy you want to take.
Fact 3: If you are hitting a blocked shot to the right and you want to hit a “straight” shot just remember that you have to change both the swing path and the club face position. The paint on the bottom of the club needs to draw a line closer to the line of the target and the club face needs to be perpendicular to it.
Fact 4: If you are trying to hit a sweeping high draw and instead are hitting a block to the right then you may want to abandon the high draw for now. The high draw is a fun shot to hit but it can get you swinging inside-out very quickly and if your arms get stuck behind you on the downswing you are looking at a good-sized block.
The fact is that blocks don't feel that bad when they come off of the clubface because the clubface is square at impact. However, I think it's safe to say that anytime a ball heads to the right there are two words that come to mind and one of them stinks. When a ball is pulled left there is a good chance the club has been released. There are times when a pulls feel like the best shot of the day. Blocks to the right typically aren't a result of a released club. It feels like something is missing.
Fixing the path and clubface position are the ultimate solution to curing a blocked shot to the right. Finding the faults and then curing them with drills and new concepts will get you back on the road to straighter shots.
EXAMINING THE SET UP FOR CAUSES OF BLOCKED SHOTS TO THE RIGHT
There are a lot of moving parts in a golf swing so only blaming your blocked shots on swing flaws is understandable but not practical. A lot of details can get overlooked in your set up simply because the set up isn't that interesting. It can be downright boring. That is, until you see the results of some simple changes in the set up and how much straighter and farther your ball will fly.
Clubface position can be easily effected by a grip change. A weak left or right hand grip can make it tough to close the clubface at impact. A grip that is very strong will make you want to hold off on your release so that you don't hit the ball straight left. Here is a drill to help you find out if your grip is too weak or too strong.
- Take your normal grip and address the ball.
- Stand up without disturbing your arm or hand position so that the arms are still perpendicular to your chest.
- Have a friend stand facing you.
- Ask them to grab your club head and pull straight away from you, while you gently lean back until your arms are fully extended.
- Look at your clubface. Is it still square or is it pointing to the right or left? If it is not square then your grip might be an issue.
When your club is returning to the ball at impact it is swinging at anywhere from 50 miles per hour to over a 100 miles per hour. The velocity and the weight of the club head will make the joints in your arms and wrists line up very quickly. The drill above somewhat re-creates this action.
It's very common for a block to be caused by a weak left hand or sometimes a weak right hand grip. But sometimes a very strong grip can cause a block too. If the grip is so strong that by releasing the club the ball will fly severely left, release will be resisted and instead the shot will result in a block to the right.
Incredibly, both a ball too far back and a ball too far forward can encourage a blocked shot to the right. If your ball is too far back in the stance then it is simply a matter of your clubface not having enough time to close. If the ball is too far forward, a good athlete will hold the release so the ball will not go left. The body gets ahead of the arms, the arms will get stuck behind the body and the club face will be open at impact.
When your stance is too wide at address it restricts you from taking a full backswing. Therefore, on the downswing, you find yourself trying to manufacture power that you would normally get from taking a full turn on the backswing. The result is that your body slides forward ahead of the ball and your arms trail behind. You cannot release the club so that even if you try to hang back with your upper body you still end up with a block to the right.
Here are some other things at set up you may want to look for if you are blocking your shots to the right:
A LOSS OF CONNECTION AT ADDRESS
Your distance from the ball, your posture or even a hyperextended left arm can cause the left arm to become disconnected from your chest at address. Connection between the left arm and your chest ensures that your clubface stays square throughout the swing. Beginning the swing while disconnected complicated things from the start.
- First, make sure your distance from the ball and your posture is correct.
- Bend from your hips, not the waist, and slide your fingertips down until they touch the top of your knees.
- Let the hands hang and grab your club.
- This should be the proper distance from the ball and your correct posture. Your left arm should lay on or against your chest with no gap between the upper arm and your chest.
Also check to see that your left elbow is relaxed and pointed down at your hip and not towards the target at address. Having the left elbow point out will open the clubface and disconnect your left arm from the chest.
If you feel like you are swinging well and still are hitting blocked shots then examine your set up components closely. There is a great chance just one adjustment could fix your blocked shots.
SWING BASICS TO HELP PINPOINT CAUSES OF BLOCKED SHOTS TO THE RIGHT
The club face should stay relatively square with the path of the club throughout the swing for most amateurs. For instance, if we took a video of your swing and drew a plane line at address, the plane line would designate a “square path” for all intents and purposes. Now, if you were to take the club back on the inside of that line, in order for the face to be square to the path it would actually have to be open as compared to the original plane line. This is what your path and face might look like on the downswing if you were to hit a block.
So, in short, if you were to change either the face or the path then you would no longer hit a block. So let's talk about some things that will help you keep your club on plane and your face square to that plane.
- Your arms should stay in front of your body. This means that the club can't get laid off or lag behind and you can't over swing. As long as the club is in your control there is a good chance it's on plane.
- You left arm stays connected to your chest. If this happens then the chances of you keeping your arms in front of your body go up greatly.
- Elbows point towards the hips. If the elbows point towards the hips then it's easier to keep the club in front of you. It's also essential in keeping the clubface square to its path.
- The club needs to stay between your hands. Think of your downswing. If you look at your own video and see that just before impact the grip end of the club is pointing towards the target then there is no way the club is between your hands and there is no way you can release the club. This is a common blocked shot move.
Not everyone has a classic Hogan plane golf swing. In concept it's easier to correct flaws like blocks if you can scale down your basics into one model of reference, like Hogan's. If you must keep your inside to out swing path then you have to change the position of your club face or visa versa. If you are completely sick of hitting blocks then make a big change to the face or the path and see what happens. Go one step at a time and don't change everything at once. You can always go backtrack if you need to.
IN-SWING CAUSES AND CURES OF BLOCKED SHOTS TO THE RIGHT
Let's now talk about some causes of a block shot that happens during the swing. The set up components and biomechanics are facts that every golfer can take something from. Now let's look into specific swing flaws and concepts.
LOW AND SLOW
An incorrect takeaway can be a swing killer. Both men and women have ruined fantastic swings by either being taught or simply believing that if they take the club away low and slow they will hit the ball farther. For MOST golfers, this method of swinging back is a great way to hit a block shot.
A low and slow backswing results in a late set of the golf club. When the club is set late it mixes up the sequence of the swing and it make it hard for the golfer to maintain control of the club. If the golfer has to set the club near the top of the backswing the weight of the club carries the arms too far back. While the lower body has already started moving towards the target the hands and arm are so far back the upper body is going to have to start pulling them back. The lower and upper body are now in front of the arms and the arms and club are trailing behind. The upper body will stop to wait but it will be too late and the arms won't release.
The easiest cure for failing to set the club early is the split club drill.
- Set up to the golf ball.
- Slide your right hand down to the bottom of the grip.
- Swing back with the split grip, which will force your right arm to fold early.
- On the downswing slide your right hand back up to meet your left and hit the shot.
- If you find at first it's difficult hitting a shot this way, try it without the golf ball first.
TUCKING THE ELBOW ON THE DOWNSWING
Over connecting the right elbow to the right hip on the down swing can cause a wicked inside to out swing path. Tucking the elbow into the pocket is one of golf's flamboyant illustrations over time that has done more harm than good. By over-tucking the right elbow it can cause the left elbow to point out towards the target holding the face open. It also causes the club to come down too far from the inside.
This cure will be a system-shocker for chronic elbow-tuckers.
- Set up to the ball.
- Take a backswing with a nice full turn.
- Without moving anything but your arms, place the club against your shoulders.
- Your shoulders should be pointing considerably right of your target.
- Now take the club back to the top of your backswing.
- On the line of your shoulders, begin to straighten out your arms.
- As you straighten out your arms allow your shoulders to turn slowly.
- By the time you get to impact position your arms will be nearly extended, the club will be in front of you, your upper body will be in its proper position and the lower body will have even turned ahead. It's not magic, it happens just because the club is in front of you during the entire downswing! The arms will follow the shoulder line as the shoulders turn toward the target.
HOLDING THE ANGLE ON THE DOWNSWING
This dilemma can also be grouped in with the left arm pull. Going back to the definition of a block as “impeding the progress or movement,” either trying to hold the angle or pulling the club down will accomplish just that. A release is most effective when the angle or energy is stored naturally. When you try to add to the natural progress of the downswing it can actually hurt your swing a lot more than help it.
Pulling the club or holding the angle will delay your release and will keep the clubface from closing on time. If you were to couple the over-tucking of the right elbow with a left arm pull you would have yourself a monumental block. Think of a Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson block.
- Set up to the ball
- Take a normal backswing with a good turn
- Put a scorecard, lengthwise, under your upper left arm, but not your arm pit
- On the downswing, drive the scorecard into your chest using the triceps of your left arm
- Don't let your left arm slide across the scorecard
ADDITIONAL CURES FOR BLOCKED SHOTS TO THE RIGHT
LOSS OF SPINE ANGLE ON THE DOWNSWING
The spine tilts too far to the right and the right knee collapses. This will result in swinging down too far from the inside. The face stays open and it will cause a classic block.
It is important to maintain the height of the spine and not let it lose its angle on the downswing. It would be too difficult to concentrate on keeping the right knee from collapsing because you are trying “not” to do something. A good drill is to get a partner to stand with his right hand a couple inches in front of the ball and in line with where your right hand should be at impact.
- Set up to the ball with your club.
- Set your club down and just let your hands hang.
- Put your left hand behind your back and line your right hand up to your partner's.
- Swing back with a good turn using only your right hand.
- Swing down to impact trying to maintain your height and let your arm straighten
- If you do this correctly and do not collapse you should hit your partners hand flush
- If you collapse to the right you will hit the bottom of his/her hand and your hand will be slightly open
SLOW HIPS AND A SHORT SWING
If you find yourself at impact consistently with your right heel solidly on the ground and your hips square then it's a good possibility you have slow hips. It's not an affliction, don't worry. It just means that you will be returning to the ball more slowly than someone with faster hips. It would make sense that if you had slow hips you would benefit from a longer swing. A short swing would not give the club enough time to close on the way down producing a pretty consistent pattern of blocked shots.
Here are some things you can do to customize your swing if you have slow hips. It will allow the clubface to time up with your release so that it will be square at impact.
- Move the ball closer to the front of your stance. This will give your clubface time to close
- Stay away from a very strong grip.
- Make your right foot very square.
- Point your left foot to the left a couple of inches. This will delay your release and give you a little bit more time to square the clubface up for impact.
GENERAL DRILL FOR ANYONE HITTTING BLOCKED SHOTS TO THE RIGHT
PLUG IN DRILL: This drill is excellent in order to pair up a good path and clubface no matter what your flaw is.
- Use a short iron.
- Stand straight up.
- Plug the grip end of the club into your belly button.
- Grip down on the shaft so that your arms are comfortably extended.
- Bend over slightly into an address position.
- Take a normal swing with a good turn back.
- Swing back down, plugging the club back into the belly button.
- If the club does not automatically go back into the belly button it may tell you which flaw you need to work on regarding your block.