Good golfers don't slice. Good golfers “block” their shots.
The slice and the block may end up in the same place – right of the target – but the causes are different. Where the standard left-to-right slice is caused by an over-the-top swing path and an open clubface, the block happens when an inside-to-out path is paired with an open clubface. Thus, a block starts right and fades slightly farther right.
The block is often referred to as “the good player's miss” because lesser golfers rarely achieve the coveted inside-out swing needed to hit a draw. Think of it as a good-news, bad-news proposition.
If you tend to block shots with the driver or fairway clubs, the culprit is likely one of these simple flaws:
1. Setting up with the ball too far back in your stance.
2. Taking the club back on an exaggerated inside arc.
3. Sliding the hips laterally on the downswing, or rotating them too quickly left of target.
The first problem is easy to cure. Just move the ball toward your front foot a little at a time until you find the “sweet spot” which produces a slight draw.
If #2 is your issue, practice a takeaway that follows the target line for 8” – 12” before curving to the inside. On the range, place a clubhead cover about 6” directly behind your ball, then sweep it away when taking the club back.
As for #3, try this drill to synchronize your upper and lower body movements:
- Set up to hit your driver, but place your feet close together – no more than a foot apart.
- Hit several shots while swinging at about 75% of full power.
You'll find it impossible to slide the hips toward the target while maintaining balance. Instead, you'll have to rotate smoothly, allowing the shoulders and arms to keep pace. Bye-bye, block.
Stop Blocking Golf Shots to the Right
The goal in the game of golf, no matter what kind of shot you are facing, is to hit the target. Each shot that you attempt should have a specific target as its focus, as you are going to do your best to hit that target as accurately as possible. Golf is an extremely difficult game, of course, so you aren't going to hit your target every time. However, with plenty of practice and attention to detail, you can consistently improve your ability to send the ball directly at the target you have selected.
Unfortunately, there are a few ways in which your shot can go wrong, resulting in a ball flight that ends up nowhere near your chosen target. In this article, we are going to look at once specific problem that will send your ball off line – the block to the right. For a right handed golfer, blocking the ball to the right of the target is a common mistake that will often lead to a bogey or worse on the scorecard. Of course, if you play left handed, a block is actually a shot that flies out to the left rather than the right. Either way, this is a shot that you need to eliminate from your game as soon as possible if you wish to lower your scores.
Before we get into the details of how you can eliminate the block from your game, we first need to define it accurately. Not all shots that are missed to the right of the target are going to be classified as a block, so it is important that you understand what this shot looks like when it does pop up. Unlike a slice, a block is a shot that flies mostly straight while it is in the air. However, it starts well to the right of the target line, so it never has a chance to finish near the intended target. Quite simply, you will know you have hit a block when you see the ball start to the right of your target and fly straight out in that direction until it lands.
Many amateur golfers who think they are dealing with a slice are actually hitting a block. Both of these shots wind up with the ball finishing way right of its ideal target, but that doesn't mean you can fix them in the same way. The changes you need to make in order to get rid of a slice are quite different from those that are needed to fix a block. Before making any changes at all to the physical mechanics of your swing, be sure to confirm that you have properly identified the problem at hand. Only when you know for certain that you are struggling with a block should you move forward in trying to correct that error.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you are a left handed player who is regularly blocking the ball to the left, please reverse the directions as necessary.
The Cause of the Problem
It is almost impossible to fix a problem that you don't clearly understand. That is true in golf just as it is true in the rest of life, so taking time to understand why you are blocking the ball to the right is the best way to start this process. Once you have a clear picture in your mind of what is happening when you block a shot, you can then move on to making the proper corrections during upcoming practice sessions.
As you might expect, there are a variety of mistakes that you can make in your golf swing which could lead to a blocked shot. Specifically, most blocked shots are caused by one of three underlying problems in the swing. Those three problems are listed below.
- Turning too fast. This is a tricky point for many golfers to understand, as most players think that you need to turn fast in your downswing if you want to hit the ball impressive distances. And it is true – if you are going to be a powerful player, you have to turn your body quickly toward the target in the downswing. However, if you turn so fast that your arms (and the club) can't keep up with your rotation, you are inevitably going to block the ball out to the right. In the world of professional golf, this is often referred to as 'getting stuck'. Your body turns too quickly for your arms to match, the club hangs behind your swing throughout the downswing, and the face is open at impact. To correct this problem, you are going to need to work on the 'connection' that exists between your arms and the rest of your body. Later in this article, we will go into detail on how you can improve the way your arms and your torso work together in the downswing.
- Ball too far back in the stance. Sometimes, a problem as frustrating as blocking the ball to the right can be as simple to solve as correcting your ball position. If you are playing the ball too far back in your stance currently, that seemingly minor error could be the cause of your blocked shots. When the ball is back in the stance, the club will not have time to fully rotate into a square position before impact is reached – meaning the result of the shot will be a block. Simply by moving the ball slightly forward in your stance, you should be able to eliminate this problem. The club will have more time to rotate prior to impact thanks to a forward ball position, and you should quickly see your shots begin to land closer and closer to the target.
- Passive hands. The use of your hands is a touchy subject in the golf swing. Some players use their hands too actively, which can create a slice, while others fail to use them at all. If you fall into the latter category, you might find that you struggle with a block from time to time. Your hands need to be helping the club release through the hitting area, as this is the main way that you are going to square the face at impact. Without freedom in your hand action to release the club, the face is going to hang open and your shots are going to sail out to the right. Learning how to use your hands properly is a powerful skill which can help you to take a big step forward with your game.
If you are making any of the three mistakes listed above in your own golf swing, you are almost certainly hitting $blocked shots on occasion. You won't block the ball every time, most likely, but you will probably do it enough to where it becomes a problem in your game. As we move on with this article, we will touch on a few different corrections that you can make in order to take the block out of your swing once and for all. Without the fear in the back of your mind that you may miss wide to the right, your game will have a newfound confidence and your scores should fall.
We are going to start with the topic of connection in your golf swing, as there is where most players who hit blocked shots are going to find the right fix. From professional golfers all the way down to complete beginners, getting stuck is a real problem in the golf swing – and it isn't an easy one to correct. Getting out of the habit of sticking the club behind you in the downswing will take some serious effort on the practice range, but that effort is going to be rewarded in the end.
In order to stay connected during your downswing, you need to first make sure you are connected properly at the top of the swing. Many golfers actually lose connection somewhere between address and the top of the swing, making it nearly impossible to restore that connection before impact arrives. The key to being nicely connected all the way up to the top of your swing is to make a good shoulder turn.
Without a good turn in your shoulders, your arms are sure to 'run away' with the backswing, resulting in a position at the top where your arms are wrapped around your back. From there, you are already stuck before the downswing begins, and a block is the inevitable result. If you think this is a problem in your swing currently, work on turning your left shoulder all the way under your chin in the backswing. That kind of shoulder turn will allow you to keep your arms and the club in front of your chest all the way up to the top.
Assuming you have managed to make it to the top of the swing with your connection in place, the next step of the process is to get through the transition without any trouble. Most likely, this is where you are currently going wrong. During the transition from backswing to downswing, you have to begin the action of rotating your body toward the target. More specifically, you should be rotating your lower body toward the target, while your upper body hangs back for a fraction of a second. The lower body should lead the way, and the upper body (including the arms and the club) should wait to be pulled into action by the power of your lower body rotation.
Most amateur golfers get this process all wrong. Instead of leading with the lower body, they begin rotating by turning their left shoulder open to the target. When that happens, the upper body is pulled ahead of the arms, and you are instantly disconnected in your swing. The club is now trailing behind, you haven't built any momentum with your lower body, and the club face is going to be hanging open throughout the downswing.
To get your swing back on track, it is essential that you learn how to start your downswing with your hips instead of your shoulders. From the top of the swing, the very first thing that moves should be your left hip opening up to the target. If you can get that single point correct, everything else will start to fall nicely into place. It will be relatively easy to stay connected in your upper body when it is your lower body that is doing the work of starting the downswing. With the transition properly handled, you can simply keep turning aggressively through the hitting area as you focus on making solid contact at impact. When you look up, you should see a beautiful sight – the ball sailing directly for the target.
Finding the Right Ball Position
As was mentioned previously, you can cause blocked shots in your game simply by setting up with the ball in the wrong position. If the ball is too far back in your stance, it will be extremely difficult – if not impossible – to avoid hitting a block. Of course, you also don't want to play shots with the ball too far forward in your stance, as that mistake can open up a number of different problems. So, how do you find the right ball position for each club in your bag? It all comes down to practice.
One of the issues that comes up with regard to teaching ball position is the fact that ideal ball position is going to vary from player to player. Depending on the dynamics of your swing, you may find optimal results with the ball either forward or back of a spot that would be considered 'standard'. The key here isn't to use the ball position that is identified as normal for most golfers – rather, you need to use the ball position that is perfect for your swing.
Like so many other things in golf, you are only going to find the answers to this question by heading to the driving range. On the range, you can hit as many shots as you would like while trying to locate the right ball position for your various clubs. You don't want to do this kind of experimenting on the course, so the range is the perfect opportunity to nail down where you should be standing in relation to the ball. Use a visual aid such as a club laid on the ground to help dial in your positioning, and hit shots using ball positions that are both forward and back. After a period of time spend experimenting on the range, your ideal ball positions should quickly become clear.
While it is true that ideal ball position is going to vary from player to player, there is one rule that you should always follow – the ball should never be behind the midpoint in your stance (for a normal swing). If you are trying to hit a normal shot where the ball climbs well up into the air, the ball should be at least in the middle of your stance, if not forward of that point. Only when you are hitting something like a punch shot should you be willing to move the ball back of center.
As you are working on finding the right ball position for all of your clubs, remember that you always want to be moving backwards from your driver down to your wedges. In other words, your drive should be played from your most-forward ball position, while your wedges should be played from the farthest back of any clubs in your bag. All of the clubs in between your driver and your wedges should progress gradually from the front of your stance on back toward the middle. Since your clubs get slightly shorter one at a time as you go through the set, it only makes sense to keep moving the ball farther and farther back with each club that you go down. This process might seem a bit complicated at first – after all, you have 13 full swing clubs in your bag – but you should figure it out nicely after just a few practice sessions.
Letting It Go
The final cause of blocked golf shots that was listed earlier in this article is a failure to allow your hands to release through the hitting area. This is another point that is difficult to teach because it is easy to get into trouble with your swing when you decide to use your hands actively. You not only need to use your hands in the right way in order to achieve good results, but you also need to use them at just the right time. If your hand action is too early or too late, the results of the shot will not be anything like what you expected. Of course, since your downswing only takes a fraction of a second to complete, you don't have much margin for error on this point.
There are a number of ways in which your hand action can go wrong in the downswing. The list below contains the problems that you will need to avoid in order to find success.
- Using your hands too early. Without a doubt, this is the most common mistake with regard to hand action in the swing. If you use your hands too early in the downswing – such as right from the start of the transition – you will create far more problems than you are going to be able to solve. In fact, this is how most slices are created. When your hands release the club right from the top, you will force the club up and over the proper plane, and you will be forced to swing across the line as you come through the hitting area. If you fight a slice as well as an occasional block, you can bet that you are releasing your hands too early in the swing. To solve this problem, you should already know what you need to do – hold on to your angle longer into the downswing. The hands do need to release at some point prior to impact, but that point is not at the top of the swing.
- Using your hands too late. Just as you can't use your hands too early in the downswing, you also need to make sure you use them before it is too late. If impact has already passed, it really isn't going to matter what you do with your hands – the ball will already be gone. As a good rule of thumb, your hands should jump into action when they are roughly at hip-height on the way down toward the ball. This action will ideally become automatic over time, but you may need to think about it consciously at the start. By thinking about engaging your hands as they pass your hip on the way down, you should have just enough time to square up the clubface beautifully at impact.
- Holding it off. Most players who consistently block the ball to the right are guilty of holding off their hands entirely throughout the downswing. What does this mean? Rather than allowing the right hand to pass over the left at some point, the left hand leads the way through impact and beyond. It is often easy to spot this kind of swing because the golfer will struggle to get up into a full finish position. If this sounds like your swing currently, you will need to find a way to start releasing the club through impact if you wish to eliminate the blocked shot.
It is frustrating to consistently block the ball to the right of your target, but this mistake can be eliminated with a solid plan and plenty of practice. Use the information provided above to move your technique in the right direction and you should see results in short order. Good luck!