For a right handed golfer, a hook is a shot that curves substantially from right to left. It is the opposite of the slice which is one of the most common shot trajectories for beginning or inexperienced golfers.
It's interesting that as many beginning golfers improve their games, they can develop the tendency to hook the ball. Part of this could be blamed on golf instruction itself since many tips and fixes that are advised to cure the slice are exaggerative concepts that may eventually lead to hook tendencies. And as you might expect, a lot of the cures to hooking tend to encourage trajectories in the other direction so be mindful of the adjustments you make and work on minimizing the amount of curvature in your game since a lot of it is simply unnecessary during most scenarios you'll encounter on the golf course.
Now for a few pointers to experiment with to help solve your hooking problem:
- The back of your left wrist should be facing a line parallel to your target at address and again at impact. Since the back of your flat left wrist should also match the square clubface, you can use this concept as a good guide to help you get into a square position at impact. An impact bag is a great way to really feel the correct impact position.
- Some players like to “chase” the ball through impact keeping the clubface square for a longer duration of time. Although the swing path through the hitting zone is on an arc, it is okay to have the club follow a straighter line through the impact zone to hit straighter shots.
- Try hitting some golf shots with your entire right hand overlapping your left to help take some of the release out of the swing. Another good grip to try is the double overlap grip used by PGA Tour player Jim Furyk. It is just like the traditional overlap grip except it has two fingers of the right hand overlapping the left.
- Make sure the hips lead the downswing, followed by the torso, followed by the arms and then hands. Ignoring this sequencing and allowing the downswing to start with the hands and arms can lead to an array of problems including hooks.
- You could have equipment that doesn't match your swing. Shafts that are too flexible for a golfers' swing speed and tempo can lead to hooks so experiment with stiffer shafts. Another thing to try out is larger grips on your clubs. This will inhibit some of the excessive rotation of the hands through the impact zone that can so often lead to hooks. If you've never been fitted for clubs then you can do that for free at Thomas Golf which sells premium golf clubs with alignment technology backed by independent research.
How to Fix Your Hook
If you struggle with a persistent hook, you already know the following statement to be true – the hook is the worst ball flight pattern in golf. Yes, the slice is more-common, but the hook is nearly impossible to play with when it settles in to your game. There are steps you can take to make your slice more playable while out on the course, but there is really nothing you can do in order to mitigate the damage caused by a sharp hook. As the old saying goes, 'you can talk to a slice, but a hook won't listen.'
As you are already aware, a hook is a shot that turns quickly toward the left (for a right handed golfer) as it flies through the air. This is, of course, the opposite of a slice, which is going to curve to the right on its way toward the target. So why is a hook so much worse than a slice? The answer has to do with backspin rates. When you hit a slice, the ball will typically have a high rate of backspin, along with the left to right spin that is causing the ball to curve. The high rate of backspin means that the ball is going to stop relatively quickly when it lands, minimizing the damage of your miss. The outcome of the shot is still not going to be ideal, but you may at least be able to keep the ball somewhere in play.
The story is different when it comes to a hook. When you hit a hook, you are going to combine a high rate of right to left sidespin with a low rate of backspin. That combination is dangerous, as the ball is going to curve badly off-target and then bounce and roll when it lands. In the end, you are left with a shot that is going to venture much farther off-line than a slice because of the limited backspin on the shot. For this reason, it is common for a quick hook to land somewhere on the golf course only to bounce and roll out of bounds, into a water hazard, or into some other unfortunate location.
If you are going to be able to continue your time on the course as a golfer, you are going to need to get rid of your hook – it's just that simple. It is hard to have fun while you are constantly looking for golf balls way to the left of the fairway. There have been more than a few golfers over the years to give up on the game because they could not conquer the hook that had made its way into their swing. Don't let that be you. As long as you are willing to follow some basic instructions, and you are willing to put in some time on the practice range, you should be able to look forward to a hook-free future on the course.
All of the instruction 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 Myth of Starting Over
When a player is faced with a task as daunting as taking the hook out of their game, that player will often think that they need to simply 'start over' with their swing. It is an attractive idea to start from scratch – after all, building a new swing from the ground up probably sounds easier than trying to fix all of the mistakes that are present in your current swing. There is only one problem with this plan – it can't be done. No matter what you do, there is no way to 'start over' with regard to your golf swing. You already have your swing, and everything you do from this point forward is going to be an adjustment or adaptation of that movement.
That doesn't mean that you can't improve. Of course you can improve, but you are going to have to do so by building on what you already do in your game. Your mind isn't going to forget how you currently swing the club, so there is no way to just start fresh as if you have never played the game before. Someone who has played even just one round of golf already has a swing that they use, so it is that swing which will need to be tweaked in order to eliminate the hook.
With this concept in mind, one of the first steps that you need to take in getting rid of your hook is to embrace the swing that you currently use on the course. Many golfers grow to hate their golf swings because they don't perform as well as they would like. Those same players often have trouble improving, because they see their swing as the enemy rather than an ally. Your swing is only going to get better when you embrace it and start to see both the positives and negatives that are included in your action. Even if you are struggling with a nasty hook at the moment, there are almost certainly positive things that can be said about your swing. Look for the positives and take pride in the fact that you have done a good job of creating those positive pieces. At the same time, you can pick out the negative parts of your swing and highlight those areas as parts that need to be improved.
Most golfers, even those who struggle to make it around the course without losing several golf balls, are far closer to playing good golf than they believe. Often, it is only a minor adjustment or two that is necessary in order to get a player on the right track. Golf is a hard game, so you shouldn't be too hard on yourself if you are struggling at the moment. Every golfer has trouble at one time or another, and those difficulties are nothing to be ashamed of. As long as you are willing to put in some practice time to bring your technique into shape, your swing can quickly morph into something that is both productive and reliable.
Looking for Problems
As the previous section clearly highlighted, you can't start over with your golf swing. It is what it is, and it is your job to correct it moving forward. So, to get started on fixing your hook once and for all, you need to work on figuring out why you are hooking the ball in the first place. That might sound obvious, but it is a step that many people skip over as they are in a rush to make changes that they hope will get them on track. By taking your time and being patient with the process, you can give yourself a much better chance of success by accurately identifying the underlying issues that are causing a hook.
As you review your swing to locate the cause of your hook, you will want to keep the following potential problems in mind. These are common issues that can lead to a hook, and there is a good chance that one or more of them is present in your swing.
- Lack of rotation in the downswing. Without a doubt, this can be classified as the leading cause of a hook in the game of golf. When you fail to rotate through the downswing properly in your swing, the club face will close down at impact and a hook is an almost-guaranteed result. Most players who hit a hook struggle to keep their lower body turning toward the target in the downswing, which is a problem that can actually be quite difficult to correct. Since you are used to seeing the ball hook to the left, you might feel like you should actually rotate less in your downswing to correct the problem. Of course, in reality, that is only going to make the problem worse. It is easy to get stuck in a downward spiral on this point – you feel like the rotation is causing your hook, so you rotate less, which makes the hook even worse. To pull yourself out of this pattern, you have to trust the fact that rotation is your friend in the downswing. Rotate aggressively to the left as you swing down and you should be able to keep the club face much closer to a square position at impact.
- Extra-strong grip. If you play with your left hand turned dramatically to the right on the grip of the club, you might be hitting a hook for no other reason than a faulty grip. There is nothing wrong with playing with a strong grip, but allowing your left hand to turn too far to the right will eventually cause trouble. An extra-strong left hand grip is going to put a lot of the control of the club into your left hand, which will make it easy to 'flip' the club face over through impact. In other words, you may get too much release at the bottom of the swing, causing the face to be pointed left and the ball to hook. By adjusting your grip just slightly into a more-neutral position, you could potentially take some of the release out of your swing – and some of the hook out of your shots.
- Inside takeaway. This is a mistake that can lead you in one of two directions. If you take the club back significantly to the inside of the target line, you will be setting yourself up for trouble – but that trouble could take the form of either a hook or a slice. With the club stuck to the inside, there will be a 'moment of truth' at the top of your swing. On the one hand, you could push the club over the top, and you would wind up with a slice. On the other hand, you could bring the club down even farther to the inside, leading to an inside-out hit and a hook. For those who are fighting a hook, it is obviously the latter of the two problems that would need to be fixed. In order to get your swing path back on track, avoid an inside takeaway altogether. Use your shoulders to move the club back rather than your hands, and keep your wrists out of the action until the takeaway is complete. With a solid 'one-piece' takeaway present in your swing, the club should trace an appropriate arc going back and you just might be able to avoid the hook.
The best way to spot problems in your swing is to record yourself on video at the driving range. When you can sit down and watch your swing over and over on video, you will have a chance to pick out various elements that need to be improved. This is a much better approach than simply trying to guess at what is going wrong. Even if a friend offers to watch you swing in order to spot problems, you can't be sure that they are going to see the correct things during live action. On video, you can slow down the swing, watch it frame-by-frame, and figure out what corrections will be necessary to kill off the hook.
When you do determine how your hook needs to be corrected, the only thing to do from that point forward is to practice. There is no magic formula for improvement other than spending time on the range working on the specific points that you have uncovered. For instance, let's say that you decided that it was your grip that was causing trouble and leading to a hook. Obviously, you will need to adjust your grip to a weaker position to fix that issue. However, from there, you will still need to hit plenty of practice balls in order to solidify the change you are making. Without practice, none of the analysis of your swing is going to do any good for your actual performance on the course.
Playing a New Game
Returning to the course after spending time working on your hook on the range can be an exciting time. You know that you are now capable of playing hook-free golf – because you have been doing it on the range – so you have plenty of confidence before heading to the first tee for your next round. However, that confidence can quickly be torn down when you discover that the game is just as hard as it was the last time you played. Sure, you aren't hooking the ball anymore, but that doesn't mean that things have become easy out there.
One of the biggest challenges that you are going to face is adjusting your game to your new ball flight. If you have been fighting with the hook for some time, you have almost certainly adjusted your game in subtle ways in order to make your hook more playable. First, you have probably started to aim to the right of your intended target to make room for your hook to work back toward the fairway or green. Also, you may have opened your stance to balance out your inside-out swing path, and you may have moved the ball up in your stance as well to minimize hook spin. All of these things were necessary when you played a hook, but they must be undone now if you are going to play your best.
As you make your way around the course during your first round after getting rid of the hook, pay attention to the mistakes you are making. Are you making good swings only to see the ball land well to the right of the target? Are you coming up short because your straighter ball flight no longer travels as far as your hook? These are common errors, but that doesn't make them any less frustrating. It will be hard to keep your patience while making these mistakes, but that is exactly what you need to do. Golf is a hard game, and you shouldn't expect to perform perfectly after making a dramatic change such as altering your ball flight. Even though the hook was a negative part of your game, it was still part of your game, and it is going to take time to get used to playing without it.
The challenges that come along with getting back onto the course are a big part of why you need to make sure you spend plenty of time on the range before returning to the links. If you rush back out to the course after just one or two practice sessions, you aren't going to have much confidence in your improved swing. Most likely, you will revert back to old habits after just a few holes. Steer clear of that outcome by investing as much time in practicing your new technique as possible. By building up plenty of confidence and belief while on the range, you can survive the early struggles on the course until you get your game on track.
Dealing with an Occasional Hook
Here is the bad news as it relates to fixing your hook – you are still going to hit a hook on occasion. Even if you have fixed your technique properly, it is still possible to hit a hook while you are out on the course. Professional golfers have refined swings with beautiful technique, and even the best of the best will hit a hook from time to time. The key is to not let one or two random hooks interrupt the progress that you have made. Hitting a hook doesn't mean that your swing has gone back to its old shape, or that you have completely failed in your mission. Golf is a hard game, and even great swings make mistakes.
When you do hit a hook out on the course, immediately address the issue by thinking about what might have gone wrong. In all likelihood, it was your lower body rotation that was to blame for the error. If you found yourself in a spot where you were a bit nervous about the outcome of a shot, you may have tightened up and failed to let your lower body fire through the ball. As long as you get back to using your lower body correctly in the downswing, the hook should disappear just as quickly as it came back. It is very unlikely that anything changed about your underlying technique from one shot to the next, so the most likely explanation is a lack of rotation due to nerves (or even fatigue).
If you do hit a surprising hook during an upcoming round of golf, you need to make sure that you don't fall back into the old habits that you used to accommodate for the hook – such as aiming to the right of the target. You need to see this one hook as an isolated incident, which is likely is. If you go back to adjusting your game for the chance of a hook, you are going to do more harm than good. It is essential that you keep your confidence high and remind yourself that the mechanics which were causing your hook have been eliminated from your game. There is no reason to expect another hook to occur, so don't plan on it by changing the way that you play.
Hitting a hook can be extremely frustrating, but it doesn't have to be a life sentence. You can absolutely get rid of the hook pattern in your game, as long as you are willing to put in some work on the range to alter your technique appropriately. By taking the hook-causing elements out of your swing as quickly as possible, you should be able to get on track in the relatively near future. Be patient with the process, don't be too hard on yourself, and enjoy playing the game with a reliable and hook-free ball flight!