Did that headline leave you scratching your noggin? Understandable.
True, an over-the-top swing will send the clubhead left and the ball curving right. But if your swing is on line or, preferably, inside-to-out, a left-veering clubhead is actually a good thing.
Here's why. If you focus on swinging straight down the target line through impact, you'll restrict the natural release of the forearms and wrists. The clubface will stay open, resulting in a blocked shot or slice. By swinging the club left after contact, you'll roll over the arms and hands, squaring the clubface and hitting the mark.
There's a simple way to remember and utilize this tip. Once you've lined up at the target – the green, for instance – find another spot about 20 yards to the left. That's the target for your club. As you swing, try to “hit” the left-hand target with your clubhead.
Practice this motion and watch your shots start online – and stay there.
Swing Left to Hit the Ball Straight?
Hitting the golf ball straight is a tremendous challenge. In fact, many golf teachers tell their students to not even try to hit the ball straight, as it is simply too difficult. Instead, many golf instructors will have their players attempt to turn the ball in one direction or another as it moves through the air. By intentionally hitting a curve, golfers can rid themselves of the pressure of trying to hit the ball straight.
With that said, you do want to be able to hit the ball relatively straight, even if you are using a fade or a draw at the same time. It is nearly impossible to play great golf while using a hook or a slice, so the majority of your ball flight needs to be moving straight ahead. Sure, there is going to be some turn along the way, but finding a way to hit the ball largely in a straight path toward the target will do wonders for your scores.
For a right-handed golfer, one of the best ways to learn how to hit the ball 'straight' is to understand the feeling of swinging to the left. Of course, as a right-handed player, you have to swing the club to the left if you are going to hit the ball at all – the target is to your left at address, obviously, so the swing must go to the left as well. Understanding the feelings and techniques that go along with trying to swing to the left will help you improve your overall level of play.
In this article, we are going to discuss the idea of swinging to the left as you move the club through impact. Should the club be chasing the ball down the target line for as far as possible? Or, should your path veer to the left shortly after you contact the ball in order to produce a straight shot? What about the risk of hitting a slice? We will confront these questions and more in the content below. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you will have a clear picture in mind of the ideal way to swing the club to produce the straightest possible golf shots.
You will notice that most of the instruction in this article relates directly to the club rather than your body positioning. This is intentional – too many golfers get away from thinking about the action of the club as it swings. While it is important to position your body properly in order to deliver a powerful blow, your body isn't actually going to hit the ball. It is the club which will contact the ball and send it toward the target, so you need to make sure the club is well positioned first and foremost. By thinking about what you need to do with the club, you should be able to put your body in a position to lead to successful outcomes.
All of the content 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 a Straight Swing Path
In theory, it sounds great to simply swing directly toward the target. After all, if you are trying to hit the ball toward your selected target, why not swing right at that target with a square club face? The problem is the fact that you are standing next to the ball, rather than directly on top of the target line. Since you are standing off to the side, your swing arc is not going to be able to trace the target line for very long. Even if you swing down the line for a moment at the bottom, the club is going to have to leave that line in short order. The swing is an arc, and as such, it cannot stay on a straight line for more than a moment.
With that simple explanation, you can put the idea of a straight swing path out of your mind once and for all. Your swing is always going to be an arc, and that arc is always going to have to meet the ball at a specific point along its path. The possibilities for how your swing arc can interact with the ball are as follows –
- Impact at the apex. When you contact the ball exactly at the apex of your swing arc, you will be as close to a 'straight swing path' as you can get. The club will momentarily be moving down the line, meaning you should be able to hit the ball relatively straight as long as the club face is square to the target. This is a desirable option if you can execute it correctly, and we will discuss this method in further detail later in the article.
- Impact to the right of the apex. If you hit the ball before you have reached the apex of your swing arc (as viewed from your position above the ball), you will be using an inside-out swing path. The club will be moving farther away from you as it goes through the hitting area, and a draw ball flight is the likely result (depending on the club face angle, of course). Many golfers prefer to play this way because they like the power that can be added to the swing through the use of a draw pattern.
- Impact to the left of the apex. As you might expect, this last option is the opposite of what is seen on the previous point. In this case, when you contact the ball to the left of the top of the swing arc, you will be using an outside-in path and you will be prone to hitting a fade (or a slice). This is the pattern featured by many amateur golfers. While it is possible to hit good shots this way, you also may struggle with power and consistency. Some golfers who hit the ball after they have reached the apex of the swing arc also make steep swings, resulting in shots with excessive spin rates.
At first blush, you might think this one is obvious – it makes the most sense to contact the ball perfect at the apex of your swing arc. Sure, that does make sense, but it is easier said than done for many players. Consistently making contact at the perfect point along your arc is no easy feat, and it is going to take a tremendous amount of practice – and skill – to do so. For that reason, plenty of players opt to intentionally hit the ball on one side of the arc or the other to produce a predictable shot shape. In the end, the right choice for you is the one which will yield the best results, and that can only be determined through plenty of practice.
Making It Work
If you decide that you would like to attempt to hit the ball perfectly at the top of your swing arc, you are going to need a specific practice plan to make that happen. In this section, we are going to lay out just such a plan. It will take plenty of hard work to actually bring this plan to life in your game, so expect to spend plenty of time on the range before you see results coming through on the course.
When you are ready to get to work, follow the step by step plan below.
- In order to succeed with this style of play, you need to first establish a consistent, accurate ball position to use for all of your shots. Of course, your ball position will need to change based on the club in your hands, so it is important to figure out where to place the ball for each of your 13 full-swing clubs. For your wedges, start by placing the ball right in the middle of your stance. As the clubs get longer, you are going to move the ball further and further forward in your stance – until you reach the driver, when the ball is placed just inside your left heel. It will take some experimentation to dial in the perfect ball positions for your own swing, but this framework of going from the middle of your stance to inside the left heel is a great starting point.
- When you have dialed in your ball position, the next step is to work on your rotation through the hitting area. You have to rotate nicely in order to swing on an inside-to-inside path, but unfortunately this is where many amateur golfers come up short. A fair amount of golfers are able to handle the rotation with their shoulders in the backswing, but downswing rotation in another matter. You need to use your hips to turn toward the target, and that action should begin as soon as the backswing is complete. With great downswing rotation, it will be rather easy to swing to the left through the ball, as that is the direction that the lower half of your body will be moving.
- Once you have checked off ball position and lower body rotation, the last piece of the puzzle is going to be a full release with your hands through the ball. In order to have the club actually turn to the left immediately after contact, your right hand has to fire the club head into impact. This action will cause the face to turn down and hopefully square up to the target. Professional golfers do an excellent job of releasing the club, yet amateur players typically come up short on this point. You do need to be careful not to release the club early, however, so hold off on this move until your lower body is clear and the club is just about to reach impact. Finding the right timing on your release can be difficult, so start with short pitch shots and gradually work your way up into fuller swings.
The act of swinging to the left is mostly made up of three key components – finding the right ball position, using your lower body correctly to rotate toward the target, and releasing your hands through the ball. It isn't going to be easy to bring these things together necessarily, so be patient with the process and trust that the results will be there in the end.
Which Direction Should You Go?
There is a lot to be said, obviously, for trying to swing the club directly at the target. As has been mentioned throughout this article, however, that task is not going to be an easy one. Even if you are able to master it on the range, you may not have the same degree of success – with the same level of consistency – when you are on the course. Unless you can repeat this type of swing time after time, it isn't going to do you much good in the end.
For most golfers, the better plan is to use a swing path which is intentionally moving either outside-in or inside-out at the moment of impact. When you go this way, you will be attempting to execute a specific ball flight which you will use on the majority of your shots. Instead of trying for the elusive straight ball, you will categorize yourself as either a draw or fade player. As you practice, you should gain more and more control over the ball flight of your choice, and your scores should come down as a result.
If you decide that this is, in fact, the better way to go, you will need to pick between a draw pattern and a fade pattern. This shouldn't be a choice that happens by accident – rather, it should be an intentional pick based on a number of factors. Consider the following points when deciding which shot shape you will work toward in your upcoming practice sessions.
- Draw for distance. Do you need help creating as much distance as possible? If so, you will want to select a draw. While your swing isn't going to be any faster when you swing through the ball from inside-out, the reduced backspin rate and powerful impact position should result in longer overall shots. It should be noted, however, that you shouldn't automatically select a draw ball flight simply because it can help you hit longer shots. If you are already a reasonably long hitter, for instance, you could decide that some of the other points on this list are more important than distance. Remember, this is a game which is about accuracy first and foremost, so distance is not the only factor to consider.
- Fade for control. For pinpoint control and shots that stop relatively quickly after they land, it is a fade that you will want to favor. Bringing the ball in left to right means you will be using a higher rate of backspin, which obviously helps the ball to stop quickly when it strikes the turf. You are also likely to avoid big misses when you choose a fade over a draw. It is possible for a draw to turn into a hook without much trouble, but a fade is rarely going to morph into a slice from one swing to the next. For players who have plenty of power already, or for players who tend to play short courses, the fade may be the right pick.
- Draw for wind control. Do you play much of your golf in a windy area? If the answer is yes, you will want to opt for a draw. Most draw shots are going to fly lower than similar fades, meaning you will be able to keep the ball out of the wind with greater success. Also, drawing the ball imparts a lower rate of backspin on your shots, which will also help you avoid the effects of the breeze. If you are going back and forth on this choice and you happen to live in a windy area, let the wind be the tiebreaker and opt for a draw.
- Match your course. If you are a golfer who plays the same home course over and over again, you may want to tailor your game to the course you play. Most courses are going to favor either a draw or a fade, as few are designed well enough to treat each ball flight equally. Think about the layout of your home course and decide which type of player it suits. Once you make that determination, you can factor it in to your overall decision making. If you expect most of your rounds of golf in the years to come to be played on this one course, matching your ball flight to its demands makes perfect sense.
Once you have selected your chosen ball flight pattern, get right down to work on making that idea a reality. At first, the results may be a little rough – in other words, you might be able to hit draws on command, but you may not have much control over their final location. That's okay, you shouldn't expect to have great control over the ball at first. Continue to practice your new ball flight and you should notice improved control gradually as you gain both experience and confidence.
What About the Short Game?
Swing path is a topic which is just as relevant in the short game as it is in the long game. When talking chipping and putting, the conversation is going to change slightly, as you don't need to make nearly as long of a swing as you do when hitting a driver or long iron. However, the swing is still an arc in the short game, just on a smaller scale.
With regard to applying your swing arc to your putts, it is crucial that you contact the ball at the apex of the arc each and every time. You aren't going to be spinning the ball back toward the target when putting, so impact needs to occur at the perfect point along the arc – and the face of the putter needs to be square to the target. Fortunately, this task is easier when putting than it is when making a full swing. Your putting stroke is extremely simple as compared to the full swing, and it is much slower as well. As long as you use a good ball position in the middle of your stance, and you make a fundamentally sound stroke, the results should be satisfactory.
The story is largely the same when it comes to chipping the golf ball. Although your chip shots are going to get up into the air, they won't fly long enough for any spin on the ball to take effect. Therefore, you need to match up swing path with face angle in order to chip the ball toward the target. Experiment with various ball positions in order to find the placement which will lead to accurate chipping on a consistent basis. Also, hold your weight steady throughout the chipping action in order to keep your swing arc in the same place time after time. If you slide from side to side as you chip, your arc will move around and you will never be as accurate as you would like.
To play good golf, you need to be in control of your swing path. Whether you try to hit the ball straight by swinging to the left, or you use another part of your swing arc to strike the ball, you need to repeat your plan as consistently as possible. Pay attention to this point on the practice range so you can dial in the ball flight you intend to use on the course. Although it is possible to play good golf by catching the ball at the apex of your arc, most players will find more success through the use of an intentional fade or draw. Good luck!