The hook might be the hardest ball flight in all of golf to manage.

Senior Hook Fault Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro Dean Butler

Countless players curse their ongoing slice, and that is a frustrating problem to be sure, but the nature of the hook makes it particularly nasty. Once the ball starts hooking, it’s usually going to have to hit something if it is going to come to rest anywhere on the course. Between the wild side-to-side curve and the low rate of backspin, a hook is a ball flight that’s almost certain to lead to trouble.

If you find yourself dealing with a persistent hook, this article may help to set you on the right path. Do your best to set your frustrations aside while thinking about this problem in a logical manner. To straighten out your ball flight, something in your timing and technique will need to be corrected. Also, you might need to change some things regarding the way you aim, and even the way you think. In the content below, we will come at this topic from a variety of angles, and hopefully at least one or two of our points will help you straighten things out.

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.

Why is the Ball Hooking?

Senior Hook Fault Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro Dean Butler

One of the major hurdles standing between the average golfer and improved play is a simple misunderstanding of how the game works. If you don’t understand how the club interacts with the ball at impact, and how that interaction dictates what happens when the ball takes off into the distance, you’ll be doomed to repeat your mistakes over and over again. A basic understanding of how the game works is crucially important to your long-term prospects for improvement.

On a simplistic level, the ball is hooking because your club face is closed relative to your swing path through the hitting area. In other words, if you could visualize a line that is traced by the path of your swing through the ball, the club face would be pointing to the left of that line. With the club face pointing left relative to the swing path, hook spin is going to be produced, and the ball is going to turn left as it flies. However, not all shots that have the face pointed left are destined to fail, as this can actually be a great way to play the game, when it is controlled properly.

Everything in golf is about degrees. If the face is only closed relative to the swing path by a slight degree, you will likely produce a beautiful draw that heads generally toward your target (assuming you aimed properly, of course). Countless players use a draw to great effect, so it’s certainly possible to play with this closed face position at impact. When it becomes a problem is when it becomes too dramatic. With the face closed significantly, or the swing path moving dramatically from inside to out – or both – you’ll wind up with a hook. Depending on the degree, some hooks travel down the fairway a decent distance before really starting to turn. Others, however, will start turning left immediately and will never have a chance at a positive outcome.

So, we now know that you’ll need to get your club face position, along with your swing path, under control if you want to stop hitting hooks. This piece of knowledge is highly valuable, as plenty of players watch the ball hook quickly to the left and wonder what could have gone wrong. You don’t need to wonder anymore, as you will know exactly why the ball is spinning so hard to the left. Does that mean it is going to be easy to fix this mistake? Of course not – but you’ll be starting from a place of knowledge rather than confusion, which will give you a head start over others in the same position.

Basic Corrections

Senior Hook Fault Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro Dean Butler

In this section, we are going to present a number of possible corrections which will hopefully lead to straight shots. Why so many different tips in this one section? Simple – while everyone hooks the ball for the same reason, the club face being closed relative to the swing path, the underlying causes of those hooks can vary wildly from player to player. You’ll have to work through the various points below to pick out the ones that you think will apply to your game. From there, the only thing left to do is get out to the driving range and work on your swing. With any luck, you’ll be able to make some adjustments that will reduce your hook spin, and you will start to produce better shots in the near future.

  • Weaken your grip. This is a good place to start when you are looking for hook solutions. If the face is closing quickly at the bottom of the swing, it may be that your grip is too strong, and you are using too much hand action on the way down. A strong grip is one where the left hand is turned significantly to the right as you look down from address. If you are currently using a strong grip and you are hitting a lot of hooks, try turning that left hand a bit to the left as compared to your current grip. Even just a minor adjustment can make a big difference here. It’s important to remember when working on your grip on the range that it will take some time to get comfortable with having your hands in a different position. Don’t worry if the first few swings feel awkward – that is inevitable. Give it some time so you can get comfortable and carefully watch your ball flight to see if it looks like the pattern is straightening itself out.
  • Improve your lower body turn. One of the common causes of a hook is one you might not think of at first – a poor lower body turn. Here’s how it happens – during the backswing, you do a good job of turning your shoulders away from the target and getting into a nice position. Then, as you swing down, the club moves toward the ball, but your lower body fails to rotate as it should. As a result, the club face closes prematurely because you are using your hands so actively on the way down. If you combine those active hands with an inside-out swing path, you’ll be left with a hook. The solution here is simple, although it won’t necessarily be easy to implement. You will need to improve your lower body rotation through the hitting area, which is something that will help you fight off the hook, and it might help you pick up some power, as well. During your range sessions, a significant part of your focus should be placed on the timing of this rotation and how it works together with your shoulder turn. On the way back, you need to turn your shoulders fully before your hips take over to drive the downswing. As your timing improves, you should find that the ball has less of a tendency to turn left, and the quality of the strike may be improved at the same time.
  • Make a wider takeaway. There is a tendency among amateur golfers to make a rather narrow takeaway, meaning the club stays in close to the body as the swing gets started. This is usually not the best plan for most players. A wide takeaway tends to work better, as it will give you more room to work with throughout the rest of the swing. For those who are dealing with a hook, making a narrow takeaway can lead to a dramatically inside-out swing path, making it hard to avoid the hook even if you hold off the club face reasonably well. To add width to your takeaway, keep your hands and wrists quiet while you use your shoulders to get the swing started. Turn your shoulders away from the target and keep your wrists out of the action for the first foot or two of the backswing. By the time you reach the top of the backswing, you should have plenty of room between the club and the right shoulder, helping you swing down on a neutral path.
  • More upright path. It’s also possible for a particularly flat swing plane to lead to a hook, or at least a hook tendency. You can play good golf with a flat swing plane, but if you go too far – or if a flat plane isn’t a good fit for you personally – a hook may be the result. Try taking a video of your swing and see how your plane looks. If the club is wrapping around your back in the backswing rather than getting up over your right shoulder, consider raising your plane slightly and see how the ball flight is affected. It shouldn’t take a dramatic change to shift your ball flight pattern from a hook to a draw or even a gentle fade.

You hook isn’t going to correct itself. If you keep making the same kinds of swings, you are going to continue getting the same kinds of results. That means you need to get out to the driving range and work on your technique if you want to straighten out your shots. As you practice, remember one important point – golf is hard! Improved results are likely to show up immediately, and even if you do hit some better shots near the start, there will probably be plenty of bad ones along the way, as well. Be patient and celebrate your good shots while understanding that it’s okay to hit a few bad ones as you go. Eventually, the bad ones will become less frequent, and your game will be improved as a result.

Setting Up for Success

Senior Hook Fault Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro Dean Butler

It’s possible to destine yourself for a hook before you even start your swing. If you stand in the wrong position, you’ll be making it more likely that the ball will hook – and that might be the outcome even if the dynamics of your swing work properly. It would be a shame to hit hooks on the course because of something as simple as a faulty address position, so let’s get ahead of this problem with some basic tips to make sure you are on the right track.

  • Get as square as possible. A square stance is one that will help you avoid producing too much hook spin. What does it mean to be square? The concept is simple – you select a target line for each shot, and you then position your body to be parallel with that line. In other words, an imaginary line drawn through your toes, knees, or shoulders would be parallel with the target line you’ve chosen. You can think of a square stance as a neutral stance, as it doesn’t really favor one type of ball flight over the other. It’s certainly possible to play well from a slightly open or closed stance, but you don’t want to stray too far from a square position.
  • Flex your knees. It’s a common error to stand with the knees straight while getting ready to swing. This error can cause a long list of problems, including a weak swing and a swing that doesn’t follow a consistent path. You don’t need to get down deep into a knee bend at address, but there should be at least a little flex to build a stable platform for your swinging motion. Try experimenting on the range with varying degrees of knee flex until you settle on a stance that feels comfortable and leads to predictable ball flights.
  • Check your chin. This is perhaps the most overlooked piece of the setup position – and one of the most overlooked tips in all of golf. When you take your stance, you should have your chin up away from your chest – which is the opposite of what many players do when getting ready to swing. The concept of ‘keeping the head down’ is ingrained in many golfers, to the point where they push their chin down into their chest at address and leave it there. The problem with this posture is what it does to your shoulder turn. With your chin down, your left shoulder won’t have any space to use on the way back, and your backswing will be affected as a result. Either you won’t make much of a turn away from the target, or you will stand up out of your posture in an effort to rotate fully. Fortunately, this is a pretty simple adjustment to make, so if you currently stand over the ball with your chin down, moving it up away from your chest will take nothing more than paying attention to this detail. Of course, you don’t want to have that point on your mind while actually playing on the course, so work on it at the range in advance.
  • The importance of proper aim. Believe it or not, aiming your shots correctly can actually help you stay away from the hook. When you aim incorrectly, it’s possible to promote the very hook that you are trying to avoid – and this can be something of a vicious cycle when you start going down this road. Usually, the cycle starts when a player begins aiming just a little bit right to accommodate a draw. That’s not a problem, but it can turn into a problem if you gradually start to aim farther and farther right. As you keep turning your body, your draw will have to get bigger and bigger to bring the ball back to the target. Eventually, that draw will turn into a hook and you will find yourself aiming way right of the target for most of your shots. At that point, you’ll have a lot of work to do to straighten things out again, as you’ll be used to aiming right and hitting a big hook. If you start aiming back at the target again, you’ll still hook the ball and miss well to the left. On the other hand, if you work on your swing technique while still aiming right, you’ll miss in that direction. The best way to unwind this problem is to work hard on the range for a period of time while staying away from the course. If you have an off-season where you play, use that time to fix both your swing technique and your aim.

Don’t take your setup for granted. It might seem like a small piece of the puzzle, but in reality, the way you stand before the swing has a lot to do with where the ball is going to end up when all is said and done. If you are having trouble evaluating your current stance, you can ask a friend to take a video of your swing – or even just a picture of your stance – so you can see how it looks and make any adjustments that seem necessary.

The Right Mindset

Senior Hook Fault Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro Dean Butler

It’s easy to think that golf is a game all about mechanics and nothing else. Some golfers seem to believe they can program themselves with the right techniques on the range, and then just execute those techniques on the course. That approach might lead to satisfactory results from time to time, but there are some issues with it as well. The most successful players tend to bring together solid techniques with the right mindset required for producing good shots swing after swing.

With regard to the hook, one important piece of the mental game is to focus on keeping your lower body moving all the way through the swing. If you get nervous, or you don’t have a clear plan for any given shot, you are likely to give up on your lower body rotation and the ball may hook to the left. One of the best things you can do for the quality of your play is to commit yourself to turning hard all the way through the downswing and into the finish. This will be hard to do in some instances, such as when you are nervous, so the more you can practice it on the range the better you will be able to execute on the course.

You’ll also need to find a way to put the hook out of your mind when trouble is lurking on the left side of the course. For instance, if you need to hit a drive on a hole where there is a pond to the left of the fairway, you can’t let the presence of that hazard influence your swing. Sure, it’s possible that you will miss left and wind up in trouble, but it’s always possible to hit bad shots in golf. The key is to accept that there is risk with every shot and just put that risk to the side mentally while you do your best to execute the swing. Trusting your swing isn’t always going to be easy but make that goal a top priority on the course. Will you always hit good shots when you trust your swing? Of course not – but you’ll be far more successful than if you are doubting yourself and worrying about the hook at every turn.

Hitting a consistent hook can be frustrating. Nobody likes seeing the ball turn hard to the left over and over again, but you can work your way out of this problem by paying attention to detail and spending time on the range. With any luck, your hook will gradually turn into a gentle draw, and you’ll suddenly be in much more control of your game from round to round. As frustrating as golf can be when you are hitting a hook, it can be just as much fun when you know where the ball is going to go even before making your swing. Good luck!