Slice. It is one of golf's dirty words. It is not to be mistaken with the fade, which golfers can control while playing doglegs or hitting into greens. We're talking banana ball. A shot with more spin than a Cliff Lee curveball. A shot that puts your ball in the next fairway or lake, or into traffic. Most of this page could be used to explain why a ball slices. And most golfers have spent hours trying to correct it. But there are ways to live with a slice, and even fix it. Tampa Bay area pros offer their advice:
Alex Koskos, PGA pro, Meadow Oaks Golf and Country Club, Hudson:
It's in the grip: “The grip is usually the culprit with the slice. Though the swing plane is moving from outside to inside, creating the side spin, most weekend golfers have a weak grip. Try moving the left-hand grip (for a right-handed golfer) more into the fingers than the palm. This will move the 'V' of the left index finger and thumb pointing at the right shoulder. This should help in getting the clubhead to roll over, or pronate. And as always, never squeeze the club too hard. I ask all my students: 'How tight do you hold the steering wheel of your car?' ''
Darryl Spelich, head pro, Tides Golf Course, Seminole:
Toe up to Toe up: "On the backswing, stop the club at the hip. If the toe of the club is pointed up, it's square. On the follow-through, stop at hip again. If the toe is up, it's square. To do so on the follow- through, the clubhead will be square to the target. Try it. It really works."
Rick Sopka, 2010 North Florida section teacher of the year, Mangrove Bay pro, St. Petersburg:
Tilt the shoulders: "At address, I want you to pay attention to your shoulder tilt. Your right shoulder should be lower than your left for right-handed players. When you return to impact, try to increase that tilt as your weight shifts forward. This will help you work more under the ball as opposed to over the ball, which produces a cut across the path and creates a slice.''
Lew Smither III, head pro, Cypress Run Golf Club, Tarpon Springs:
Focus on the elbows: "As a quick tip, I would like the elbows to start and stay in the same proximity throughout the swing. If this happens, the hands and arms rotate through impact, which allows the face to square up or even close through impact."
Kris Mahoney, head pro, Silverthorn Golf and Country Club, Zephyrhills:
Align yourself correctly: "What I see most with people who slice the ball is that they align their body at the target, which makes the clubface point to the right of their intended target. Most golfers are told to swing at their target, but when they are aligned poorly, they must manipulate their swing path in order to do so, which inevitably causes wayward shots. It is a good rule of thumb always to align your body based on where your clubface is aimed. Always aim your club first, and align your body according to that position. You should feel like your body alignment is positioned slightly to the left of your target. A great drill for the range is to take a club and point it directly at your target. Place another club about a foot or two left of, and parallel to, the first one. Use the first club to assist in aiming your clubface and the second one to align your body. This will give you great feedback on what proper aim/alignment should feel and look like.''
Tony Simpson, PGA teaching pro, Chi Chi Rodriguez Driving Range, Clearwater:
It's all in the swing: "Since a slice is caused by swinging across the target line, practice with putting an empty range-ball bucket (or object) just behind and outside the target line from your ball. Hitting that a couple of times will cure you quickly. A good golfer will make a nice turn behind the ball and turn the body through without moving ahead of the ball. Once the swing center passes the ball, the hands cannot release. Also, make a line on the golf ball and place it on the tee with the line toward the target. Then hit the ball on the inside back quadrant of the ball and it will go straight with a nice draw.''
Rotate the hands at the hip: "Another tip is that many people try too hard to get the clubface back to square at impact, and when they get to impact, the clubface is actually open. To correct this, think of starting the rotation of the hands at approximately the waist or hip-high position on the forward swing so that you have the opportunity for the face to close going through impact and then to a full follow-through position over your lead shoulder.''
Terry Decker, head pro, St. Petersburg Country Club:
Set up square, throw the club face: "Most players who slice have their shoulders open at address. Players need to set up strong with their shoulders square to closed at address. The other tip is for high-handicap slicers to forget about holding the set angle of the shaft and arm on the downswing. The thought of throwing the head past the (club) handle can help them square the clubface instead of pulling the handle past where the hands started at address.''
Richard Veghte, head pro, Westchase Golf Club, Tampa:
Swing uphill: "The most common type of slice curve of the ball comes from an outside-to-inside swing path with an open clubface. A slicer needs to create the feel of the club swinging on a better inside path during the downswing. A great drill is to swing on an uphill lie on the side of the teeing ground. Try to create the feel of the club staying low to the ground while swinging up the hill. This will improve the path of the club through impact.''
Rodney Page can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.