Fixing a Student’s Hook
Most of the time, we find ourselves teaching beginners and novices, or intermediates who have typical problems such as over-the-top, slicing, etc. From a technical viewpoint, teaching beginners and novices isn’t that difficult, because we mainly focus on the basics of setup and a good rudimentary swing motion.
Teaching intermediates with typical problems is still not overly strenuous from a technical viewpoint. Their problems tend to stem from the setup, and/or a lack of doing something correctly in their motions. For example, slicers tend not to release the club, so getting them to release properly is getting them to do something they are not already doing.
By contrast, fixing a hook is a tremendous challenge for many teachers. The problem for the golfer who hooks is often that they are already doing something properly (releasing, for example), but they are overdoing it. Getting a golfer to reduce a motion is a more difficult proposition.
A hook occurs, of course, when the clubface is closed in relation to the clubhead path through impact. There are both setup and swing considerations to take into account when evaluating exactly what the student is doing when he or she is hooking the ball. For purposes of this article, we will assume the player is right-handed.
Grip. The V’s of the grip have an acceptable range that they can point in, from the chin to the right shoulder. Research by Dr. Ralph Mann shows that a typical grip by right-handed touring professionals features the left-hand V pointing just to the right of the right ear, while the right-hand V points to the inside of the right shoulder. However, since there is an acceptable range between the chin and the right shoulder in which the V’s can point, getting a golfer who hooks to point his V’s more towards the chin may be required.
Ball position. This can get a little tricky. Many students and some teachers believe that a ball position that is too far forward automatically promotes a hook, because the clubface will have rotated to a shut position at this point. They also believe that a ball position that is too far back automatically promotes a slice, because the clubface will not have had a chance to rotate to square by this point. Such beliefs are generally incorrect! The fact is that a ball position that is too far back will often promote a hook for a player with a decent swing, because the clubhead path through impact will be to the right of where the player is aiming – in other words, an inside-out swing. Such players generally will prematurely square or close the clubface in order to prevent a push. The result? A draw or a hook.
For a ball position that is too far forward, it generally depends upon the skill level of the golfer. An average or below-average player will tend to come over the top with an open clubface, resulting in a slice. A better player will still tend to come from the inside starting down, and so by the time the clubhead reaches the ball, he is unable to keep the clubface from turning over, resulting in a pullhook. Please be advised, though, that while this scenario does occur, it doesn’t occur as often as a ball position being too far back.
Alignment. A common belief is that a closed foot alignment leads to a clubhead path traveling to the right of the target line, and this is correct for a player with a good swing. One thing that is often overlooked is that an open stance often produces a hook among good players, because they will still swing down the target line through impact. Of course, since this is to the right of where they’re aiming, this is an outside-in path through impact, and often produces a hook. When a player who is swinging inside-out due to an open stance assumes a square stance and then swings on-plane, it will likely feel as if he is swinging the clubhead way to the outside on the backswing and outside-in on the forward swing.
Body rotation. When the body’s rotation through impact is slower than it should be, the arms and hands are rotating the clubhead through impact faster than what is desirable, producing a closed clubface through impact.
Transition. A proper transition has the correct blend of lateral and rotary hip motion. If there is too much lateral motion, the clubhead gets dragged too far inside, and the result is an inside-out swing.
Swing plane. Assuming that the player has a fundamentally correct setup, at the top of the swing, the left arm should be parallel to what the shaft angle was at address, as viewed from down the target line. A player who starts the downswing flatter than this will swing inside-out, again normally producing a hook.
Right-side dominance. In a good golf swing, both the left and right sides do their fair share of the work. If the golfer is right-side dominant, this can lead to an early rotation of the clubhead through impact.
SWING KEYS AND DRILLS THAT WORK
Hopefully, getting the golfer to set up properly will eliminate his or her hook, but this doesn’t always happen. Following are some swing keys and drills that have proven effective in battling a hook:
Right foot back drill. This is for golfers who slide their hips excessively forward to start the downswing. Have the golfer set up properly, and then draw the right foot back in a perpendicular manner from the target line approximately 8-10 inches. By swinging from this setup position, it is very hard to slide the hips, and upper-body rotation is emphasized.
Let go with right hand drill. From a normal setup position, take a normal swing with the exception of letting go with the right hand at impact. This will get the left side to do its fair share of the work and lessen rightside dominance.
Shoulder rotation drill. Golfers who swing inside-out use their shoulder turn incorrectly on the forward swing, as the left shoulder raises too quickly and goes too far to the right, while the right shoulder lowers too quickly. Have the golfer, without a club, put their right hand on the front of their left shoulder and “swing” into a top of- the-backswing position. From there, have them start down by pushing their left shoulder down and behind them. Another version of this drill involves what is known as “covering the ball” with the chest. Have the student assume a setup position without a club, with their left hand on the top of their stomach and their right hand and arm reaching towards the ball. Have them “swing” to the top, and from there have them move their right shoulder out and their left shoulder behind them, almost in an over-the-top move, into an impact position. Although this shouldn’t actually happen in a good golf swing, with this drill the shoulders will be open at “impact.”
Swing the handle to the left. If the golfer starts down properly, through impact and after the handle of the club should be swung to the left as quickly as possible. Some players and teachers emphasize the clubhead moving quickly to the left, which is fine, but some players do better by thinking about the handle.
Keep forearms level and hands low through impact. A player who hooks often has the right forearm slightly higher than the left forearm through impact, which will close the clubface at impact. A good key is to keep the hands low through impact, perhaps trying to return the clubshaft to the same plane it was in at address, while keeping the forearms level with each other. This key also will promote the body rotating faster through impact.
Correcting a student’s hook can be a frustrating, difficult task. With the above keys and drills, along with a healthy dose of patience, the student should be able to work his way out of hooking the ball in due time.