Like most amateurs who don't play regularly -- and haven't had lessons from a PGA Professional -- I hit a left-to-right shot. Call it a cut, power fade, whatever. But I'm prone to the occasional ugly slice into the woods.
Over 40 years of playing golf, I've learned to control it somewhat. But it's not particularly handy on dogleg lefts, when the flag's on the left side of the green, or on a windy day. When the wind's blowing from the left, I can't aim far enough over to keep the ball in the fairway.
So the idea of hitting a draw -- on purpose, mind you, not the unexpected pull -- has always eluded me.
That is, until a media outing the day after the Masters at Reynolds Plantation. Adidas was showcasing its new Asym Energy Boost golf shoes, so many of us were invited down to check 'em out.
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After his top-30 finish at Augusta National, Jason Day was on hand to model the shoe, answer questions and then hit some balls on the range. Then we all had a chance to takes some swings while wearing a pair. Which leads to my story.
After a couple of swings, I heard a voice behind me ask, "How long have you had that slice?"
Pretty much from the first round I ever played, I replied. He then said he could fix that immediately -- and when I turned around, I realized it was PGA Professional Hank Haney who had been watching my poor, poor pitiful swing.
And in a span of less than 10 minutes, Tiger Woods' former coach had me hitting draws with authority. Here's the six-step approach he used that fixed my swing flaw, hopefully for good.
1. Stop swinging from the heels
According to the launch monitor system at Reynolds' practice facility -- known as the Kingdom -- my weight at address was 95 percent on my heels. Contrast that to Day, who has 60 percent of his weight on the balls of his feet before he swings the club.
What that means is I'm already guaranteed a wrong weight distribution from the get-go. Instead of moving laterally, parallel to the swing, the launch monitor shows I'm moving in a diagonal direction away from the ball.
Haney fixed that in two ways. One, he had me stand slightly farther from the ball at address and lean more forward to better distribute my weight. Two, he took away some of my knee bend and had me lean from the waist instead.
2. Stay back on the ball
At the top of his backswing, Day has nearly his entire weight centered over his back heel. I'm almost the opposite. According to the launch monitor, I'm already leaning on my left foot, robbing me of the ability to power through the ball.
Even though I make solid contact, my arms are doing most of the work. Haney's solution? Get more turn below the waist on the backswing, which helps keep my weight back longer.
3. Strengthen the grip, lighten the pressure
I use an interlocking grip, but Haney noticed my left hand needs to be stronger at address. Also, he pointed out that my left thumb should slide right into the crease made by the palm of my right hand.
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In addition, like most amateurs, I have a "death grip" on the club. Haney showed me how to relax my grip pressure on the club, allowing the club to do its job more efficiently.
4. Stop casting the club
One of the things Haney noticed right away is that like many amateurs, I have a very steep swing, which means I come "over the top." When I take the club straight back and over my head, there's little change I'll get back on the correct plane. I'm not turning my lower body as much as I should, either.
It explains why I hit the big ball before the little ball, particularly on long irons. The solution? While I held the club, Haney grabbed the shaft and showed how the takeaway should be more at a diagonal -- with hips and arms both moving at the same time.
After doing it wrong for four decades, that's the most difficult thing to repeat correctly. It feels like I'm exaggerating the swing -- but the launch monitor, and the results -- do not lie.
5. Hit to right field
When you add up the weight transfer, grip, takeaway and over-the-top swing, it's not surprising that my tendency is to try to pull the ball. That's good in baseball, not so good in a golf swing.
Haney used the same idea when he said, "Swing like you're trying to hit the ball to right field." To do that in baseball, your hands need to be ahead of the bat. It's the same idea in golf.
By swinging around my body instead of up and over, it's much easier to get in that position at impact.
6. Don't forget to finish
With a steep swing -- and a lack of lower body turn -- it's almost impossible to finish correctly. By rolling my right wrist over the left at impact and then exaggerating the hip turn and concentrating on getting the club to my left shoulder, Haney helped me understand where I should be at the completion of the swing.
Again, it feels odd. But the launch monitor -- which showed me hitting 2-3 degrees open face at impact before Haney's assistance and 7 degrees closed at impact afterward -- is proof that just a few tweaks can make a huge difference.
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