Neither a slice nor a hook has ever led to a smiling golfer (unless you’re their opponent). And it is little consolation that it’s usually one or the other that seems to be always lurking, haunting the golfer’s psyche and showing up when there’s water or OB on that side of the course! So let’s take a look at a golf slice vs hook, why these tendencies occur, the differences between them, how to compensate for them or outright fix them.
By understanding the root causes and learning how to “diagnose” our swing issues on the fly we can learn how to completely eliminate one or the other, and who doesn't want that!
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What Is A Slice In Golf?
A slice is a shot that, for a right-handed golfer, curves dramatically to the right during its flight. This is the over-done version of a cut or fade shot, moving with the same spin and trajectory but way too much of it. A ball that starts left and curves right is a pull-slice and can be recovered from. A ball that starts right and heads MORE right is known as a block-slice or push-slice and best case scenario you might get to meet the golfers from the group ahead of you who are already on the next hole. Worst case scenario you’re reaching for another golf ball.
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What Is A Hook In Golf?
A hook shot is a shot that curves too much right-to-left for a right-handed golfer. This is the drunk uncle of the coveted draw shot, moving in the same direction but uncontrollably so. If the ball starts left and draws sharply MORE left it can be called a smother hook.
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Difference Between A Slice And A Hook
Both of these shots are basically mirror images of one another. A slice is an inverted hook. Hooks curve too much right-to-left and slices curve too much left-to-right for right-handed golfers. For left handed golfers the terminology is opposite, meaning if the ball curves away from where a lefty is standing (right-to-left) it is called a slice even though it curves the same way as a righty’s hook. Likewise a left hander’s hook shot curves the same way as a right hander’s slice.
What Causes A Slice?
A slice is caused by a face that is open to the path, plain and simple. Any combination that has this face/path relationship will produce some variety of a cut or slice. Typically the worst kinds of slices are where a right-handed golfer is swinging left and the face is pointed right (open). You can swing to the right, however, and still manage to slice it if the face is even MORE open than that (push slice).
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You can also have the face shut or closed (pointed left) and swing dramatically left of that and hit a pull slice. In every instance, however, by the laws of physics, the face must be open to the path or the path tracking left (for a right-handed golfer) of where the face is pointed.
What Causes A Hook?
The ball flight laws also tell us that a hook shot is produced when the face is closed to the path. Any shot where this describes the face/path relationship will produce either a draw or a hook, depending on how far apart these two factors are.
The biggest hook is when the face is pointed left of the target and the swing direction is pointed right (for a right-handed golfer). This will produce a very sharp, very devastating “snap hook.” You can still hook the ball with the face pointed right of the target if you manage to swing on a path even MORE right than that, and likewise the smother hook or “snipe” shot is a result of swinging left and shutting the face down to point even MORE left than that at impact, resulting in a shot that starts off bad and only gets worse.
The Caveat: Gear Effect
While the above description is far and away the biggest factor in determining the cause of a hook or a slice, modern radar and high speed camera technology has revealed one factor that can complicate things a little bit: gear effect.
Sparing all of the physics details, we have found out that shots off of the toe produce extra hook spin (or can reduce slice spin) while shots off of the heel can produce extra slice spin (or reduce hook spin). This is especially important to consider with the driver.
While face to path ratios are the #1 thing you should be investigating, be aware also that strike location can affect the results, so don’t drive yourself crazy because it is actually possible to have a relatively square face, a relatively neutral path, and still hook or slice it because you hit it off of the toe or the heel (especially at high swing speeds with a driver), so don’t overlook that factor and start chasing changes for the wrong reasons.
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Which Is Better: A Slice Or A Hook?
A true golfer might say “it all depends where the hazard is!”
Conventionally, the hook is the miss of the better player and the slice is the miss of the amateur or high-handicapper. However, Lee Trevino had one of the best one-liners/truisms ever in golf when he said “You can talk to a fade, but a hook won’t listen!”
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So let’s examine these two facts. The hook is the miss of the better player (generally speaking) because the common pattern for success in golf is a club face that gets square or closes down through impact and a path that approaches the ball “from the inside.” There are, of course, notable exceptions but this is true of many high-level players regardless of whether their favored shot is a draw or a cut. So over-doing these things (coming too far from the inside, swinging too far in-to-out, or closing the face too much or a split-second too soon through impact) will result in a hook.
So it’s more common for good golfers to battle a hook. The saving grace of the slice, however, is that it’s usually weak, and usually once it hits the ground, it lands soft. Its spin gives a slice a chance at staying “safe” from OB or a hazard or the rough. Because of the laws of physics, hook shots first of all come out quite “hot” and can get away from the player very quickly and when they hit the ground their spin tends to kick the ball even farther off-line and roll out like they are getting pulled into the trouble with a homing device.
So hooks and slices are not exactly equal, despite looking like mirror images of each other. Despite the dangers of hooking, if you’re trying to build a good swing, it’s better off to start by sling-hooking the ball and work it back to a baby draw or baby fade eventually.
Which Goes Further: A Slice Or A Hook?
As we touched on above, all else being equal a hook will always go farther than a slice. This is for two reasons.
First of all because the face is square or shut for a hook, the ball is going to get the full force of impact and compress on contact instead of the glancing blow of an open-face slice and many hook shots will carry farther than a normal shot.
Secondly, even if a hook and a slice were exact duplicates of each other as far as trajectory and carry distance, the hook shot will always travel further because its spin will continue to push it farther down range and farther off line, whereas the spin on a slice shot will give it more of a “bite” on landing and it will have the effect of landing softer and settling down quicker.
Tips To Fix A Slice
Let's talk about a few of the best ways to go about fixing a slice. We recommend that you try one at a time to avoid confusion around which one was the remedy for you specifically.
True slicers almost always have an open club face and one of the easiest ways to remedy this is by strengthening the grip. Even if you adjust your grip to be stronger than what is considered to be the proper golf grip, it's a great adjustment to try to eliminate a slice. This is a great way to learn as a beginner and as you start to have more control of your release and face/path awareness you can weaken the grip more and more to learn to play different shots and trajectories.
Almost all golfers who can sense that the face is open will swing left to compensate for this subconsciously, producing a ball that lands right of their target. In the ultimate of ironies, most golfers intentionally or not start aiming and swinging MORE left as a reaction to rightward shots which produces MORE right curve and they carry on like this for their entire golfing lives. Take heed of the advice in this article and don’t be this golfer!
While grip helps us with the face portion of the face/path ratio, stance is the easiest way to push our path part of the equation out to the right and help mitigate a slice. As we touched on, the instinct for many slicers is to aim more left to compensate for shots that go right. This actually makes the problem worse, and the astute golfer will close their stance by pointing their body more right which will allow them to slice it less and basically pull the ball straight at the target.
If and when you adjust this, make sure the feet, hips, and shoulders are all pointing in the same direction. You can change your foot stance but still “cheat” it by setting the hips or shoulders in a different direction.
The other component to the stance that can cause a slice is your distance from the golf ball. If you are standing too close, it's only a couple of steps away from a nasty ball flight off the golf course.
All else being equal, ball positions that are more forward are going to promote higher shots with more cut or fade spin. If you are a slicer, adjusting your ball position a little bit back in your stance can be one of the easiest and most effective ways to manage curvature without changing your swing.
If your ball starts on line but then slices, it means your face is square but your path is too far across or left of your target at impact. Granted, the face and path are always in a relationship to one another, and changing the path will also change the face, but if this is your pattern you should try to address the club path first.
You can check your path by looking at your divots. The direction of your divot will reveal your club path.
A few ways to do this are to use an alignment stick in the ground or threaded through a range bucket. Set the stick so that it is about one yard farther away from the target than the ball, and a club head or two farther away from the ball than your feet. This will give you a plane line to swing underneath and train an in-to-out swing path. Do this carefully with slow swings and half swings at first or you will clobber the stick and potentially hurt yourself or others, as over-the-top patterns are almost impossible to change from full speed.
If your ball starts right of the target and then slices, your path might be okay, but the first thing to fix is the face angle. Get the ball starting on line and then you can address the path later. In order to do this, you need to adjust some combination of grip strength, wrist angles, or release, with release being the hardest to change and the easiest one to get wrong (by flipping or scooping to square it).
Because of this it's recommended to start by strengthening your grip or feeling like your lead wrist stays flat or even flexed/bowed throughout the swing and into impact (take a look at the swings of Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, or Viktor Hovland). A lot of times just feeling this face being more shut than you’re used to will automatically cause a player to naturally/intuitively swing more in-out as well and move a slice pattern to a baby fade or push-draw in one adjustment!
Tips To Fix A Hook
As we said above when discussing ways to fix a slice, only try one of these tips at a time. Trying to compound these adjustments can turn your hook into a slice literally in one shot. No one wants that!
Players with a hook have the face too closed, shut, or left-facing at impact. This all starts with the grip, and unfortunately can be caused by a player starting with the face too shut to begin with or a player with the face wide open and reacting with an early release that can be too easily over-done.
Generally speaking however, a strong grip sets everything up to close down, so this is the first thing to check and traditionally the biggest culprit. If you are hooking the ball (especially if they are low hooks) work on weakening your grip slightly and you might be able to turn that pattern into a classic high push-draw without making any other changes.
Hooks are caused by swinging too far right most often, so one of the first things to check is your stance. If you are setting up closed or with feet/hips/shoulders pointing right of your target, you could be doing everything “correct” and just hooking because of your setup. Don’t take this for granted as even the best players in the world need to check this constantly and it is one of the easiest things to get out of whack without you knowing it, so use a camera or alignment sticks or lay the club down on your heels to check this.
If you are starting the ball straight and hooking it you can try to adjust your stance by opening it a degree or two at a time and keeping everything the same to lessen your chances of over-drawing the ball.
If you have a tendency to hook, one of the worst things you can do is put the ball too far back in your stance. This is especially true with the driver. If you have the ball forward and hit up on the ball (your low point is JUST before impact) with a late release it becomes harder to hook the ball off the tee. This is the basic recipe that two of the best drivers of the modern era, Jon Rahm and Dustin Johnson, use to hit bombed fades and take the left side of the course out of play. With any club, however, if you are battling a hook or have a shot where hooking it would be big trouble, always make sure the ball is not too far back in your stance.
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An in-to-out club path is generally a good thing for a golfer, but the reason why golf is such a finicky game is because over-doing virtually any aspect can produce terrible results. This is the case with the hooks, as a player who gets their club path too far in-to-out can get into trouble very quickly.
One way to mitigate a club path that is too in-to-out is to feel more body rotation through the shot, with the trail shoulder feeling like it gets to the ball at the same time as the club (it won’t). This is a great way to neutralize the swing path and get the look of the chest slightly working towards the target already by impact that we see with so many great ball strikers.
Another way, favored by Tiger Woods, is to feel like the hands finish medium-height or even low-height in the follow through, reserving the high-hands finish for when you want to play the high draw. This is a great feel that you can take to the course that produces a lot of technical changes leading up to that without making you have to think about anything technical when playing, it will be very hard to swing too far right if you feel your hands finishing lower.
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If your ball is starting left and then hooking, there may be no point in worrying about your path at all until you fix your face angle at impact. If your grip is already weak or neutral, you need to look at your release in order to fix this, because you are either releasing it too much or too early or both.
One great way to fix this, especially if you are hitting high hooks, is to simply feel like you are trying to hit the ball lower. Do this by feeling more shaft lean through impact, a later release, and kind of a drive-hold action through the bottom. This will actually affect not just the height of the shot but also the start line, as the forward shaft lean also points the face more right and the late or held-off release will keep it square and not let it shut down too much through impact, producing great compression and very stable, piercing, low-spin ball flights that also sound fantastic coming off the face.
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Almost all golfers, even elite golfers, will play with either a hook or a slice miss, believe it or not. Ideally it’s just one of the two, and the games of many great players (Ben Hogan and his quest to stop hooking the ball perhaps the most famous example) are built around managing that miss.
The key to being able to do this is understanding why it is happening based on ball flight laws and knowing that the face determines the direction the ball starts and the face-to-path ratio determines which direction and how much the ball curves. Once you know this you can sanely start adjusting parameters such as stance, grip, and ball position to adjust for your tendencies and also start doing drills on the driving range that change your release pattern or swing direction in order to eliminate one side of the golf course and make your misses manageable instead of unplayable.
While a hook can often end up worse than a slice, typically a hook pattern is seen in better ball strikers while the slice tendency is most often seen in beginners and amateurs. Regardless of what your tendency is, however, with our modern understanding of ball flight physics, there’s no excuse to not take the information in this article and start making adjustments to eliminate one miss, and then work on refining your pattern to be as tight as possible by experimenting until you find a match-up of grip, setup, ball position, and intention that produces the result you want to see.