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It is true that many characteristics make hooks a more difficult shot to control than a fade or even a slice. For one, the ball tends to roll more, which may lead to more distance, but the ball is still more likely to be heading for trouble. Also, in extreme situations, pull-hooks can make swinging the club difficult on the mind. Before we get into how to fix your hook, it’s important to understand how they are caused.
What is a hook?
As Lee Trevino once said, “You can talk to a fade, but those hooks don’t listen.”
For right-handed golfers, a hook is a shot that starts right of the target and curves to the left. Similar to the slice, a hook’s primary cause is in the swing plane. Regardless of the clubface position at impact, if the swing path is swinging right of the face position, the ball will curve to the left. Take a look at the following illustration:
The black line represents your intended target line, the green line is the swing bath, and the red line shows the resulting curvature. Note that this is only a model, and no two hooks are the same. The face position is still important, but only in regards to where the ball starts. If the path is out to in, swinging to the right of where the face is pointing, the ball will hook.
Hooks and Slices are Different
While the slice and the hook are on the opposite spectrums of ball flight, that does not necessarily mean the opposite of what fixes a slice will fix a hook. Every shot in golf, whether good, bad, or in between, have their own distinct characteristics, and it’s important to address them individually.
Your Good Swing Can Cause Your Hook
If you are someone who struggles with a hook, you’re actually in the minority; roughly 10-15% of golfers, hit hooks, and being able to do so means there are several things in the golf swing you are doing well. For one, you don’t suffer from the over-the-top move that plagues so many other golfers. Also, you’ll tend to have more distance than one would with a slice tendency. There are still, however, things you can do to help alleviate your hook, or, at the very least, turn it into a draw.
The first place to look in regards to the cause of your hook is your grip. Generally speaking, those golfers who have a “strong” grip (for right handers, it means the V’s of your hands point outside of your right shoulder) will have a tendency to hook the ball.
Alignment is Key
Once your grip has been established, the most common cause for a severe inside-to-outside swing plane is your alignment, especially with your shoulders. It is far more uncommon for your shoulders to be extremely closed than extremely open. The latter is common because no matter how much your alignment opens up, you can still easily see your target.
As an example, think about a hockey player setting up for a shot; you’ll never see them lined up closed to their target. The easiest way to check your alignment is to lay a club or alignment stick across your shoulders and see where the end is pointing. If it points at the target or even slightly right of the target, it means your shoulders are closed to the target. Seem counterintuitive? Remember that your body aims parallel left (for right-handers) of the target. Aiming your shoulders at the target will promote a hook swing path.
Look Over Your Setup
Set-up also plays an important role. In general, setting up too far from the ball will the club to drop severely to the inside on the downswing. It’s important to give yourself a little space, but also remember that your arms should hang naturally. If you setup closer and you feel like you’re crowding the ball, give it a few practice swings. You might be surprised how close you can stand to the ball and still be able to make a free swing.
For a more in-depth look at the fundamentals of proper alignment and set-up, look at the article here.
A Few Tips
If you still have trouble with the hooks after your grip, alignment, and setup are adjusted, you can do some drills to smooth out your swing plane. The easiest one is to lay down a club while practicing that is pointed directly at your target. Your objective is to slowly drag the club along the alignment tool on the back swing for one-to-two feet. Do so three times, then make a slow, full swing. Repeat for 10 balls with the same cadence: three slow takeaways, then a slow, full swing. You should quickly see a change in your ball flight.
Another drill is to make half swings, making a concerted effort to cock your wrists straight up. Many times, especially with an inside-to-out swing path, the club will be laid off, which not only encourages a hook, it also makes the effective weight of the club heavier, which requires forearm manipulation to give yourself a chance to make solid contact. Use your favorite wedge, choose a short target (to avoid making more than a half swing), and make a concerted effort to hinge the wrist almost vertically. You’ll find the club that will feel lighter and easier to swing.
The Final Word
Changing your play isn’t always the easiest. But remember that practice makes perfect, and you’ll soon be improving everything from your grip to your setup to avoid those nasty hooks. Be sure to stay diligent; with any change, it’s easy for the old habits to creep back in. Follow these steps, and you’ll see your hook straighten out in no time!