Understanding Slices in Golf

To sign a decent scorecard, we first need to be able to move the golf ball in the direction we desire. By far, the most common obstacle preventing new golfers from achieving this is the dreaded slice. Luckily, this article is going to breakdown everything you need to know about slices in golf.

Most beginners go through a phase where they seem to be slicing the ball on almost every shot, and the more they try to intuitively correct the problem, the further right of their target they seem to end up. You can’t fix the problem if you don’t understand its cause to begin with.

So, why is the ball going to the right in the first place? Let’s take a closer look at the root of the problem and go over some of the correct drills we should be practicing if we want to eliminate slices from our game forever. Keep in mind that for left-handed golfers, the same advice will apply but in the opposite direction.

The Flight Path of a Slice

Simply put, a “slice” is a shot where the golf ball curves significantly in the air from left to right. There are certain specific situations where you might want or might need to play a slice, such as if you need to navigate a hazard like a large rock or tree, and punching the ball isn’t going to be an option.

But, for the most part, slices are the result of a mishit. We will often want the ball to “fade” and travel along a similar but far less dramatic left to right flight path.

However, there is a fine line between fading the golf ball and slicing it, and understanding that line is what separates the great golfers from the not so great golfers of the world.

What Causes a Slice?

Fundamentally, a slice occurs when the clubface impacts the golf ball from an open position. This can come about from setting up improperly, or it can stem from a swing problem that causes the clubface to open up.

But by far, the number one culprit is a swing path that travels from the outside to the inside, effectively opening the club’s face through impact.

If we can address these problem areas, we can dramatically improve our accuracy, and we will significantly reduce our chances of slicing the golf ball.

However, before we even swing the club, we need to make sure that we are set up and positioned in such a way as to be able to hit the golf ball straight in the first place.

Setting Up Correctly

If you already have good accuracy and want to hit a fade by design, you will likely aim slightly to the left of your target. However, for new golfers, who struggle with a slice, the instinct to aim far to the left, hoping that the ball will end up where it should, is very wrong for many reasons.

First of all, this is like giving up and accepting that you can’t hit the ball straight. This approach will program the wrong muscle memory and train bad habits, which will only need to be corrected later and inevitably result in you slicing the ball even worse.

You need to aim straight at your target. Make sure your target line is parallel to where you want the ball to land, and be careful not to position your ball too far forward so that your swing plane will not need to come from the outside to strike the golf ball in the first place.

Finally, make sure that your stance is not too far open. If you tend to take a wider stance when setting up, try bringing your legs a bit closer together. Close up your position relative to the ball a little bit; this alone can often help tremendously and can, at the very least, help your flight path move much closer towards fade territory.

Fixing Common Problems

Once we know that we have set up correctly and properly aligned to our target, we can move on to the next step of understanding why our clubface is open at impact. If we can determine where the face is opening up in our swing, we can apply a simple fix to remedy the problem.

The most common problems people have when they are slicing the ball have to do with their grip, foot positioning, swing plane and weight transfer throughout the swing. Let’s examine each issue and see how we can eliminate these mistakes from our game. 

Grip Strength

Even before you set up, the first thing you need to do is grip the golf club correctly. If your grip is too loose, then your clubface is going to open up in your backswing, and before you’ve even swung down towards the ball, you have already guaranteed a slice.

On the other hand, gripping the club too tightly and trying to crush it will do just the opposite and cause you to get ahead of the ball at impact resulting in a nasty hook, which you don’t want either.

Hold the club correctly, applying firm but not strong pressure, and you will at least give your self a chance to maintain the correct clubface position throughout your swing.

Foot Positioning

Another common cause of slices stems from improper foot positioning. The way that the tour players are positioning their feet may not necessarily be right for you. Squaring your back foot while pointing your front foot will alter your swing plane and create a slice.

So, If you always seem to slice the ball, try this instead. Take your aim with the target line parallel to your back foot and keep your front foot square. Doing this increases your freedom of rotation and allows you to control your swing with a much greater degree of precision.

Proper rotation requires that we maintain the clubface position through impact, which will result in us hitting fewer slices and more straight shots.

Swing Plane Issues in the Backswing

Ultimately, if you struggle with a slice, then something is going wrong in your backswing. The easiest way to fix this will be to concentrate on your right elbow.

If you always seem to be slicing the ball, you will probably notice your right elbow sticking out throughout your backswing.

The problem with this is that it guides the club away from you, forcing you to push the club back to the correct swing plane in the middle of your downswing.

This motion will generate left to right spin, and the steep downswing will launch the ball too high, causing a reduction in both distance and accuracy.

A Great Swing Plane Drill

This fantastic drill will help make sure that you are swinging on the correct plane, and designed to eliminate the possibility of you slicing the golf ball.

All that you’ll need for this drill is an empty range basket. So what you do is place the basket directly on the target line about a foot to a half behind the ball.

Eighteen inches back is an ideal location. When positioned correctly, you will be unable to swing over the top or from the outside because you will hit the basket. You will only be able to strike the ball with the correct swing plane.

If you keep your swing on the right line, you will have plenty of space to contact the ball with the clubface.

Practising this drill out on the range will train your muscle memory correctly, and when you remove the basket, you will find that you are propelling the ball straight down your target line and giving yourself a nice look at the green from a prime position in the fairway.

Weight Transfer

Another possible cause of slices in golf is how we transfer our weight throughout our golf swing. As we bring the golf club back in our swing, we should be moving our weight onto our back leg.

As we swing through in our downswing, we should be transferring our weight forward so that by the time we start coming up in our follow-through, we have most of our weight on our leading leg, which allows us to rotate freely.

We need to turn in this way to move the golf ball straight along our target line. New players commonly transfer their weight correctly onto their back leg, but the trouble is that they leave the weight there when they swing down, causing the clubface to open up through impact.

A Simple Weight Transfer Drill

So for this super easy drill, all you want to do is make sure that you can lift your heels at various stages throughout your swing. Raise your left heel when you reach the top of your backswing, and raise your right heel as you move through impact.

Practising this simple check and balance drill will enable you to start transferring your weight correctly, which will help keep the clubface neutral throughout your swing and reduce the likelihood that you continue to create these slices in golf.

If, when you are practising this drill, a concerned onlooker should happen to tell you that you need to keep your heels down throughout your swing, kindly ask them to go and watch Bobby Jones hit a golf ball.

You Can Do It

A slice is by far the most prevalent mishit in all of golf. Almost everyone who has ever taken up the calling of golf has gone through a phase where slicing the ball seemed like a foregone conclusion.

If this is the case, don’t worry, you are in good company. Fixing your slice is like a right of passage in golf. Some players will give up because they don’t understand how to fix it.

Many more will adopt bad habits to counteract their slice tendencies, but those players will never be the best they can be; they will never be good golfers. When you understand what causes a slice, you will be able to correct it quickly.

If you’re serious about improving, you need to pay your dues, which means taking the time to hit the range and practice the drills above. So, pay attention to your grip strength and foot positioning. Practice swinging along the correct swing plane, and transfer your weight with proper rotation.

Do these things, and you’ll undoubtedly start hitting the ball much more accurately, you’ll give yourself a fighting chance at scoring on the course, and you’ll never need to worry about slicing the golf ball again.

Conclusion Understanding Slices In Golf

We hope you  enjoyed our guide to understanding slices in golf. If you have any questions regarding this article we encourage you to reach out in the comments below.

If you did enjoy this article we hope you check out some of our others such as our guide to understanding lie angles on golf clubs or our guide to understanding flat golf swings.

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