Golf is a wonderful game, but one that can be incredibly frustrating. Being off by even the slightest of margins with your swing can often yield disastrous results on the golf course.
When I first started playing golf, I fought a huge banana slice that caused me to lose more than my fair share of golf balls. Luckily, with some time and instruction, I was able to correct it and start hitting straighter shots on a more consistent basis.
Not sure what the difference is between a hook and a slice? You’ve come to the right place!
In this article, we’ll teach you the differences between a hook and a slice, the common causes of each, and tips on how to fix each one. Hopefully, after reading this article you’ll be well on your way to hitting straighter shots and shooting lower scores.
Table of Contents
Hook vs Slice: Understanding the Difference
Most beginner golfers struggle with slicing the golf ball, especially with the larger clubs like the driver and fairway woods. But hooking is common too.
What exactly is the difference between these types of golf shots? It’s the way that the ball curves.
For a right-handed golfer, a slice occurs when your shot starts straight but then takes a wicked right turn. Severe slices usually end up in the trees, a water hazard, or just plain lost! Needless to say, this can be immensely frustrating to any golfer since losing a ball or hitting one into the water results in a one-stroke penalty.
The opposite of a slice is a hook. Again using our right-handed golfer example, a hook happens when the golfer’s shot starts going straight but then takes a sharp left-hand turn about halfway through. This also can result in lost golf balls or shots that end up in the trees or water.
What Causes a Slice?
There are several different reasons why golfers slice the ball. We’ll cover a couple of these in detail below.
Improper Grip / Too Weak
The grip is one of the most vital parts of the golf swing. Think about it – your hands are the only link between you and the golf club. Having a grip that is “too weak” will often cause you to slice the golf ball because you have an open clubface at impact.
When we say weak grip, we are not referring to grip pressure. We are talking about how many knuckles you can see on your top hand while holding the golf club. With a grip that is too weak, you’ll only see one knuckle on your top hand. Here’s a good picture to illustrate a grip that is too weak and may cause slicing.
Out to In Swing Path
Slicing is also caused by an out to in swing path. This often occurs due to an improper takeaway when starting the golf swing. Folks with an out-to-in swing path often activate their hands, wrists, and arms way too soon instead of simply turning their shoulders away from the target.
What’s the result of an out-to-in swing path? The golfer ends up cutting across the golf ball and putting that notorious spin on the golf ball that causes a slice.
What Causes a Hook?
Just as with slicing, there are plenty of reasons why golfers hook the ball. Here are the two main reasons for hooking.
Improper Grip / Too Strong
We talked above about the dangers of having a grip that is too weak and how it’ll often lead to slices. Along those same lines, a grip that is too strong will usually lead to hooks because the clubface is too closed at impact.
Again, we’re not talking about how hard you’re gripping the golf club but the position of your hands. Here’s a picture of a grip that is too strong. Notice that you can see three knuckles on the left hand.
In to Out Swing Path
Those infuriating duck hooks often happen because of an in-to-out swing path. This also happens because of an improper takeaway during the beginning of the golf swing.
An in to out swing path starts when the golfer pulls the club too far inside near their body. When this happens, the golfer will hit more of the inside of the golf ball and the result will be a hook.
Is it Better to Hook or Slice?
To play at your best, you need to eliminate both hooks and slices from your golf game. Both types of mishits can be detrimental to shooting a good score consistently. Both types of swing flaws should be worked on at the range with lots of practice time.
If we had to pick one over the other though, we’d choose the hook over the slice. Hooks can usually be corrected by some slight tweaks while slices often need some major swing adjustments. An interesting observation is that newer golfers often fight a slice while seasoned golfers sometimes fight a hook.
How to Fix a Slice
Here is a list of several tips to try when fixing your slice.
1. Don’t Swing So Hard
I’ve seen it time and time again on the course. Golfers who walk up to the tee and try to “kill” the golf ball usually end up slicing it to “hell and gone” as Will Smith said in The Legend of Bagger Vance.
The reason is that when you overswing, you often grip the club way too tight and the hands cannot turn over properly at impact. This makes it too difficult to square the clubface. The next time you’re on the tee box, act like you’re just trying to clip the tee, not murder the golf ball.
2. Correct Your Grip
Slicers normally have a grip that is too weak. If that is you, try strengthening your grip just a tiny bit. You don’t have to go overboard but try to see two knuckles at address instead of only one. This will give you better control of the club head and make it easier to hit the ball squarely.
3. Correct Your Swing Path
If you’re struggling with a slice, try correcting your swing path. Most of the time, slicers have an out-to-in swing path. Practice a smooth takeaway that is neutral, meaning not too far in and not too far out.
If you are fighting a nasty slice, a great drill that will help correct your swing path is called the Headcover Drill. Head to the practice range with a bucket of balls but put one of your headcovers (or a towel) under your left arm (for a right-handed golfer).
When you go to hit your shots, keep your arm close to your body so the headcover won’t slip out. It will feel a bit weird at first but hang with it. This simple drill will help you keep your arms closer to your body and will help you get used to swinger on a more proper path.
Here’s a video that demonstrates this drill:
4. Try to Hook the Ball
We know this sounds weird but stay with us here. Golf can be a game of opposites. Most of the time you can fix one problem by exaggerating a few things in your swing.
Slicers usually cut across the golf ball at impact. Instead of cutting across and hitting primarily the outside of the ball, focus on making contact with the inside of the ball. You may end up hitting the ball super straight by doing this!
Further reading: How to fix a slice
How to Fix a Hook
Here are a few tips for fixing your hook.
1. Weaken Your Grip a Tad
The typical root cause of a hook is due to a grip that is too strong. This results in the golfer making contact with the ball with a closed clubface. This creates that spin that causes the right to left ball flight.
Grip the golf club like you normally would and do an honest assessment. If you can see three or four knuckles, weaken your grip by one knuckle to see if that cures your hook.
2. Slow Everything Down
Another big reason that golfers hook the ball is being too quick with the hands or hips. Again, this can cause a shut clubface at impact and cause that all too familiar right to left curve.
Practice taking slower, smoother backswings. This should help you keep a steadier pace throughout your swing and may straighten out your hook.
3. Correct Your Swing Path
Just like with slices, be sure to check your swing path when trying to correct a hook. Hooks often come from swinging on a path that is too in to out. Practice a swing path that is more neutral and not too inside out.
Golfers who struggle with hooking the ball can try an easy fix that may quickly fix this common issue. While on the practice range, experiment with standing one to two inches closer to the golf ball at address. This will take some getting used to because you’ll think you’re standing too close to the ball.
When you stand a little closer to the ball, you won’t have enough room to swing from in to out. This will make you swing on a more vertical plane and should help eliminate those annoying hooks.
4. Check Your Alignment at Address
Lots of golfers who struggle with a hook tend to aim way too far to the right of their targets to overcompensate. While this may work okay for a while, consider aiming straight down the middle of the fairway. If you’re trying out a new grip, you might as well try the proper alignment.