Before I turned pro I had many years battling a hook with my driver and irons. I know that sinking feeling as you feel the ball leaving your club face and watch it sailing far off into the trees – it’s painful. Now, as a golf coach, I can hopefully save you a few hours, weeks or months on the practice ground with this guide on how to fix your hook.
What is a hook?
For a right-handed golfer a hook is a golf shot that starts right of your target, and curves left through the air finishing left of your intended target (left hand image – blue trace).
A golfers struggling with a hook may also hit a pull-hook (left hand image – yellow trace). These two shots are closely connected, but a pull-hook is often misdiagnosed by golfers.
In this article we’ll cover swing changes to get rid of your golf hook and some great ways to practice to help straighten out your golf shots. Before we get to this, please read the following section – it starts basic, but it will be really helpful.
What causes a hook golf shot?
Many golfers are still told a hook shot is caused by an out-to-in swing path. Although this may be a factor, it isn’t the main cause of your destructive hook shot. To explain, we need to break your ball flight down into two parts:
- Ball curvature
- Ball start direction
What makes a hook ‘hook’ through the air?
The curvature on any golf shot is caused by sidespin that is imparted onto the golf ball during impact.
Golf Insider geek: technically it is a non-vertical spin vector. You can’t really distinguish between sidespin and backspin, but we do as golfers, to keep things simple. The greater the tilt of the spin vector and the higher the RPM, the more a golf ball will hook through the air – if all else stays equal.
The sidespin is caused when your club face angle is not square to your swing path. I’ll say it again, as this is concept often misunderstood. The difference between your swing path direction through impact and your club face angle is what causes sidespin and a hooking trajectory.
What affects the start direction of your hook?
The other key factor to straighten out your hook is the start direction of your shot. Again, most golfers will consider swing path as the key factor. However, your club face angle at impact will have five times more impact on the start direction of your golf shot than your swing path.
Golf Insider geek: if you strike the golf ball somewhere near the centre of the club face, your start direction will be dependent on swing path direction and club face angle at impact. Both contribute, however the golf ball will start far closer to your club face angle than your swing path. 80% of start direction will be due to club face and only 20% attributed to swing path direction. This relationship changes slightly as clubs get more lofted, but it is a key concept in fixing your hook.
Take this example:
Swing path is 12 degrees to the right of your target. Club face is 2 degrees right of your target. 10 degrees difference, your golf ball will start 4 degrees right of target (80% towards your club face angle).
Now take the following example and refer back to the ball flight pictures above:
Swing path is 10 degrees to the right of your target. Club face is 6 degrees left of your target. Where will the golf ball start…
16 degrees difference. The golf ball will start 2.8 degrees left of your target (80% towards your club face angle), despite your in-to-out swing path.
You will hit a pull-hook (the yellow ball flight above), yet most golfers will think this shot is a fault of their swing path becoming out-to-in. Many golfers have no idea what their swing path is doing through impact because their club face overrides where the golf ball starts.
I’m sorry to spend so much time on this point, but I see golfers waste so much time and effort because they don’t understand ball start direction and the curve which results in a hook.
Curing your hook – club face is king
From the points above you will hopefully see that to stop your hook and pull-hook, you need to focus on your club face angle through impact.
Golf Insider tip: your swing path is still important, however I feel it’s far easier to begin with club face. Your in-to-out swing path is a result of always having a shut club face (it’s you being a good athlete and trying to get the ball to end up at your target). Until you fix your club face, there is little point trying to force a squarer swing path. This is a mistake I made when I was younger – trust me, start with your club face.
Around a 2-5 degree club face change at impact is the difference you are looking for. The rest of your golf swing mechanics can look and stay exactly the same, it doesn’t need to change. You just need to make this club face change.
If you don’t believe me, just try this the next time you go to the range. Take your normal golf swing, but just start with the club face twisted open by 5-degrees when you take your grip. Take a swing and see what happens to your ball flight.
Swing changes to fix a hook
You have a few options when it comes to improving your hook. I would always advise finding a great PGA coach to help you, but I don’t see any harm in understanding your choices too.
Grip change for a hook
The most common issue for golfers with a hook is poor grip. This can involve their bottom hand, top hand or both. To explain why your grip has such a strong affect on your club face at impact watch the video below.
This video is a little rustic, but it shows how your hands naturally hang and should sit on a golf club. This is the position your hand will want to return to at impact. Watch the effect on clubface when you begin with a strong golf grip and return to this neutral position (a ‘strong’ golf grip is explained in more detail below).
I’m well aware golfers don’t like making grip changes – this is mainly due to the changes in their feedback which makes their golf swing feel awful. However, a grip change is the simplest and easiest way to make a 5-degree club face change.
Watch the video below to see how to change a ‘strong/hooking’ left hand grip into a neutral one.
The next video shows this same process for your bottom hand.
Without coaching you face-to-face, I cannot say if you do or do not need to make these changes, but the videos should give you a good insight into your current grip.
Stop a hook with your release
If your grip is sound but you still struggle with a hook, it is most likely to do with your arms and hands flipping the club face over through impact. Today, this is still an area I need to improve – I don’t hit wild golf shots, but when my timing is off I still have pull-hooks with my driver and short irons due to this swing characteristic.
The video below provides some great golf swing tips on how to gain an awareness of what your club face does through impact.
Another key reason golfers struggle with this swing fault is due to their body not rotating through impact. This swing drill from Tommy Fleetwood is a great way to improve your body action and reduce your hooks.
Other swing changes to fix a hook
There are a few further swing principles to improve your club face angle. If you would like further detail on how to build your golf swing, take a look at this three-step process to improving your golf swing.
Practice ways to stop a hook
An important part of fixing your hook is practice – I can’t lie.
To begin with, use the drills above and develop the feeling you need to create a square club face through impact. When you are practicing, reward yourself if you hit the ball straight right. This may sound odd, but give yourself a pat on the back. A straight right shot is a sign your club face was spot on, you just need to refine your swing path a little.
Another useful start-point is to make a swing tweak from the list above, then attempt to hit fade shots. Working your way through the bag attempting to hit fades is a really natural way to make swing changes.
This article will give you some ideas on how to take your swing changes from the golf range to the golf course. And lastly, this article will be really helpful in speeding up your rate of learning during your golf practice.
Fixing your golf hook – summary
In a simple order, here is how to fix your hook – understand your ball flight, pick a swing change, then practice in an effective manner. I’m not saying it will be easy, but this is the only process you need to follow to improve your hook and start playing better golf.
If you have any questions, please comment below. Also, if you would like to receive a golf article like this in your inbox every Monday, come join the Golf Insider weekly post.
Happy golfing – Will @ Golf Insider
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