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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hooking Out of Trouble

Ever been stuck behind a tree and the only way out is a hook... but you can't hit a hook? It's a common problem, but today I'm gonna help you.

That's right. Even if you can't hit a hook, this technique should help.

First, let's look at a typical video on how to hit a hook. This one's by PGA pro Jay Golden; we'll use it as a starting point.

I'm sure a lot of you have heard this advice before but have had no luck applying it. That's because you didn't have my help. ;-)

There are two important things to note from this video:
  • Move the ball back slightly in your stance. Some videos advise moving it forward but we want a low shot. If we're stuck in the trees, the lower, the better.
  • Forget the fancy swing path / face angle combinations. Here's the simple version: If you're righthanded, the face should point to the left of your swing path. If you're lefthanded, the face should point to the right of your swing path. Simple enough, right?
The reason you're having trouble hitting a hook is because you're making too long a swing. See how I tagged this post for the chipping, punching, and pitching categories? We're going to make a shorter swing so we can better control the club path.

Here are the steps for hooking your way out of trouble:
  1. First, we want to take a club that will keep the ball low. This will be determined to a large extent by how much rough the ball is in. If the rough is kinda thin, you can take something longer like 5-iron or more. Otherwise, figure on hitting something like a 7- or 8-iron.
  2. Aim the face of the club so it aims past the side of the tree. Remember, if you point the face at the tree, no matter what you do, you'll probably hit it.
  3. Now aim your body. Don't worry about hitting some kind of in-to-out swing; if you could do that easily, you wouldn't need help hooking out of this mess! Instead, set up to make a straight swing that goes farther away from the tree than the face angle. See the diagram below to make sure you've got the idea.
  4. Set up so the ball is halfway back in your stance, or maybe just a bit more if you really need to keep it low.
  5. Now, just make a normal half-swing, a punching motion. Let your wrists cock if you need more power, or play it more like a chip or punch shot if you want to make sure the ball stays low. But don't swing too hard or the ball will jump up higher than you intended! This should feel like you're making a long smooth punch shot straight out of the trouble -- but since you've got the face of the club "closed" relative to that straight path, the ball is going to shoot to the left (the right if you're lefthanded) and hook even more as it goes.
Here's a diagram of the setup:

Diagram of hook setup

As you can see, it's a pretty simple setup. No changing your swing path, no flipping your hands at impact, no long swings where you have lots of time to get out of position. Just place the ball halfway back in your stance and make a smooth half-swing along the dotted line with the clubface aimed so it misses the tree.

Is it going to make you look like a Tour player (pick a tour, any tour)? No.

Is it going to save you a shot? Probably. You'll need to use it a few times to get a good idea of just how low you can hit the ball with this shot, but at least you'll know it's doable. If you run into any trouble using it, just post a comment. The lie will be the biggest variable in this shot.

Most importantly... will it impress your foursome? You betcha! And what's better than that?


  1. Mike,

    After watching my swing on video, I am rebuilding it and working on rotation.
    Reading Leadbetter's book "Fundamentals of Hogan", he spends a lot of time talking about supination and pronating the wrists.
    I have only been working on rotation for a month or so, it's early days. I went to the range yesterday and I hit a few slices. My standard drive is a straight push or a push draw.
    I cupped my front wrist and I hit a few almost straight shots.
    Should I keep cupping my wrist or should I not bother and be happy with the push draw for the moment?


  2. I'll be honest with you, Patrick -- I don't have much use for wrist rotation. In fact, although Hogan talks about supination and pronation, the wrist movement he describes in Five Lessons doesn't require any rotation -- at least, not the way it's being taught.

    In order to answer your question, here's the big thing I need to know:

    When you take your stance, do you set up with the butt of the club pointed at your belly button or with the shaft in line with your lead forearm? It sounds like you point the shaft at your belly button.

  3. Cool.
    I have changed from the belly button to having it in line with my lead forearm.
    Yes, adding the cup brought it back to my belly button.
    Since I have moved from my belly button to my lead forearm, I have been hitting the ball better with my irons and my chips are much better. I still struggle with the driver, but I knew that it would be the club I struggle with.

  4. I'll tell you what. That whole "pronation" thing causes a lot of confusion. I'm doing the RGWR Top 10 on Tuesday. How about if I do a post for Wednesday explaining how the address position makes a difference when you square the club? I'll use a couple of lefthanded diagrams since that's how you play.

    I'm not surprised you're hitting your irons better with the lead forearm setup, since that's how most people swing naturally, (That's why I recommend it.) But you don't have to rotate your arms with that cupped position; you have to use your body to square the club. Hogan even put that in capital letters in his book, but nobody seems to pay attention.

    Hogan was a very handsy player before he rebuilt his swing -- that's why he hit so many duck hooks -- and he created that wrist position simply because it's impossible to get into it by rotating your wrists and forearms. He was trying to eliminate rotation, not add it.

    It's not difficult to understand how it works once you get past that silly "rotation" talk. After the Wednesday post, you'll understand how to use whichever address position you want and get the ball to fly straight. Then you can decide which one you want to use. How's that?

    And once you settle on an address position that you're happy with, I'll try to help you get a handle on the driver if you want.

  5. Cool.
    Yes. Hogan's book and Leadbetter's commentary is interesting, but I cherry pick what applies to my swing.
    As a current model, I study Steve Stricker's swing, one reason I'm reworking and improving my body rotation.
    I also work on my impact position. I videotaped my swing and it was pointed out that my hips stopped so that my hands could hit the ball. Another reason to improve body rotation.
    Yes, I would like help with the driver. I hit a push but too easily it's a slice into the woods. I scored 94 the other day that easily could have been in the 80s if my second shot was not usually a chip out.


  6. On another note, I did find it interesting that Michelle Wie used a belly putter, but not as belly putter, but anchored the extra length against her lead arm.

  7. The post on addressing the ball may help some with that pushed driver, Patrick. We'll see how it behaves after you read that, then we'll go from there.

    You really do have to cherry pick from Hogan. Some of it's good for everybody, but some of it is specific to his duck hooking problem.

    Stricker's a really good swing model. He's even gotten better this year. Again, simplicity is good!

    And I think Michelle may have picked that up from Matt Kuchar. He's been putting that way all year.

    I don't think a belly putter allows as much feel as a regular putter -- and I don't believe they're easier to use, either -- but I like that technique best. It's closer to a regular stroke and, if the USGA ever outlaws belly putters, I bet the arm-anchor technique survives. It's too much like putting crosshand for them to object.