Butch Harmon - Hooks and Slices

Published 25/11/2013 07:27:00

Butch Harmon is a world-renowned golf coach, most famous for his past tutelage of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els. So it's fair to say he knows a thing or two about pro golf swings, but in this interview he lets Into the Rough in on the secrets for amateurs too.


Into the Rough: A common problem with amateurs is they slice the ball. How do you analyze that problem?
Butch Harmon:
There are two reasons. First, you are taking the club pretty much on the outside which causes your weight to hang on the left side. The result is you tend to pull the club across your body and you hit the ball right. The other cause is you take the club so far inside that you turn out of the way and the clubface is wide open. Again, you end up coming across the ball and hitting a slice.

TGM: What causes those problems in the swing?
The biggest culprit is what we call the chicken wing affect where your left arm gets in a bend swinging through the ball. People think releasing the golf club is nothing more than letting your wrists roll over, but that's not the way you should release the club. By the time their brain sends a message to their hands while they're swinging, it's too late for a proper release. What you do in releasing the golf club is nothing more than the left arm folding and the right forearm releasing over the left forearm.

TGM: How can you accomplish that?
One way is to have a feeling you are re-hinging your elbows as you swing through. You can put a glove under your left arm and not let it come out. That way, the top of your left arm stays in close and allows the left arm to break up. Another drill is to aim your body way right of the target in a closed position. This means your hips, shoulders and everything get aimed more to the right. You take the club back on the line of your feet and then as your turn, try to swing around your body to the left. What happens is your right arm naturally goes over your left arm. If you have never hit a nice, solid hook in your life, you'll love this drill. If you want to make a swing without a ball and you are at home and you wonder how you can get this feeling of the release, just take your low hand on the grip and put it where your trigger fingers are on the steel or graphite part of the shaft. What happens if you are a right-hander is your right arm is now much longer than your left. So, when you swing, your left arm naturally collapses and the right arm naturally goes over it. You can make practice swings like this just before you hit every shot. It gives you a real feeling of relief. You can see how the left arm folds and the right arm just naturally goes over. Don't get in the habit of thinking that you are flipping your wrists over because that's not possible.

TGM: What does hitting balls like that accomplish?
It gives you the feeling of your arms releasing. That's a big key in the golf swing. If you look at pictures in magazines of great players and you see them after impact, you say 'he really released that club nicely.' A release is just the right arm going naturally over the left arm. You can put a glove or head cover under your left arm and hit balls. I'm not a great believer in putting towels under both arms because it makes your swing too narrow, it doesn't give you any width. If you are going to use the drill of putting something under your left arm, only take more than an 8-iron so you can make a nice swing. That gives you the feeling of your arms releasing, which in fact gives you the feeling of the clubhead releasing.

TGM: What causes a person to hook the ball?
The majority of time there are two reasons for hooking the ball. No. 1, your clubface gets too closed at the top of your swing and when you release it, it hooks. But in general, what happens is your body stops. Your clubhead is traveling anywhere from 70-120 mph depending on how hard you hit the ball and you can't stop the clubhead. What you can do is stop your body and for people that tend to hit a lot of low pro hooks, that is what occurs as they come into impact. Their body stops and their hands and arms just flip over. Another way to cure hitting a lot of low pro hooks is make your belt buckle the focus of your swing. If you keep your belt buckle turning, your hands and arms will follow that lead. If you think about it, in reality, when we hit a golf ball, the only time the golf club is traveling on the line the golf ball goes on is when you hit it. If you can keep your body turning, what happens is your arms and clubhead stay right in front of your body and you get out of that little low pro hook. If you hit a fade than turns to a hook, your body is not moving too quickly unless the upper body is coming over the top. What you are doing is letting your upper body come in. All you have to do as you turn through the ball is let your right shoulder stay back a little and then your arms will release better.

TGM: What causes the ball to stray off line after impact?
It means after you hit the ball and make contact, if you turn to the left, your right arm extends more on your body line than out on the target line. If you swing down the line, the clubface is probably going to be open and you are going to hit the ball out to the right. You're swinging on a circle. The golf swing, if we were standing directly on top of the ball, would have a lot of straight lines in it. But because we are astride of the ball, the golf swing is nothing more than a semi-circle. Our turn takes the club in, we hit the ball and then swing back to the inside. The easy way to feel that is to put the club in front of the ball without making a backswing, just turn and make a follow through. That's a natural motion and you will feel that natural motion when you swing down the target line.

TGM: Say a person is hitting every shot high. What can be done to correct that?
No. 1, check your grip and make sure it's not too weak. You can strengthen your grip with tell strip to help the club go over and keep the loft on it, but in general people who hit the ball high release the club very early and don't transfer the weight. The biggest culprit is the lack of weight transfer, your weight staying back and you end up throwing the club from the top. When you practice, just get off your right side if you are right-handed. Just get the feeling that your right shoulder stays a little taller coming into the ball. That will keep the loft on the club.

TGM: What about the opposite, hitting the ball too low?
If you hit the ball too low, you are probably hanging and coming over and delofting the club. I would have you widen your stance some. If you are hitting it really low, you obviously are not behind the ball at impact. Your head should naturally drop behind the ball. You also should try to keep your right foot on the ground a little longer. After you hit the ball, then come off the ground with that foot. You will get the ball up in air that way.

TGM: Another common problem among amateurs is hitting the ball on the heel of the club. What causes that and how can you cure it?
If you are hitting the ball on the heel of the club, you are coming over the top of it most of the time. If you are hitting a draw, you are coming from inside and releasing it. It could be you are losing your balance and as you come down you go into the ball just a little, which makes your swing plane come out and over. I would shift and get the weight back on the heels more and stand farther away from the ball. Tee the ball up a little when you practice and try to maintain that spine angle because what happens normally is your spine angle will change and you will swing out and over.


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