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How To Shape Your Shots
by Golf Illustrated

Most golfers curve the ball one way or the other when they hit it, usually from left to right. Many simply play along with that curve. Slicers aim more to the left, while hookers more to the right. The problem with this approach is that these golfers don?t know why their ball is curving in flight and therefore have no real control over it.

There is nothing wrong with curving the ball, but to make it effective and help you score better, you should know why it curves and how to make it do so. We are not talking about big slices or hooks, but draws and fades of varying degrees that you want when a pin is tucked into the corner of a green, a tree is dead in your line or you are playing into a strong wind, as shaping your shots also includes controlling their height. All are important in producing lower scores.

The Draw

Again, without changing your natural swing path, you can draw the ball by setting the clubface closed at address and aligning your body to the right of your ultimate target. How much to the right is something you must learn from personal experience.

A better way to draw the ball is by rotating your left forearm clockwise in the backswing and rotating it counterclockwise in the downswing. This is what I call the ?swinger move.? Some golfers will hook the ball by keeping the left wrist bowed or flat, which keeps the clubface toed in or closed. I believe only pros and low-handicap golfers can do it this way. For the average golfer, the ?swinger style? is easier to do and can be just as effective.

By keeping the clubface closed or aiming left from the point at which you want to start the shot, you will get a subtle draw, the ball curving a few yards in the air. Assuming you are able to return the clubface back to your aiming point in your setup, at impact the greater the difference between the clubface aim and body alignment, the greater the hook spin you impart on the ball.

Actually, forearm rotation is worth developing as a basic swing key. It is an excellent way to swing the club on your natural plane and generate power in a simple, smooth way. However, keep in mind that it is the forearms and not the hands that do the rotating.

It also is helpful when you want to hit the ball from right to left to play it a bit farther back in your stance ? about an inch or so more to the right than normal.

There is a drill to get a good feel for the ?swinger move,? which I associate with Ernie Els? basic swing. Hold the club with only the forefinger and thumb of each hand, then swing it back and through. The club essentially swings itself, and it is almost impossible to not let the face roll over to the left. It?s that sensation you want to imprint as a muscle memory.

Greg Norman taught me another method for hitting a hook, although it was while demonstrating how to hit a high bunker shot. Grip the club with the last three fingers of the left hand off the handle. When you swing the club, its weight and centrifugal force whip it right through and turn the clubface over at impact. You can also hold the club as you normally would but with very light pressure in the left hand.

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