Dear Dr. Putt:
I know Ben Hogan had a hooking problem but don't know how he solved it except I think I read somewhere that he "supra-nated" his left wrist, whatever that means. Do you know of any drills he can do to correct his problem? His swing appears too flat and I have been working with him to get his hands higher and his swing plane more upright but was wondering if you knew of any drills that he could do to help him from hitting those low, scrambling hooks into the trees.
Thanks in advance for your help. My friend has already started my girls college funds by losing to me but if he quits I won't be able to get all the money I need?
My Dear Jay:
Dr. Putt is quite moved by your empathy and proactive approach to your friendís problem, albeit that you have some self-interest in seeing that your friend continues to flail away. Could it be that you wish Dr. Putt to offer just enough advice to keep him at it without fully solving the problem? Dr. Putt will not entertain such ill thoughts about his readers, lest he lose the trust of both of them.
On to your friendís problems. But first, an aside. A ďsupinatedĒ wrist was a key in Hoganís cure to his hook. He speaks of this in his classic ď5 lessonsí book on pp. 101-102. This means that his wrist was bowed out at contact, thereby keeping the clubhead behind the hands. This promotes what is often called the late hit. It keeps the clubhead from closing too soon and prevents a hook. The reverse, pronating the wrist, so that the back of the wrist is cupped in, can cause a hook, among other things. Of course, this is very very hard to control. It took Hogan many hours of daily practice to make it happen consistently. Suggesting wrist supination to your friend as a conscious ploy to correct the hook should help finance at least another semesterís college costs for your offspring.
Please allow Dr. Putt to make several observations about hooking the ball. Hopefully, some of these may prove helpful to your friend.
You note that he has a really flat swingplane. You are indeed correct that this does promote a hook. It also promotes inconsistency, as the flatter the swing, the less time the clubhead is on the intended path of the shot. If it were physically possible, the ideal swing would be perfectly vertical so that the path of the clubhead is on line for the entire swing. Your friend needs to take the club straight back, feeling the he is reaching up for the sky with his hands at the top.
Golf is often a game of opposites. It is counterintuitive. To move the ball to the left, one SHOULD aim to the right. However, in most instances if one fears hitting to the left, one tends to aim more to the right. This only exacerbates the hook. (The slicer intuitively aims to the left, only to slice more.) Line up the feet parallel to the intended line of flight with a clubshaft. Lay a shoebox on the ground just on the inside of the backswing, This forces the backswing to go straight back and prevents the downswing from being too inside out.
One can also hook by having overly active hands, usually specifically the right hand. Swing with the right thumb off the grip, or even the right thumb and first finger. They are usually the culprits. (Dr. Putt sometimes actually plays with his right thumb off the club.) This should slow down the rotation of the clubface through the ball.
A hook can be caused by a reverse weight shift. This causes a premature closing of the clubface. Make sure that your friend finishes the swing with 90 percent of his weight on the left foot. Have him pose at the end of the shot to ensure that he finishes where he should.
An overly strong grip can be another culprit. Rotate the left hand counterclockwise so that at address he can only see a single knuckle. The Vís formed by the thumb and forefinger should point to the chin or somewhere between the chin and right shoulder. However, Dr. Putt would not change the grip unless the Vís are now pointing to the right of the right shoulder. Grip changes can be counterproductive. A weak grip can cause even more hand rotation as the muscles unconsciously try to compensate. A stronger grip has some other advantages that one should not give up without a great deal of careful consideration. A strong grip does not require as much rotation to square the face of the club and therefore requires less precise timing. This makes the strong grip easier to use, and this is why modern players generally prefer a strong grip.
As another last resort, your friend might try to swing so that he hits the ball with the back of his left wrist and then keeps the face of the club pointing up at the sky as long as possible on the follow through. If he is swinging inside out this should cause some pushed shots at first. But that is ok. He should soon adjust.
Trying all of these courses of action should keep him in the game long enough for you to win some more college money. If he still wants to give up the game, please write Dr. Putt again and he will provide you with another list that should keep him occupied for another few months.
If Dr. Putt had more friends like you, he would indeed be a poor man!