The reason many golfers hit the ball right, even when there's plenty of room on the left, is that they don't know what makes the ball curve. Slicers slice because they fear the right side and try to pull the ball left at impact. That causes the club to cut across the target line, which leaves the face open. The more left they try to go, the more open the face. As a result, the ball picks up slice spin and sails over those O.B. stakes on the right.
When you absolutely can't go right, try these four things:
1. Carefully pick your target, which in this case should be somewhere on the left side of the fairway. Imagine a line from the ball to that target, and set your body lines—feet, knees, hips and shoulders—parallel-left of the target line.
2. Keep your grip pressure light. A tight grip can prevent you from squaring the clubface at impact. So make sure you start with your arms and hands relaxed, and maintain your grip pressure during the swing.
3. Focus on completing your backswing. Make a full shoulder turn and get all the way to the top. This gives you time to start the downswing on the correct inside path to the ball.
4. Finally, focus on swinging the clubhead through the ball along the left-facing body lines you established at address. Avoid the temptation to swing the club farther to the left at the last second. Visualize the clubface turning down—or closing—through the hitting area.
WHEN DANGER TRIES TO BITE
First, give yourself a wider berth: Aim farther left if the trouble is right. Then pick an intermediate target on your target line; this is easy to do on the tee because you can find a spot and tee up behind it. Now, you need to control the psycho-motor part (when the mind and body come together). To do that, make your final look at your intermediate target, not at the trouble. Last, instead of thinking Don't hit it O.B., tell yourself Hit the ball over the intermediate target. —Richard Coop, Ed.D.
FALDO PLAYED THE SAFE SIDE
In 1990, Nick Faldo entered the final round of the British Open at St. Andrews with a five-shot lead. Teeing off on 14, his lead was one. The last five holes on the Old Course have O.B. right, but the course's double fairways create room to play left. Faldo hugged the left side coming in, won by five and set a British Open record for lowest 72-hole score in relation to par. (Tiger Woods broke the record in 2000.)
Rick Smith is a Golf Digest Teaching Professional.