Tony Finau: Here's how I 'slice-proofed' my golf swing
When I got on tour in 2014, I was hitting a slice off the tee. No joke. Yeah, I had plenty of power, and I knew how to play the curve, but I was a tour player who was watching his tee shots peel 30, 40 yards to the right. Over the past five years, I've learned why I was a slicer, and I've worked hard with my teacher, Boyd Summerhays, to get rid of that big curve. If you hit a slice, I think hearing about what we've done is really going to help you.
If you make the effort to address the moves that cause a slice, you can straighten out all your shots. It won't happen overnight, but if you're systematic about it, the process will work. In time, you'll start to see golf courses differently, as I have. You'll stop worrying about needing room on the left to start the ball, and you won't be looking right with dread. You'll hit the ball more solidly and control where it goes.
At the heart of every slice is an open clubface. And it usually goes with a steep swing that cuts across the ball from out to in. Check out this photo of me from a few weeks ago (above). My right arm is below my left; the clubface is square (pointing just left because it's after impact); and my upper body is still in posture—no straightening up or spinning out. With my old swing, I would've been standing up, my right shoulder way high and the club tracking miles left. Man, I like this one a lot better. -- With Peter Morrice
RIGHT SIDE DOWN
I used to have my right hand too much on top of the grip and my right arm straight at setup. If you'd laid a club across my forearms, it would've pointed dead left. To offset that, I'd roll the clubface open going back. That one move set up my slice.
The first change Boyd and I made was to move my right hand more under the grip. I quickly started curving the ball less. You might think tour pros make only sophisticated changes, but that simple move made a huge difference. If I feel a little off one day, it's the first thing we check.
The stronger right hand also helps me put some bend in my right arm and set it close to my side. As Boyd is showing (above), I want my right arm under my left. The feel for me is, the right elbow is bent and tucked. This change—and the new grip—helps me get a good start to my swing, with the clubface rotating naturally. I don't even think about the face.
SQUARE AT THE TOP
My left arm used to be more vertical at the top of the swing, with the shaft pointing out to the right. Now my left arm is across my chest, and the shaft is parallel to the target line at the top (above). Also, you can see the clubface is at the same angle as my left forearm; that's square. My clubface used to be wide open, the toe hanging straight down. I know we're getting a little technical here, but I want you to see these changes—they literally set up the rest of my swing. Now I don't have to make any last-ditch effort coming down to compensate for an open face.
My swing is also shorter, because I love the feeling of my right arm staying close throughout the swing. If that means short of parallel, so be it. Boyd and I don't look for textbook positions; we let the ball flight tell us what's right. I have plenty of room to create speed, and most important, the face is in a strong position. No slicing from here.
Photo by Walter Iooss Jr.
STAYING TO THE INSIDE
The first move down is when slicers think, Oh no, I have to start this thing left, and I was no exception. I used to throw the club out on the downswing to force my swing more to the left. That made me steeper and opened the face even more.
“TO SWING FROM THE INSIDE, YOU HAVE TO BE CONFIDENT THE FACE ISN'T OPEN.”
Check out how the shaft is in line with my right arm (above); it used to be in line with my left. These days I just keep that feeling of the right arm staying in close. I'm confident that the face is taken care of, so I can swing freely out to the ball without worrying about losing it right.
As I said before, I can stay in my posture, too. I used to pull my head away from the ball and yank the club left. I know now, the more you go left, the more open the face is relative to the path—it's an ugly cycle. Boyd and I joke about holes I used to play where I didn't have room to hit driver because there was a tree on the left. I hit driver everywhere now.
LEARNING NEW SIGHTLINES
People see my swing has changed a lot, and they ask me what was the toughest part. Boyd and I worked hard on the setup fundamentals, which naturally began to change my swing mechanics. I started seeing less curve immediately. The funny thing is, I was able to adapt my technique quicker than my eye. I've had to get used to new sightlines when I play. For so many years I was watching my tee shots slide hard to the right. I used to think I was hitting a draw at times, and the ball was still curving to the right! I still prefer to play a little fade, but I've had to recalibrate my visuals.
One drill we use is setting up a gate for my shots using two alignment rods. We set the gate about two feet wide just to the left of the target line and about 10 yards in front of me. I work on starting the ball through the gate. If I do that, I know my ball will fade a touch to the target.
NO FUNNY FINISH
I'm purposely not doing a big part on impact here, because we're talking about setting up the right things—clubface, swing path, body angles—so the strike will pay off. Slicers try to save the swing at impact by jerking the club left or flipping the face closed. If you do your job at address and going back, you can give the ball a good, athletic rip.
That said, it's smart to have an image of your follow-through. Boyd and I have worked on what we call a “passive release,” meaning there's no handsy move to control the face. I'm rotating my body through in sync with the club. I want the toe to point upward (square) here. You might be thinking, Why not close the face to get rid of a slice? That's an unreliable fix. Better to have the face all set, and just turn through. I'll take reliable—I plan to be on tour awhile.
MEET THEM AT THE RANGE
Tony and Boyd let us video a 30-minute practice session at McDowell Mountain Golf Club in Scottsdale. Hear their fascinating give-and-take as Tony pounds drivers and demonstrates different types of tee shots. An unfiltered look at what a top player and coach work on. Watch it as part of our Golf Digest Schools program: GOLFDIGEST.COM/ALLACCESS.