In golf a hook – or a hooked shot – is one that sees the ball starting right of the target initially but then veering aggressively to the left as a result of strong counterclockwise sidespin. While the shot will start right of the target initially, the ball will cross the target line in flight and will continue spinning sideways until it comes to rest left of the target. And because it misses the target it is considered a golf shot error that should be avoided. Note that technically, the shot can also be called a pushed hook because as is the case for a push shot, the ball begins its flight right of the target.
Continue reading in order to find out what causes hooks and in order to get some advice on how to stop hooking shots. You’ll also find information on the pull hook variety, which is essentially a hook shot that starts left of the target and spins further left.
What Causes Hooks?
Clubface Open at Impact, But Closed to the Club Path
For a shot to produce a lot of side spin the clubface must hit the ball with an angle that is anything but square to the club path. Or in other words, the clubface must not be perpendicular to the direction of the club at impact in order to produce some side spin.
Specifically and for a shot to produce a counter-clockwise spin that is typical of a hook ball flight, the clubface must be closed relative to the club path. Or in other words, the clubface must aim more left than the path of the club itself. But – and this is important – because the ball flies to the right of the target initially it means that the clubface at impact was open relative to the target. And the only way the club can be aiming to the right of the target at impact yet be closed relative to the club path is through a severe inside-out club path.
Taken together and to summarize, a hook is caused by the combination of a severe inside-out club path and a clubface that is closed to that path yet is pointing to the right of the target at impact. This produces a shot that starts right of the target but spins left aggressively.
Likely Reasons: Closed Stance and/or Inside-Out Swing + Strong Grip
FIX #1: Your Stance is Closed – Move to a Square Stance
A hook shot is strongly associated with a closed stance. Indeed, it is very likely that your feet are aligned to the right of the target at address. Such a stance – if severe enough – can prove enough in producing an aggressive inside-out club path at impact.
Solving a closed stance and adopting a square stance instead can be accomplished relatively easily. While setting up for a shot, simply make sure that your feet are on a line that is parallel to the one formed by the ball and the target. Contrary to what happens in a closed stance, these lines should not cross on the way to the target but instead should remain parallel throughout.
FIX #2: Your Club Path is Inside-Out – Move to an Inside-Square-Inside Club Path
Solving an inside-out club path can also be achieved but it does involve working on the fundamentals of the golf swing more than merely tweaking the stance at address. And the first step towards the more enviable inside-square-inside club path is through the takeaway itself. During this initial stage of the swing, simply make sure that when the shaft of the club is parallel to the ground that the butt end of the club is pointing at the target, or left of it. This is in contrast to a grip that is pointing way right of the target, which is what we want to avoid.
If your stance was indeed neutral and of the square variety when you hit a hook then you’ll need to consider why else the club travels on such an inside-out path. And the cause to that will most likely be with your actual swing path. Golfers who begin their swings with an inside takeaway – rather than a square takeaway – almost can’t escape an inside-out club path at impact.
FIX #3: Your Grip is Too Strong – Move to a Weaker Grip
The two fixes above dealt with the club path itself. But as was discussed at the top a hook involves a combination of both the club path and the angle of the clubface at impact. So you’ll need to look at the reasons behind a clubface position that is closed relative to the path. And the likeliest culprit for that will be a grip that is too strong, resulting in a too active release of the hands and of a closed clubface at impact.
Solving a grip that is too strong is very easy to do. Indeed, while setting up for a shot simply make sure that your grip is not as strong as it usually is whenever hitting hooks. That means that if you could see 3 knuckles on your left hand at address, as is the case in a strong grip, simply rotate both hands around the club until you now see 2 knuckles and are instead sporting a neutral grip. If you were already using a neutral grip then weaken that grip further still by rotating both hands around the club until you only see 1 knuckle on that left hand, which is representative of a weak grip. Moving to a weaker grip will help slow down the release of the club at impact and will help in achieving contact with the ball while the clubface is square to the target.
More on: Grip strengths and their effects
Other Possible Reasons for a Closed Clubface
The following are possible explanations for why your clubface could be closed relative to the path, which as was discussed is a key element of a hook flight path.
Are you bringing the club back with a closed clubface during the takeaway?
The fact that your clubface position is closed relative to the path at impact may have something to do with the way you bring the club back initially. Indeed, during the takeaway it is possible that you are bringing your club up with a face that is too closed, or in other words with a face that is angled towards the ground too severely. Such a clubface takeaway position promotes a closed clubface at impact.
In order to remedy to this problem and in case it applies to you, focus on bringing your club back with a square clubface instead. A square clubface should still be angled towards the club a little because of the way your hands were set at address but it should be so at a more reasonable angle, the leading edge of the club just inside of being perpendicular to the ground.
More on: Square Clubface Takeaway
Are your wrists bowed at the top of the swing?
While progressing from the initial address position all the way to the top of the swing your wrists should naturally hinge and cock up. However, you will need to make sure your wrists remain strong enough to remain flat while holding the club up. This is in contrast to wrists that bow down at the top of the swing, which is visible by a left wrist that slopes down towards the ground. Bowed wrists at the top can cause hooks because the mechanism through which the wrists will uncock as the hands are brought down during the downswing can be overdone and close the clubface at impact.
FIX: Keep your left wrist flat at the top
Doing so will keep you from overdoing the process that bring back bowed wrists into flat ones at impact.
Is your club in a “laid off” position at the top of the swing?
A further possible explanation into a closed clubface has to do with the direction of the club itself at the top of the swing. Indeed, in addition to how your wrists were set up at the top the direction of the club can also be indicative of how your wrists will set up the club for impact. A position described as being “laid off”, where the shaft of the club points to the left of the target is often associated with a closed clubface.
FIX: Point the shaft towards the target at the top of the swing
Doing so will help prevent your wrists from aggressively releasing the club and closing the face at impact.
At the follow through, is the clubface turned over to the ground?
Finally, you may want to check the position of the clubface at the follow through, after impact. This may hold clues as to why your clubface is closed at impact. Indeed, a follow through position that sees your hands totally crossed over, and the clubface pointed towards the ground almost, is indicative of an aggressive release that can lead to a closed clubface.
FIX: Natural follow through
Doing so will help promote a more neutral release of the club and hopefully a square clubface at impact position.
Other Possible Reasons for an Inside-Out Club Path
Are you locking your right knee at the top of the swing?
Another part of the puzzle behind your hook shots – and another that relates to the top of the swing position – is found in how your right knee behaves. Indeed, some golfers tend to lock their right leg at the top of the swing. They do so while rotating the upper body on top of the hips. The problem with losing flex in that right knee is that it moves the hips around from its original spot, from which the upper body is meant to rotate. It puts it in a place where an inside-out club path will likely be seen which could ultimately lead to a hook.
FIX: Keep the bend in your right knee constant throughout
This should help you refrain from modifying the club path.
Other Possible Reasons for a Hook
If the likeliest reasons proposed above still don’t touch the core of your hooking shot issues then you’ll want to consider the following alternative explanations.
Are you hitting shots on the toe of your club?
It is also possible that you are not hitting the ball on the sweet spot of you clubface whenever you are hitting balls that hook left. Indeed, you should probably check to make sure you are not hitting golf balls on the toe portion of your clubface. This is best avoided otherwise the gear effect in golf is brought into the equation, which will transfer counter-clockwise spin onto the ball.
FIX: Stand closer to the ball
Doing so should help you hitting balls nearer to the center of the clubhead and away from the toe of the club.
Pull Hooks – How to Stop Pull Hooking shots Left
In golf a pull hook – or a pulled hooked shot – is one that features the same right to left side spin that is associated with a hook. However, in this instance the shot starts left of the target instead of right. So in contrast to the hook shot proper, a pull hook will see the ball start left of the target and proceed to curve left still. As is the case for a hook shot, a pull hook will also see the ball coming to rest left of the target. And as such, it is best avoided.
The causes for a pull hook are the same as those for a hook and are explained above. The only difference is found in the stance and clubface direction. Indeed, the stance is rotated counter clockwise until it is open to the target in contrast to closed and the clubface is also aimed left of the target, in contrast to right. But again, the right to left spin comes as a result of a clubface that is closed relative to the club path.