Mishits in golf are a common occurrence no matter the skill level. Among the many types of golf mishits, including tops, duffs, chunks, and hosel rockets, it’s the slice that keeps golfers up at night and can be a difficult mishit for the average golfer to overcome without professional help.
So, what is a slice in golf?
A slice is a type of golf shot where the ball veers sharply off target in a banana-shaped curve that goes far right for right-handed golfers and far left for left-handed golfers. As a mishit, a slice occurs as a result of several swing faults including an outside-in swing path and an open clubface.
A slice doesn’t travel as far as a normal golf shot because of the golf ball’s higher trajectory and drastic side spin. Because slices veer so far off the anticipated path, golf balls often end up lost among trees, in water hazards, or someone’s backyard.
What Is a Slice in Golf?
A slice is a term in golf to describe a type of shot that curves sharply away from the golfer’s anticipated target, i.e. the fairway or putting green. Sliced golf balls can end up 50-100 yards offline, often traveling much shorter than the intended distance. Right-handed golfers slice the ball to the right, while left-handed golfers slice the ball to the left.
The slice is one of the most common mishits in golf, especially among new and beginning golfers just learning the basics of the golf swing. The golf swing itself is a complex athletic movement that requires significant muscle coordination and balance. Any golfer plagued by a slice should seek help from a golf teaching professional that can prescribe fixes to address the root cause of this mishit.
A slice is also one of the nine types of golf ball flight laws. The nine golf ball flight laws are the direct result of the relationship between two key elements of the golf swing: swing path and clubface. Each element has three possible orientations that combine to create the nine possible ball flight laws.
From left to right across the ball flight spectrum from a right-handed golfer’s perspective, here are all nine of the ball flight laws in greater detail including each one’s swing path direction and clubface orientation. The spectrum of ball-flight laws for a left-handed golfer would be the opposite of what is listed here.
- Pull Hook – Outside-in swing path with the clubface closed to the swing path line.
- Hook – Straight or inside-out swing path with the clubface closed to the swing path line.
- Pull – Outside-in swing path with the clubface ‘square’ to the swing path line.
- Draw – Inside-out swing path with the clubface ‘square’ to the target line.
- Straight – Swing path the same as the target line with a clubface ‘square’ to the target line.
- Fade – Outside-in swing path with the clubface ‘square’ to the target line.
- Push – Inside-out swing path with the clubface ‘square’ to the swing path line.
- Slice – Straight or outside-in swing path with the clubface open to the swing path line.
- Push Slice – Inside-out swing path with the clubface open to the swing path line.
Here is a diagram showing the relationship between the target line, swing path, and clubface orientation to produce each of the nine ball flights. For left-handed golfers, the opposite is true for each ball flight shown below.
What Is the Target Line?
The target line is the straight line from the golf ball to the golfer’s intended target like a fairway or the flagstick on the putting green.
What Is a Swing Path in Golf?
The swing path, also called the club path, is the linear direction the club moves during the swing towards the golfer’s target. There are three types of swing paths: Straight, Outside-In, and Inside-Out.
- Straight – A ‘straight’ club path is as it says, a club path that moves on a straight line parallel to the target line. When combined with one of the three clubface orientations, the resulting ball flight types are Straight, Hook, and Slice.
- Outside-In – An outside-in swing path starts outside the target line and then after impact, it moves back inside the target line. When combined with clubface orientation, the resulting ball flight types are Pull, Pull Hook, and Fade.
- Inside-Out – An ‘inside-out’ swing path starts inside the target line and then after impact, it moves outside the target line. The resulting ball flight types are Push, Push Slice, and Draw.
What Is a Clubface in Golf?
The clubface is the part of the golf club that makes contact with the golf ball. The clubface is a flat surface with horizontal grooves that, at the moment of impact, will affect spin as well as the initial direction of the golf ball towards its target. The clubface can be one of three things at impact: Neutral (also called Square), Open or Closed.
- Neutral or Square – A neutral or square clubface means the horizontal line of the clubface is perpendicular to the swing path at impact.
- Open – An open clubface refers to the degree to which the clubface is pointed right of the swing path at impact for a right-handed golfer or left of the swing path for a left-handed golfer. When a golfer’s clubface is open at impact, it adds loft to the trajectory of the golf ball and accentuates the golf ball’s spin.
- Closed – A closed club refers to the degree to which the clubface is pointed left of the swing path for a right-handed golfer and or right of the swing path for a left-handed golfer. A closed clubface decreases the trajectory of the golf ball and exacerbates the golf ball’s tailing spin.
What Causes a Slice in Golf?
A slice is caused by the combination of a straight or outside-in swing path and a clubface open to the swing path at impact. The open clubface adds loft to the golf ball’s trajectory and exaggerates the side spin placed on the ball.
How to Fix a Slice in Golf
The primary cause for a slice comes from a golfer term called ‘over the top’. Over the top refers to an exaggerated outside-in swing path. Because a square or closed clubface will send the ball far left or right, depending on the golfer’s hand orientation, of the target, the golfer’s natural instinct is to leave the clubface open at impact. This makes the slice very difficult to control and should not be relied upon as a consistent shot shape for any golfer.
Golfers suffering from a slice often experience high scores and many lost golf balls. If you are plagued by a case of the slices, here are a few suggestions that may help:
- Seek Professional Help – A golf lesson from a PGA Golf Professional is the best first step to take. Watching videos online or seeking advice from friends may provide quick initial fixes but they’re often just bandages used to stop the bleeding. A slice is a product of deep-rooted swing flaws and the eyes and ears of a PGA Golf Professional are better able to diagnose the specific causes that create a slice.
- Alter the Orientation of Your Alignment – Golfers who suffer from a slice often think they have to aim further left for righties or further right for lefties but this often exaggerates the severity of the slice. Try closing your stance, or shifting your aim, across the target line to bring your outside-in swing closer to parallel to the target line.
- Check Your Tension at the Door – Tension is a killer in golf, especially in the hands. Gripping the club too tightly limits the mobility of the hands which are responsible for rotating the clubhead through impact. A grip that is too firm leaves the clubface open at impact, initiating the excessive side spin typical of a slice. On a scale of 1 to 10 (softest to firmest grip strength), grip the club at about a 4 or 5 for the typical iron or driver swing.
Is a Slice Always a Mishit?
A slice is not always a mishit. Sometimes golfers purposely hit slices if they are trying to hit a golf ball around an obstacle like a fully grown oak tree or a group of pines. A slice as a mishit is an uncontrolled shot and the golfer usually has no idea where the golf ball will come to rest.
When a golfer seeks to hit a slice on purpose, they typically have the skill to control the golf ball’s trajectory as well as the degree to which it curves around an obstacle. In this case, just because a golfer is purposely hitting a slice, doesn’t necessarily mean they will be successful in executing the shot.
Slice vs Hook
A slice and a hook are both mishit golf shots resulting from a combination of swing flaws but that is where the similarities end. A slice is as previously discussed, a sharply curving golf shot that moves left to right for right-handed golfers and right to left for left-handed golfers.
A hook is the exact opposite of a slice. For a right-handed golfer, the ball curves sharply to the left and for left-handed golfers, it bends sharply to the right. The hook is the result of a straight or inside-out swing path with a closed clubface.
Slice vs Fade
A slice and a fade are both similar in that the spin exerted on the ball moves it to the right for right-handed golfers and left for left-handed golfers. The spin on a golf ball from a fade allows it to land softer and typically does not roll out very far. However, there are a couple of distinct differences between the two.
- One is Done on Purpose, The Other…Not So Much – A fade is a controlled shot that starts left of the intended target and gently falls back towards the target line for a right-handed golfer. Or, for a left-handed golfer, a fade starts right of the target line and gently bends back towards the intended target. A slice on the other hand swerves wildly out of control and finishes well off target.
- It’s All About the Face – A slice and a fade can both result from an outside-in swing path but the key difference between the two is the orientation of the clubface. For a fade, the clubface is open to the swing path but never more than square or neutral to the target line. A slice however has a clubface open to both the swing path and the target line.
Slice vs Draw
A draw is a type of shot that is the exact opposite of a fade and nothing like a slice. It is a controlled shot and the result of an inside-out swing with a clubface square to the target. For a right-handed golfer, the ball starts right of the target line and gently falls left back towards the intended target. The spin placed on a golf ball from a draw promotes topspin and usually rolls more once it lands.
Slice vs Shank
A slice and a shank are similar in that both are mishit golf shots. Both shots move in a similar direction away from the golfer and are results of an outside-in swing with an open clubface. However, the primary difference is where the golf club makes contact with the golf ball. For a slice, the golf ball makes contact somewhere on the clubface, providing a much cleaner feeling and normal-sounding shot at impact.
Unfortunately, a shank is often viewed as the most egregious and embarrassing mishit shot in golf. A shank is also called a ‘hosel rocket’ because it is the hosel, and not the clubface, that makes contact with the golf ball. The hosel is where the shaft connects to the ‘heel’ section of the clubhead. A ball hit off the hosel sends painful vibrations up the shaft into the golfer’s hands, produces a clunky sound, and squirts sharply away from the golfer.
When a golfer hits one shank, it often leads to many more. Because of this, the word itself is often thought of as taboo or bad luck and rarely uttered out loud. If you witness a friend hitting one, it’s best to leave any thoughts or comments unsaid.
What Is a Push in Golf?
A push is a term in golf to describe one of the nine ball flight laws. A push happens when the clubface is square to the swing path of an inside-out swing and the effect is a golf ball that flies straight along the club’s swing path. A push for a right-handed golfer is a straight shot that travels right of the intended target line. Conversely, a push for a left-handed golfer is a straight shot that travels left of the intended target line.
What Is a Push Slice in Golf?
A push slice is a combination of the two types of shots. A push slice starts online with the inside-out swing path but due to the open clubface it often ends up further right than a normal slice.