By Travis Fulton, Director of Instruction, TOUR Academies
The Presidents Cup was a thrill a minute if you’re a fan of birdies and offensive golf. It was like watching Broncos-Cowboys or LSU-Georgia, as the International and U.S. teams traded birdie for birdie and great shot for great shot.
There was the International squad’s Hideki Matsuyama sticking his approach within inches of the cup on the 18th hole Thursday, earning his team a half-point; the Americans’ Zach Johnson holing out for eagle from 115 yards late Saturday to clinch his foursomes match; Canada’s Graham DeLaet holing out not once, but twice, on the 18th hole Sunday, the second time from a greenside bunker to win his singles match 1-up over Jordan Spieth. And then there was the king of thrills, Phil Mickelson, preceeding DeLaet’s initial hole out with a miraculous intentional hook shot around a tree to 10 feet. From 180 yards and a sidehill lie! That set up teammate Keegan Bradley’s birdie putt, which allowed the U.S. to claim a critical half-point in a foursomes match suspended from Saturday.
From where Mickelson was standing on the fairway, the pin was directly in line with and behind the tree; therefore, in order for him to get the ball anywhere close to the flagstick, he had to start the ball well left of the tree and bend it back toward the green. Just how did he get the ball to hook so much? First, he had to make sure the ball would start on a line left of the tree. Second, he had to get the path of the clubhead moving even farther to the left of the tree -- thus, effectively closing the clubface relative to the path of the swing, and creating a massive amount of hook and curvature.
The problem most amateurs have with properly executing the intentional hook is that they don’t aim the clubface far enough to the left or right (for a right-handed golfer) of the object that they’re trying to curve the ball around. They aim the face at their target (usually, the flagstick) and move their stance to the left or right, thinking this will be enough to stay clear of the object. But it’s important to realize that the clubface is roughly 80 percent responsible for the ball’s initial starting direction, and if you aim the face at the obstacle you’re trying to avoid (i.e., a tree), you’re more likely going to hit that obstacle.
The intentional hook is a very useful shot to have in your arsenal. To execute it properly, follow these two simple set-up adjustments (for a right-handed golfer) and make your normal swing. The set-up tweaks should steer you clear of trouble and generate the hookspin you need to get the ball to the target.
Step 1: Aim the clubface
Assuming the obstacle you’re trying to maneuver the ball around is a tree, aim the clubface far enough to the right so that it’s looking right of the tree. This helps to establish a starting direction that is clear of the tree.
Step 2: Set your body
Rotate your stance line so that your feet, knees, hips and shoulders are aimed even farther right of where your clubface is looking. This will encourage a swing direction, or path, that is far enough from the inside (i.e., to the right) to get the ball to curve back toward the target.
Better players, like Phil, will assume a stance that’s more parallel, or square, to the face angle, and then move their swing direction even further to the right to produce a hook. I recommend that most amateurs rotate their stance line more to the right of the face angle--in a closed position -- to encourage a more in-to-out path. The more you get the path working to the right of the clubface, the more curvature you’re likely to generate.
If you’re still having trouble generating enough hookspin, position the ball one ball farther back in your stance, which encourages a swing direction that’s more from the inside. You can also strengthen your grip by rotating your hands more to the right on the handle. This helps you to rotate the face more down through impact, creating right-to-left spin.
Travis Fulton is Director of Instruction for all TOURAcademy locations nationwide. For more game-improvement tips from the TOURAcademy instructors, on-the-spot club recommendations and 3D previews of each hole you play, download the TOURCaddie PRO app at www.pgatourcaddie.com.