Are your teeoffs ticking you off? Does it seem like you can NEVER fire the ball in a straight line? Are you losing dozens of yards in distance because you can’t shoot where you’re aiming? If you’re sick and tired of missing the fairway and golfing in ankle-high grass while your friends jeer you from the cart path, then keep reading. You’ve stumbled on the techniques you need to fix your pulled golf shots and stay competitive on the scoreboard.
Crooked shots are the number one barrier inexperienced golfers face that holds them back from playing the game at the next level. Try as you might, there’s no way to “compensate” for badly pulled or sliced golf shots.
At the end of the day, if you don’t get that shot straightened out, you’re never going to win a match.
It’s an issue that afflicts a lot of new golfers, and one that even some veteran players still struggle with out of habit. Fortunately, pulled shots aren’t the worst problem to have in golf. We’ll talk at length another day about dreaded dead pulls and push slices.
Here, we’re going to talk about the most common causes of a pulled shot. We’ve put together a bundle of actionable tips you can try right away to get that ball flying on the path you want it.
Now that the mild weather has finally spread all over the northern hemisphere, there’s no better opportunity to get out there and hit the range.
Here’s a fun idea: shoot a before & after video of your progress. When you’ve straightened out your shot, send us your video and you could get featured on the Cyber Caddie homepage!
Oh, by the way- videotaping yourself and analyzing your swing afterwards is the best way to learn about your tendencies, short of hiring a private coach or trainer. We recommend shooting that before & after video even if you’re a little camera shy!
My Shots Go to the Left… Is That a Pull Shot?
A pulled golf shot is one that beelines off the tee to the left like a hard-hit line drive to left field. A regular pulled shot doesn’t curve in mid-air; that’s an even more serious problem with more mechanics involved. We’ll talk about cuts and hooks later, but for now, let’s talk about left-side misfires in general.
Major Causes of Pulled Shots
The only way you can even achieve a pull shot is by striking the ball on the outside face first. That is, the face of the ball that’s pointing away from your body.
The ball can’t have any spin on it for it to stay on a straight flight path the way that it does. This means you’re hitting the ball at a squared off angle with the face of the club.
I can hear the questions now. “But if I’m hitting the ball squarely, and pulled shots come from hitting the outside of the ball, how am I pulling my shot?!”
This happens when you “close” the face of your club. This simply means that the head of the club is rolled slightly forward as it makes contact with the surface of the ball. The club face is “closed” over the top, which pulls the angled faceplate forward and catches the ball slightly around the outside.
Check your grip. A strong, tight grip is among the most common reasons golfers pull the ball. Loosen your grip; it should be firm, but not tight. Take an entire knuckle out of the grip on your front hand. For more on this, check out our breakdown on How to Grip a Golf Club Like the Pros.
This happens, too, when you’re misaligned with your target.
Check your feet. Your toes should be parallel to the line of your desired shot. Where’s your left foot?
It’s common to establish your stance with your front foot pulled back behind the other. Not only does this make it harder to rotate your upper body, but it pulls the trajectory of your shot back to the same angle your feet make with your line. Your shot will have no chance of going straight.
Plop. Bunker shot. There goes your bid for a birdie.
Stance is a tricky subject. Watch any PGA competition, and you’ll see that no two golfers stand exactly the same way. But, there are some principles they all follow that you can apply right away to improve your own stance. Learn about aligning your feet and more with our guide to Breaking Down a Proper Golf Stance.
Other Common Causes
While stance and grip are the most common reasons you’ll pull shots, there are other important things to look for to make sure you aren’t setting yourself up for a misfire.
Shooting off the tee isn’t quite the same as shooting from the grass. If your ball is already in play, and you’re shooting from a tough lie, you’re much more likely to pull the ball.
Pulls happen frequently when your lie is elevated above you. If you land on a sidehill, you run the risk of swinging down the hill and basically scooping the ball back towards you. Butch Harmon tells his golf students to lean towards the slope and swing up the slope.
He tells us exactly how to do this: weight forward, compensate your aim to the right, and let gravity do most of the work.
Addressing the Ball – Club Angle
Check out the angle your club shaft makes with the ground. Does the heel of the club lie flat on the ground, or is it raised?
A proper angle, called your lie angle, should rest the heel flat while the shaft angles out towards your body. If you’re holding your clubs in a nearly-upright position, you’re not shooting to the specifications of your club. Or, if you’ve got too much bend in your knees, you might find that you need to stand closer to the ball, or stand more upright in general, in order to keep your club on the right angle.
When the toe points up, you get behind the outside of the golf ball more easily and pull your shot.
Find a set of clubs with a lie angle that most closely matches your natural grip and stance tendencies. Then, on each and every shot, do your due diligence to ensure you’re addressing the ball at the proper angle.
Addressing the Ball – Position
Even the perfect stance won’t help you shoot straight if you’re not lined up with the ball properly.
If your ball is too far ahead of you, you’ll double down on pulling because not only will you strike it with a closed club face, but you’ll be hitting it with the part of your swing that should really be part of the follow-through. I.e., you won’t make square contact with the ball. Your swing will be way off the angle you tried to line up.
Your club on any given shot dictates the ideal golf ball position. Remember, since your shorter clubs should have the ball positioned closer to center, “too far forward” is different for practically every shot you take. Generally speaking, if the ball lies halfway between your sternum and the inside of your front foot, that’s too far forward for the shorter half of your bag.
Try centering the ball more, particularly in the short game, to keep it shooting straighter.
Even More Tips to Fix Your Pull Shot
Just like with your stance, there’s no one right way to go about addressing your accuracy. We’ve covered the most important elements of shooting straight, and now we’ve got a few more hot tips to help push back against nasty pulls.
Check Your Shoulders
If your shoulders are moving too fast, your downswing is going to fall off its line. This results in a pulled golf shot.
Keep your right shoulder in a bit as you start your downswing. Don’t let it flare out more in the direction of the ball. This will help you maintain your swing line to hit the ball cleanly.
Don’t Lock Your Knees!
A common fundamental issue some new golfers face is too much tension and motion in the lower body. While you definitely want to rotate and swing through all the way, the motion has to happen at the right time.
One thing to watch out for – your knees. Keep them flexed throughout your follow-through. If you lock your front knee as your hips come around, you’re essentially pushing your hips slightly upward as you come around, taking your swing off its line. That’s a quick way to pull your shot even if everything else about your swing was perfect.
Swing with the Big Muscles
This talk of “it’s all in the wrist” is all well and fine – but too much micromanaging of your fine motor control will actually do more to restrict your swing, rather than enhance it.
Let your primary muscle groups do the work. Swing naturally, with as little forced effort as you can. It’s really your upper body and gravity that do most of the work here. Your bigger muscles will guide your hands and arms all the way through your swing.
Watch how long the pros take from the first pull into their backswing all the way through their follow-through. This isn’t a single, snappy motion. It’s fluid, natural, and relaxed.
Roll Your Back Arm Over
When you’re dealing with a closed club face, there’s an easy trick to try and open that face up.
Address the ball with your natural grip. Then, rotate your back arm a bit such that the sensitive part of inner elbow is facing more towards the ball and upwards, without moving your hands from their position on the grip. This will pull back the head of the club and open the face up to be more flush with the ball.
Go Fix Your Pulled Golf Shots!
Nothing in golf is “simple,” but you should now have a clear plan of attack for managing your pulled golf shots. Go hit the range and start applying these pointers so you can stop dropping embarrassing shots in the rough.
Don’t forget, film a “before” video of yourself so you can compare your progress with your baseline. Once you can see a clear difference in your swing and accuracy, shoot an “after” video and send it our way for a chance to be featured on Cyber Caddie!