Mailbag: Trying to get the feel back

You asked ... we answered.

ESPN.com has teamed with ESPN Golf Schools to offer users an outlet for their golf frustrations. You e-mailed us your problems, and ESPN Golf Schools instructors offer their solutions to a few of them below.

Keep the questions coming! The next round of answers will appear in a few weeks.

Q. When I hit my driver, I'm coming outside in, hitting a major slice to the right. I can't fix it. I've changed my grip, swing, stance, everything. Now I've lost my swing altogether. I'm a 10.0 hadicap and have played for 30 years.

Wayne Gosvener
Tulare, Calif.

A. You sound like a good player who understands his swing but has just lost a little bit of feel for your swing and you need to get back on the right page. Your slice is caused from an open face at impact and many times an outside in swing path leads to an open face. We need to get you swinging on a shallower plane, which will give you a better chance to square the face up at impact. Changing your grip, stance, etc. can affect your swing path but I think we can fix the face and plane straight on and fix that slice.

The outside in swing path is usually caused from the player swinging from the top of their swing with their shoulders instead of letting their arms start the downswing. A great drill for this is the pump drill. Swing up to the top of your backswing and stop; then while keeping your back looking at the target as long as possible swing your arms down to about half way down, swing them back up and down again, swing them back up and on this time swing them down and hit the ball trying to keep your back to the target as long as possible. This drill will help you get the club swinging on the correct plane by swinging your arms first and not letting your shoulders control your downswing. You need to get your arms and the club started first to swing on a shallower plane.

The pump drill will make it easier to get the face square but you will need to continue to work on the face if you are still slicing. When you swing to impact feel that the back of your left hand (right handed golfer) is looking at the target. You MUST get the face square or you will continue to hit a slice. Feel your left forearm rotate to get the face square and the back of your left hand looking at the target. Work on these items Wayne and that slice will be gone soon. Thanks and good luck.

Nick Kumpis
ESPN Golf Schools Instructor

Q. I have some serious consistency problems with my driver. Sometimes I'm banging the ball 280 yards plus straight down the fairway. But most times I am flip flopping between a slice or a hook. With all my other clubs (3w-P) I tend to be straight or have a slight draw. How can I develop a consistent swing with my driver?

Tim Warton
Columbus, Ohio

A. The driver is the hardest club to be consistent with due to the lack of loft on the club and it being the longest club in the bag. Your irons fly straighter since there is a greater amount of loft compared to the driver; more loft causes more backspin. Backspin counteracts sidespin and since the driver has the least amount of loft it has the least amount of backspin to counteract the sidespin. This is why the driver is so hard to hit and curves the most of any club.

Your ball hooks (closed face at impact) and slices (open face at impact) due to how the face is at impact. A good drill for your driver is hitting full-length drivers at half speed. Take a full swing but at half speed and hit the ball. This will help you get a feel for the correct plane and correct face at impact since you will be going half speed. If something is off you will be able to notice it right away going at half speed. When you start hitting them straight go to about three quarters speed and then up to full speed.

The driver is hard to hit, if you hit 72 % of your fairways you would be in the top ten in driving accuracy on the PGA Tour so even the best players in the world miss the fairway one out of 4 times . Work on that drill and you will become more consistent with your driver. Thanks for the question and good luck.

Nick Kumpis
ESPN Golf Schools Instructor

Q. I am going to be playing some very hilly courses. What's the advice for downhill shots? I'm a little rusty on the strategy and set-up.

John Wallace

A. Downhill shots can be very imitating but all you need to do is make a couple of set up adjustments and you will be hitting these shots great. On all uneven lies the most important item is to make sure you keep your balance. If you lose your balance it will be very difficult to make solid contact with the ball.

Downhill lies

  • Set your shoulders so they are parallel to the slope, which will put, for a right-handed golfer, a greater percentage of weight on your left side and your left shoulder will be lower than your right one. You will need to keep this posture for the entire swing not just the setup. If you don't keep your shoulders parallel to the slope during the swing you will hit the ground about a foot behind the ball.

  • Take a couple of practice swings to see where the club is hitting the ground (bottoming out). This is very important to making solid contact. Now after you have taken account for where the club is hitting the ground adjust the ball position so the ball is where the club will bottom out. Because of the set up adjustment the bottom of the arc has changed and this is why we need to take a practice swing to find the new bottom of the arc. In general on a downhill lie the ball is played back in your stance. If you take a practice swing and the club hits to the right of your right foot (for a right handed golfer) you probably have not tilted your shoulders enough to be parallel to the slope or did not keep them parallel during your swing.

  • When you set your shoulders parallel to a down slope your hands will also lean left causing the club to deloft. Each club has about 4 degrees of loft between them-ex. 9 iron 44 degrees and an 8 iron has 40 degrees of loft. So for every 4 degrees of slope your club will change one numbered club. So on a very steep down slope your 9 iron could have the loft of your 5 iron. So be cautious of club selection and try to visualize how the ball will fly out. I would not use more than a 5 iron from a downhill lie due to how little effective loft will now be on the club.

  • Since your set up is unusual you cannot take a normal full swing. If is probably safe to take about a shoulder length swing. You might notice that since standing on the down slope your right knee could be in the way of your swing. Drop back your right foot about a foot so your right knee is out the way and gives you plenty of room to swing the club on the correct plane.

    If you go through these set up adjustments and strategy for your downhill lies you will hit everyone solid. Good luck playing those hilly courses and have fun out there.

    Nick Kumpis
    ESPN Golf Schools Instructor

    Q. 7 handicapper has developed a big problem with short (1-foot to 3-foot) putts. Making more 10-footers than short putts. Help!

    Gene Middaugh
    Sarasota, Fla.

    A. Putting is all confidence and when you start missing short ones every short putt you have you will think about the ones you have missed. For something to go into your long-term memory an emotional shift must occur. We expect to make those short putts so when we do make them there is no emotional shift, but when we miss it is an emotional shift occurs and it enters our long term memory. We need to get your confidence up and your stroke on the right path.

    To miss a short putt there is usually a little jerkiness in the stroke to send the ball off line. You need to feel your stoke like a pendulum for these short putts-same amount back as through and keeping the same pace. A great drill to help would be the putting track drill. Take two clubs (3 and 4 iron) and lay them parallel to each other so they form a track going toward the hole with the grip end finishing the track at the hole. They should be wide enough so your putter fits between them and you can make your stroke. Put the ball in the middle and knock the ball in the hole keeping the putter between the 2 clubs. This drill will help you visualize the line and give you confidence by knocking in tons of putts. When you look down the track to the hole pick a very small target at the hole such as a blade of grass. If you miss your target by just a little you will still get the ball in the hole.

    Practice this drill and you will make more short putts. When you go play just visualize the putting track and you hitting the ball right down the track and dropping in the hole like you did a bunch of times when you practiced. With some practice the shorts putts will all be dropping. Good luck.

    Nick Kumpis
    ESPN Golf Schools Instructor