If you are trying to improve your swing, like nearly every golfer on the planet, you first need to specifically determine what you need to change.
Your first step is to find a good teacher, and let him/her tell you what you should be practicing. Trying to figure it out on your own, for the most part, can be futile. I see golfers practicing daily with no sense of direction, both literally and figuratively.
You need a plan, and then, most importantly, you need to stick with it. Having some kind of feedback is a big part of making a swing change. Seeing the ball fly in the right direction is not always your best feedback, as there are plenty of bad swings out there that, on occasion, hit the ball in the right direction.
I'm not a huge training-aid advocate, but here are some effective aids that I use in my own instruction that won't cost much:
1. Dr. Scholl's Odor-X Foot Powder
I use this daily with most of my students. It not only makes your feet smell better, but it also gives you great feedback on where you are hitting the ball on the face of the club.
• Irons -- Many players think if the ball is going abruptly to the right, the face is open at impact. Use the spray to see if you're correct. Many times, the ball is hit on the heel or hosel, which creates the right shot. Both a heel/hosel mark and a toe mark require different fixes. Know which one it is.
• Driver -- If your ball is slicing to the right, it might not be 100 percent related to your swing path and face angle. A ball that is hit on the heel of the club will tilt the spin axis to the right, causing a slice or fade most of the time. Before you start changing things up, make sure your face contact isn't the culprit.
If you find that your ball marks are not close to center, you can try this drill to produce more solid contact.
2. The Gate Drill
• If you hit the ball off the toe, you are probably slicing it, and the path of the club is moving too much to the left through impact. You might try getting your left arm lower across your chest at the top of your swing, and try to hit the outer tee. If you're hitting it off the hosel, you may be swinging too much to the inside, so try swinging more to the left by turning your chest earlier, and hit the inner tee with the heel. This can sometimes help correct your strike points with the ball.
Many players who hit the dreaded slice tend to be out of balance at the finish and have poor footwork in their swings. By using an old golf shaft between your toe line and at knee height, you can improve you footwork and balance:
3. Old Golf Shaft With Grip
• Most players who slice the ball tend to move into their toes through impact. With that, the body stops its rotation and the club moves too much to the left, causing the slice and instability in their balance at the finish.
• If your right knee is hitting the stick, you're moving into your toes.
• By getting a feel for your right knee moving inside the stick, your weight will move more into your left heel, and your lower body will turn better through impact.
• Learning to swing in balance by using the shaft drill is a great remedy for many swing faults.
Owen is the PGA director of instruction at the Country Club of Maryland in Towson. For more of Owen's golf advice, check out owendawsonpga.com.