What Determines a Push or Pull in a Golf Swing?

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Pushed and pulled golf shots are frequently confused with hooks and slices. A shot that hooks or slices, however, typically begins by flying fairly straight before curving to the left or right. Pushed or pulled shots travel a fairly straight line after impact but, unfortunately for the golfer, that straight line takes the ball on an angle relative to the intended target. Golfers should address the causes of pushed or pulled shots if they want to hit the fairway and green more often.

Causing a Push

The typical cause of a push shot is a swing arc that approaches the ball too far from the inside. At impact, therefore, your clubface is aimed to your right, instead of at the target. You may make solid contact with the ball with this type of swing, but your shot will still fly off to the right. Another frequent cause of pushed shots is a failure to square the clubface at impact, often because of a lack of hip rotation.

Curing a Push

To cure a tendency to push shots, golf writer Steve Newell recommends taking some practice shots from a very open stance. On the practice tee, a right-handed golfer aligns the toe of his left foot with the heel of his right. With this type of stance, your hips are already opened up, making it easier to swing the club along a proper arc. Once you hit a few straight shots from an open stance, close your stance but try to retain the same swing arc. Pushed shots can also occur if you play the ball too far back in your stance, particularly off the tee. Try playing the ball a bit farther forward in your stance and see if this cures your push.

Causing a Pull

When you swing the clubhead to the outside of the ball, you must bring it back inside – toward the ball -- before impact. This type of outside-to-inside swing will cause a slice if the clubface is square to the target on impact. But if the clubface is angled to your left you’ll likely pull the ball.

Curing a Pull

Newell’s treatment for a pulled shot is the opposite of his suggestion to cure pushed shots. Go to the practice tee and hit some shots from a severely closed stance, with your right toe aligned with your left heel. Keep your shoulders parallel to the target line while hitting from the closed stance, which helps you draw the club farther inside. Again, when you’re comfortable hitting the ball straight from the closed stance, return to your normal stance while maintaining the proper swing arc.

Check Your Divots

If you’re pulling or pushing your iron shots, your divots may offer a clue to the source of the problem. If a right-handed player’s divots are angled to the right, you’re pushing the ball due to an inside-out swing. But if your divots point to the left, you’re pulling the ball because of your outside-in swing. If your divots are straight, your clubface is probably misaligned at impact.