The Hook Shot In Golf

What 'hooking the ball' means, how to do it, how to stop doing it

Illustration showing the ball flight of a hook shot
The hook ball flight for a right-handed golfer: The ball starts out to the right before curving (often sharply) back to the left. Illustration by William Glessner

A "hook" or "hook shot" in golf is a shot that results in a significant right-to-left curving of the golf ball's flight (for a right-handed golfer; for a lefty, a hook curves left-to-right in flight). A hook can be played intentionally, but is often the result of a mishit.

A hook is a more severe version of a draw, and the hook is the opposite of a slice.

A very severe hook is sometimes called a "duck hook" or "snap hook." When those terms are used, it probably means the ball flight started out straight before dropping severely to the left - these are major mishits.

Two Famous Quotes About Hooks

  • "I hate a hook. It nauseates me. I could vomit when I see one. It's like a rattlesnake in your pocket." - Ben Hogan. Hogan was plagued by the hook early in his career - he hit a lot of them, and not on purpose. When he finally learned to eliminate the unintentional hook, Hogan turned into one of the greatest golfers of all-time.
  • "You can talk to a fade but a hook won't listen." - Lee Trevino. This is sometimes reported as, "You can talk to a slice, but a hook won't listen." What Trevino was saying was that it's easier for pro golfers to deal with fades/slices (left to right ball flight for a right-handed golfer) than to deal with the hook ball flight. That means both fixing the problem when you start hitting hooks unintentionally; or being able to hit them on command.

Recreational golfers are usually more afraid of slices, because slicing is what most recreational golfers do.

But it's the hook that scares the pros.

Playing a Hook Intentionally

There may be times when hitting a hook intentionally would be a great talent to have. How do you do it? The easiest ways for recreational golfers to intentionally hook the ball are:

  • Close your stance. A very closed stance can induce a draw or hook ball flight.
  • Close the clubface at address. Hold the club out in front of you and twist it so that the clubface is in a closed position. Then place your hands on the handle, using your normal grip, and set up to the ball with the clubface closed.
  • Strengthen your grip. For a right-handed golfer, this means rotating both your hands slightly to the right, so your left hand is more on top of club's grip and your right hand is more below it.

Try one of these on the driving range, try them in varying amounts, try them in combination and see what kind of draw and hook shot shapes you get.

Causes of Hooking the Ball - and Stopping It

If you are hooking the ball without meaning to - an uncontrolled hook - well, you probably hate that hook. It's a rattlesnake in your pocket, to quote Hogan again, that can jump up and bite you on any shot.

The root cause of a hook is a closed clubface at the moment your club impacts the golf ball. That imparts a right-to-left spin (a "hook spin") on the golf ball, causing it to curve to the left in flight.

What can you do about a hook? Here's a checklist of possible causes and corrections:

A basic checklist should already be clear from the methods mentioned above for intentionally playing a hook.

If you are hitting a hook without meaning to, first make sure:

  • That your stance is not closed and your shoulders, hips and feet are in alignment, parallel to the target line;
  • That your clubface is in a square position at set-up;
  • That your hands are in a neutral grip position.

And be sure to watch the video on correcting a hook that is linked just above.