What Is a Slice in Golf? And If You Have One, What Helps?

Explaining why many golfers slice their shots

Illustration showing the slice ball flight
A slice curves dramatically to the right (for a right-handed golfer) of the intended line of play.

A "slice" is a type of golf shot in which the golf ball curves dramatically in flight from left to right (for a right-handed golfer). The slice can be played intentionally, but is usually the result of a mishit. Slices are the most common problem for recreational and high-handicap golfers. The shape of a sliced shot differs for right-handed golfers and left-handed golfers (although the causes - more on that below - are identical):

  • For a right-hander, a slice curves to the right;
  • For a left-hander, a slice curves to the left.

(We'll stick with right-handedness in all examples to follow, so lefties need to reverse any directional elements.)

A slice and a fade shot share the same shaping (curving to the right for a right-hander), except that a slice is more severe. A slang term for a slice is "banana ball."

The slice is the opposite of a hook shot.

A sliced shot may start out left of the target line and then bend dramatically back to the right of the target. Or the ball can begin on the correct target line before swerving right. A shot that begins right of the target line and then curves farther right is a "push-slice."

What Causes a Slice?

At its root, a sliced shot is caused by the clubface arriving at impact with the golf ball in an open position. This may be due to setup or swing issues that cause the face to open, or to an outside-to-inside swing path that effectively opens the face by "wiping" or "swiping" across the golf ball, imparting "slice spin." (Slice spin is a clockwise sidespin for right-handed golfers, counter-clockwise for lefties.) Cutting across the ball at impact on an outside-to-inside swing path is also called "coming over the top."

Those are the two primary causes of a slice, and in combination can create a much more severe slice.

How to Stop Slicing Your Shots

Is your golf game plagued by the dreaded slice? Start by checking out several of your fundamentals to make sure simple setup problems aren't causing that slice.

  • Make sure you are not gripping the club with the face in an open position. Unless you are trying to hit a ball that curves right (slice or fade) or left (hook or draw), set up with your clubface square. Or are you rotating the club open on the backswing? Make some backswings but stop when the club reaches parallel to the ground. The toe of your club should be pointing straight up. If it is "laid off" - pointing behind you - you already have an open clubface.
  • Make sure you are not setting up with an open stance (feet, hips, shoulders aligned left of the target line). Just like your clubface, you stance should be square.
  • Make sure your grip is in a neutral position and are you are not using a weak grip (hands turned too much to the left for a right-hander).

Often both the clubface position and the swing path must be corrected to permanently rid yourself of the unintentional slice. 

Read instructor Roger Gunn's setup and swing checklist for possible causes and corrections:

There are many videos on YouTube from golf instructors that focus on the slice. And remember that the draw shot is the opposite of the slice, so teaching yourself how to draw the ball is also a way of eliminating the slice.

It's always best to solve a problem in golf by fixing the root cause, such as a cluface position, swing path or setup issue. But equipment can help, and making equipment changes can be of benefit to golfers who slice. See:

Hitting the Slice Intentionally

We all think of the slice as a bad thing, a mishit, something to be avoided. And usually that is true - that is always true when the slice pops up unintentionally, as is mostly the case with recreational golfers and high-handicappers.

But there are instances when being able to play a slice intentionally sure would come in handy. Like hitting a big, sweeping curve around that tree that's blocking a straight path to the green.

How to play an intentional slice? There are several ways, and you may need to combine two or more depending on how big a curve you are trying to play:

  • Open the clubface at address;
  • Open your stance and align your body to the left of the target line, but otherwise grip and swing normally;
  • Weaken your grip (see video linked above for more on strong/weak/neutral grips). For a righthander, this means turning your hands to the left on the handle of the club.