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arizona golf arizona golf arizona golfBook Review: Stop Slicing,
Start Playing...Your Best

Reviewed by Kiel Christianson, Regional Staff Writer

Stop Slicing, Start Playing...Your Best
Joseph K. Sullivan

Even a cursory perusal through the golf section of your local book store will present you with a dizzying array of publications by the biggest names in golf, all of whom promise to improve your swing.

So where to begin? One option is to eschew the famous golf gurus and turn to Joseph K. Sullivan, whose book Stop Slicing, Start Playing...Your Best (1999, Morris Publishing, $24.95, available at the website) is written exclusively for slicers by an ex-slicer. The advice around which the book is centered is simple, one-dimensional, and surprisingly sound: Stop swinging over the top.

Who exactly is Joseph K. Sullivan? Well, according to the book, he was once a competitive golfer who developed a terrible slice and elephantine handicap, thanks mostly in part to the instruction of golf teacher Jimmy Ballard and his "clones," as Sullivan repeatedly refers to them.


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All of the sordid details become abundantly clear over and over again, as Sullivan spends the first 58 pages of the 186-page book in a controlled rant, criticizing each and every one of Ballard's instructional techniques. If all that Sullivan says about Ballard and his teachers is true, the rant appears rather well deserved. Still, the seemingly endless condemnations of Ballard do grow tedious.

The book becomes much more interesting when Sullivan eventually begins elucidating his simple, consistent anti-slice mantra of "steep, then shallow" or "outside, then inside" (same difference). Sullivan's thesis is that 90% of slicers do so because they attack the ball from too steep an angle, resulting in a glancing blow in which the club slides across the ball, creating a slicing ball flight.

To counteract this swing plane, Sullivan presents an original instructional method (The SELFish Four(r)) and a number of drills, all of which promote a wide take-away, followed by a dropping of the club into what is sometimes referred to as "the slot," and finally a shallow, inside-out swing.

Sullivan argues that this swing path is of paramount importance for slicers, and he almost completely discounts all other standard advice regarding grip, stance, tempo, balance, etc., etc. This simplified approach is in fact an appealing feature of the book, since it can be argued that too many swing thoughts spoil the swing (in fact Sullivan does argue this point at length).

He also presents pictures and analyses of the swings of dozens of touring pros to illustrate that nearly all of them incorporate this same "outside, then inside" feature in their swings, while all of the other various aspects of their swings differ rather dramatically.

All in all, Stop Slicing offers sound advice for correcting an over-the-top slice. If this isn't your problem, however, there's not much in it for you.

One disconcerting aspect of the book is Sullivan's own recounting of his experience with the Colbert-Ballard golf schools. One wonders how Sullivan could have been so taken in by them for so long if they were truly as ineffectual and abrasive as he reports.

Another weakness is a prose that teeters occasionally between awkward familiarity and forced formality, and lacks a certain precision when describing the intricacies of some of the drills.

Nonetheless, Sullivan has written an instructional book that stands out from the others on the shelf: A regular guy describing in painful detail his descent into golfing hell, his self-affected redemption, and his own home-spun ministry about how other slicers can find salvation, too.