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Fade or draw? Three reasons you should pick one

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All of us, myself included, started playing the game and quickly learned a majority of the shots we hit curved one direction or the other. Slowly through practice we learned to control the curve to some degree and thus began our journey as golfers. Before we get into the reasons for choosing a specific ball flight, let’s take a look at a functional draw and fade.

The Draw

fadedrawone.jpg

To draw the ball, the club face has to point to the left of the club path. To have it finish at your target, the above conditions have to be met in addition to both the club face and club path being pointed right of the target. All of these criteria combine to create a tasty little draw.

The Fade

fadedrawtwo.jpg

To fade the ball, the club face has to point to the right of the club path. In reverse of the draw, the above conditions have to be met in addition to both of them being pointed left of the target. This fade finishes a little right of target, but it is a functional shot. I’ll touch on this one a little later.

Having looked at both, here’s my top three reasons why.

1. Choosing a ball flight will help direct instruction.

I’m no different than anyone else in having gone to work with an instructor, and said, “What do you see?” If anyone should show up at a lesson with a plan, you’d think it would be somebody who plays golf for a living. Well, sometimes I did and sometimes I didn’t. And you can guess what lessons were probably most beneficial.

Making a decision before you visit an instructor will immediately shape the lesson. Letting your instructor know, “I like to fade the ball. Would like you to help me tighten things up.” You’re going to get lots of valuable information that you can use to improve your technique.

2. Gives practice meaning

Once you’ve made the decision to curve the ball one way or the other and visited an instructor, hopefully you’re going to have a few drills to help you clean up your technique. Combining drills while working your way through a bucket of balls is a great way to accelerate your improvement. You don’t have to spend hours working your way through three large buckets. Just set aside a few each time you practice to work through your drills. If you want more on practicing, read this.

3. Gives you the tools to use on the golf course.

All right, we’re making progress here. You have a plan in place. You’ve made the decision to draw or fade the ball. You’ve visited an instructor and have been working on the range to improve your technique, and now you’re ready to take what you’ve practiced and put it to work.

Let’s say you’re faced with this tee shot.

fadedrawthree.jpg

This is a daunting tee shot no matter your capabilities. Let’s tackle this from the perspective of someone who fades the ball. Depending on your appetite for risk, something that finishes on the right edge of the green would be perfectly acceptable. So let’s use your tools. You want the ball to finish on the right edge of the green, so aim accordingly. For those of you who like to visualize, maybe something like the image below will help. Think of that 150 sign on the range as the right edge of the green or whatever your favorite target is.

fade draw fi
Photo by Dan Perry. Overlay by Rob Rashell. 

Having made a decision on a preferred ball flight, you can use your shot shape to take trouble out of play. This hole is not an ideal fit for someone who fades the ball, but with a consistent fade you’re moving the ball away from trouble. There’s also something sneaky that happens here. While you’re getting the yardage, checking the wind, picking a club, visualizing the shot and lining yourself up, your mind is busy and hopefully distracted from potentially negative thoughts. Do these things guarantee you’ll hit a good shot? Of course not. These are useful tools to give yourself the best opportunity to hit a good shot, which is all any of us could ask.

In the moment of truth, the best advice I can give you is to let go a little bit, trust the fact you’ve prepared to hit the shot and, most importantly, learn from the outcome. Maybe you hit a great one. Celebrate a little. I’m not saying spray down your playing partners with champagne, but you’ve worked hard, remember the shot and why it was successful. Maybe you didn’t hit a great one. That’s no biggie. See if you can figure out what went wrong and move on to the next shot.

In my playing career, with very little exception, I played the ball exclusively right to left, a draw. This structure drove all of my decision making on the golf course in both planning and execution. The fewer decisions you have to make on the golf course, especially when the heat is turned up, the more energy you’ll have to execute your shot to the best of your abilities.

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Rob earned a business degree from the University of Washington. He turned professional in June of 1999 and played most mini tours, as well as the Australian Tour, Canadian Tour, Asian Tour, European Tour and the PGA Tour. He writes for GolfWRX to share what he's learned and continues to learn about a game that's given him so much. www.robrashell.com Google Plus Director of Instruction at TOURAcademy TPC Scottsdale www.touracademy.com

39 Comments

39 Comments

  1. MAC

    Jun 8, 2016 at 7:48 pm

    IS THAT MEDINA?

  2. Matt Brighton

    Aug 12, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    I’ve recently had a bout with the shanks. I think I’ve just about gotten rid of them. Now a fade is probably more of my “natural” shot, but since I’ve always had a tendency to shank it (lately more so than not) I’d like to think that by going with a draw would help me eliminate that (since the club face would be more closed).

    Then again, this is going against what my natural shot is. I’m kind of at a loss as to which direction to go (so to speak). Thoughts?

    • Tim C

      Feb 11, 2016 at 1:53 pm

      Actually trying to play a draw may hurt you in trying to eliminate the shanks. A closed club face actually exposes the hosel, not an open club face. The vast majority of the time it is an out to in club path with a closed face that causes shanking

  3. Roger

    Apr 21, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    Rob, i re read this article again over Easter.
    I had written a Key Goal this winter is to have a Hi Fade available
    on demand with a 3 and 5 wood for approach shots.
    And drop and stop on the 5 wood a big help.
    Just rebuilt an old TM R7 with a P L Blue and its fadeable
    and i dropped 3 balls in a close Triangle yesterday!!
    Just watched Josephs video on Gear Effect! Thanks!
    Now to re shaft my 4 and 3 woods ! Thanks!

    • Rob Rashell

      Apr 22, 2014 at 3:12 pm

      Roger,

      Great to hear things are going well, any other questions let me know!

      Rob

  4. Mad-Mex

    Apr 3, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    Pick one? One of the reasons I stopped reading any golf magazine was due to the fact they always contradicted themselves, the ONE article which has stuck in my mind was by Mr. Trevino who said “play your natural flight”, so I ask you, should THAT not be the norm? I am happen to be a natural fade player, well, how bad will my game get if I “pick” I want to be a draw player? Isn’t Mr. Trevino right? Play with what you have NOT with what you want? Thanks

    • Rob Rashell

      Apr 7, 2014 at 2:58 pm

      MM,

      Here’s what worked for me throughout my career as a player. Choosing a ball flight and creating a plan to implement that flight. Catering practice, strategy, play, and routines to that flight. Practice exceptionally hard,and believe in yourself. The shape to me doesn’t really matter, the amount of your practice, the quality of your practice, and the attitude and belief you have in yourself have a far greater impact. Good luck and have fun!

  5. Nick

    Mar 19, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    Choosing a shot shape will also give you more predictable misses. I know I might block a draw or I might hook or pull hook a draw, but it will take a really bad swing to slice the ball with all the practice I’ve put into developing a reliable (well sort off, I’m not a tour caliber player of course) draw. It also doesn’t take long to find out what “miss” I’ve brought to the course that day, as I tend to favor either a push or an “overdraw” (hook or pull hooks) so then you can start looking at holes and know for example, on that part three, if I should take dead aim at the pin and know I’ll either get it tight or push it to the right side of the green or if I should aim for the center/center left of the green knowing that I may put it on my safe target or a slight overdraw could put me on the pin, with sufficient room for error to avoid overcooking into the water.

    If you play army golf hitting all types of shot shapes unpredictably, its very difficult to manage a golf course and make smart decisions about targets, alignment, etc.

    • Rob Rashell

      Mar 20, 2014 at 11:29 pm

      Nick,

      Great stuff, play for a score on the course with what you’ve got and go work on it after the round. Tournament golf in a nut shell.

  6. Jack

    Mar 14, 2014 at 4:21 am

    When you say “This hole is not an ideal fit for someone who fades the ball, but with a consistent fade you’re moving the ball away from trouble” Do you really mean “This hole is not an ideal fit for someone who draws the ball”?

    • Rob Rashell

      Mar 15, 2014 at 1:40 pm

      Jack,

      I’ve never liked starting the ball over trouble and having to curve it back to safety. For a left flag, someone who fades the ball might have to do just that to get it close. More opinion than anything else.

  7. Ryan Nelson

    Mar 7, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    Hey Rob,

    Just got off the Trackman monitor. I hit a drive that had a 5* angle of attack, club path of 7.1*, face angle of 5.1*, and a face to path of -2*. However, the ball ended up going wayyyy to the right. Shouldn’t those numbers produce a nice draw? What gives?

    • Rob Rashell

      Mar 8, 2014 at 10:16 am

      Ryan,

      One of the most compelling things I’ve learned from Trackman is the value of a center strike, especially the driver. Here’s a great video of gear effect in action. Without getting too technical, a heel strike causes a fade, a toe strike causes a draw, no matter the launch conditions. This guy has a great video about gear effect as well. Hope this helps!

  8. Ryan

    Mar 7, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    Hey Rob,

    Just got off the Trackman. I hit a driver with an attack angle of 5.4, club path 7.1, face angle 5.1, and face to path -2.0. However, the ball ended up wayyyy right. What gives?

  9. Joakim

    Mar 6, 2014 at 10:33 am

    Hey Rob,
    If you began working with a player from absolute zero, where everything is neutral and path and face makes the shot fly straight, if you where going change and start working building a draw- or a fadeswing, which shot would you choose and why?

    Thanks!
    Joakim

    • Rob Rashell

      Mar 6, 2014 at 6:38 pm

      Joakim,

      Great question. The why is such an important piece. Choosing gives a person ownership and responsibility. As an instructor I can’t give a player the why, just as when I played full time, no one could give me the why. Physical ability will factor in choosing as well as a person’s natural intuition on how they think making the ball fly works. The shape really doesn’t matter, what does matter is choosing one or the other, putting in the work, and the most important piece, having an unshakable belief in what you’ve got.

  10. Tony Lynam

    Mar 4, 2014 at 8:25 am

    Great article, fundamentally right on the mark! I was really proficient at fading the ball, from power to cuts, but I never could draw the ball (wanted to do both at will depending on the situation). Now I’m just the opposite. I can draw the ball on command, but now I cannot fade it 90% of the time I try. What gives?

    • Rob Rashell

      Mar 4, 2014 at 10:37 am

      Tony,

      The relationship between the club face and club path is very difficult to change, even more so from one shot to the next. I’m a big fan of inversion or flipping something upside down. If you can’t fade the ball 90% of the time, I’d want to help you bridge the gap and make it 100% of the time. Don’t underestimate the value of knowing which way the ball will curve AND being able to execute. Endless possibilities!

      • Tony Lynam

        Mar 18, 2014 at 11:16 pm

        So are you saying stick with the one you can do the most proficiently?

  11. Rodrigo lee

    Mar 2, 2014 at 9:11 pm

    who is a draw player on Pga tour?

    • Rob Rashell

      Mar 3, 2014 at 10:47 am

      Rodrigo,

      Ryan Palmer would be a good example. He’s played great this year and put himself in a great position to win the Honda yesterday. EVERYTHING moves right to left for him.

  12. TheLegend

    Mar 2, 2014 at 11:43 am

    If you wanna the best shape it is def a fade. The best players fade it.

    • Rob Rashell

      Mar 3, 2014 at 10:49 am

      Legend,

      The best shot shape is the one that helps you score the lowest.

  13. Andy

    Mar 1, 2014 at 4:27 am

    I’m a fader, its the only shape of shot I can execute with 100% confidence. The only time I draw is when I need to hook it ala Bubba Watson. I just cant control draw. Please tell if I’m doing the right thing?

    • Rob Rashell

      Mar 1, 2014 at 11:32 am

      Andy,

      Play the fade, and ask yourself how can I get better at fading the ball? If you can refine what you’ve got a little bit each day, the sum of the improvements will have massive impact on your game. All the best!

  14. GolferX

    Feb 28, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    Articles like this drive me to drink (OK, so I don’t need much of an excuse). When I aim for a fade, I snap hook it and when I aim for a draw, it pushes right. If I aim straight, it will fade right. I set up for these shots and still get the opposite results. Believe it or not, I usually hit it straight (give up a lot of distance). Help!!!

    • Rob Rashell

      Feb 28, 2014 at 10:50 pm

      X,

      If working with an instructor is out of the question, use what you’ve got. I’d say aim way right and try to hit a fade, your snap hook should land right in the middle. When you’re on the golf course, play for score and worry about fixing it later. I remember not being able to keep a wood in play off the tee in a tournament, so I hit an iron off every tee, for three days…weird thing happened, I won. Believe in what you’ve got and play it, its better than you think.

      • GolferX

        Mar 22, 2014 at 11:53 pm

        Thanks for the comment Rob. You’re right, I just need to get the job done. Drinks on me next time you’re in the Bay Area. Like I said don’t need much of an excuse.

  15. JohSte

    Feb 28, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    Great article Rob. I think golfers in general try to hit ball straight ( which is an accident btw) instead of playing the course with what they have i.e. draw or fade. Sometimes the course dictates your shot with doglegs or pin placements.
    I have learnt not to hit ball straight but to dictate what I want to do. So i deliberately set up open or closed face/stance then swing, knowing with in a probability of 95% that ball is going to curve the way I want it to.
    In Australia on the NSW?VIC border its been a balmy average 95F.
    IN Winter max is about 62F.

    • Rob Rashell

      Feb 28, 2014 at 10:57 pm

      JohSte,

      Thanks for the comment, I went to Aussie tour school in Brisbane, great country and even better people. Big fan of the Gold Coast. All the best with your golf!

      Rob

    • Daniel V

      Mar 26, 2014 at 4:36 pm

      I agree that many golfers are trying to hit their shots “straight” in the most literal sense of the word, but instead the ball takes a (fade or draw) to land at the targeted point.
      I make similar adjustments to my stance based on the terrain and distance( I happen to play a fade on my shots), then all that is left is to hit it, and then talk to the ball as it flies through the air.

  16. holden madiq

    Feb 28, 2014 at 10:27 am

    Nice article. Unfortunately I have to wait until after impact to determine ball flight

    • Rob Rashell

      Feb 28, 2014 at 11:54 am

      Holden,

      No time like the present to make a choice and get to work!

  17. paul

    Feb 28, 2014 at 8:26 am

    I found it handy to hit draws with every club in the bag except driver, which I can only fade (low torque shaft, open face). So if a fade doesn’t work I just switch clubs, and aim to keep it in the fair way.

    • Rob Rashell

      Feb 28, 2014 at 11:51 am

      Paul,

      Good stuff, know what you’ve got and how it works. You’d be surprised how many people play golf for a living doing just that.

      Rob

      • paul

        Feb 28, 2014 at 2:12 pm

        Its a chilly -30 here in Canada right now, and I play virtual golf. Been practicing quite a bit this winter. Started the winter happy to break 90 (pro courses, blue tees) and now I am breaking 80 with the new equipment fitting my style. Had a chance to play around Vancouver last month and this method works great for me.

  18. Martin

    Feb 27, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    Nice article, my eye thinks that hole suits my fade just about perfectly.

  19. Bob Gomavitz

    Feb 27, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    Rob, nice to have you aboard WRX. I look forward to more great insight like this one as I was just having this conversation with a buddy up at Newcastle GC. It’s great to have your brother up there also! Miss the HP days with that stacked first division. Cheers BG

    • Rob Rashell

      Feb 27, 2014 at 2:28 pm

      Bob,

      Keep the boys inline at Newcastle, especially my brother! Thanks for the note.

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