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Hank Haney believes Jordan Spieth has the yips, but this is why he’s entirely wrong

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Speaking to ESPN.com, Tiger Woods’ former coach Hank Haney pulled no punches while discussing his reasons behind Jordan Spieth’s lack of form, blaming his current state on a case of the “yips.” Talking to the broadcaster, Haney stated that

“When I watch him putt, he visibly has the yips. You watch his hands on short putts and there is a tremor in there. I don’t care if the putt goes in or doesn’t. He was center cut on his first putt at the Ryder Cup. But his hands were shaking. He had to miss more short putts than anybody on Tour.”

Although Haney’s take will go unnoticed by many, who have had the prevailing opinion that Spieth’s issues are all green-related drilled into their heads, the view is in fact at best uninformed and at worst lazy. The Texan’s putting has not been the issue since the first part of 2018, yet the belief in the golfing world that Spieth now has the yips has grown legs like a fine Bordeaux.

The reality is that over his previous 32 rounds, or last eight events on the PGA Tour if you like, where strokes gained statistics are recorded, Spieth has gained strokes over the field with the flat-stick in seven of them.

An even closer study, concerning form within the ‘yip range’, i.e. inside five feet, shows that in the same period Spieth is currently one of the best. Entering this week’s Sony Open, the 25-year-old sits eight in the 144 man field for strokes gained putting inside five feet. Not too shabby for someone with the yips, right?

Extending that view, in his last nine events, Spieth stands 26th in this week’s field in strokes gained putting from 5-10 feet, and an impressive sixth from the 10-15 feet range. While in the overall picture, the three-time major champ sits 18th in this week’s field for strokes gained putting over the same period.

The view that Spieth has acquired and currently has the putting yips is an uninformed take that is surprising to hear from such a successful swing coach as Hank Haney.

Instead, Spieth’s current issues look to revolve around his long game, having lost strokes to the field in six out of his last eight events off the tee. A problem which Spieth acknowledged as much this Wednesday while preparing for the Sony Open.

“Last year I was really off with the putting the first half of the year; that started to get better and then the swing got off.”

Another reason for his winless streak looks to be from his long-distance putting. In 2015, when Spieth dominated, his putting from 15-25 feet was off the charts. The Texan made an inordinate amount of putts from distance in that period, while in his last 50 rounds, Spieth sits a lowly 133rd in this week’s field for strokes gained putting from 15-20 feet and 113th from 20-25 feet. To say his form on the greens from those ranges has been off in recent times would be fair, while to say that Spieth has the putting yips would be obtusely inaccurate.

Spieth’s putting has not been an issue since May, and the American has already acknowledged that his stroke was off for the opening months of 2018. Yet the false narrative that he can no longer putt that is still banded around by so many talking heads in the world of golf today is both baffling and insulting.

To these people, including Haney, let me refer to what the man himself had to say while he was responding to questions this week over the current state of his game.

“I know what’s wrong with Jordan Spieth, and I know what’s right with Jordan Spieth.”

The constant and lazy criticism of Spieth’s putting, since he isn’t holing everything he looks at currently, appears to have killed any of the joy that the 25-year-old once portrayed while competing at the grandest stages. Golf’s freewheeling golden boy from 2015 now looks closer to resembling Atlas from ancient Greece than ever before; the Titan forced to hold the entire world on his shoulders for eternity.

Though we may not be in ancient Greece now, Spieth is a Titan in the world of golf, with more wins on the PGA Tour than any other player in the last 30 years before the age of 26 besides Woods, and is too talented and intelligent not to discover how to throw off the shackles of whatever is ailing him on the course.

Spieth’s task, however, would be much easier to achieve if those with the platform stopped wrongly persecuting the three-time major champion for his performance on the greens.

 

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Gianni is a freelance writer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts as well as a Diploma in Sports Journalism. He can be contacted at gmagliocco@outlook.com. Follow him on Twitter @giannimosquito

68 Comments

68 Comments

  1. Charles Panco

    Jan 15, 2019 at 7:41 am

    The “journalist” is completely wrong. Stats are entirely different from the yips. Perhaps the “journalist” should leave his desk and Google in order to discover facts on his own before writing such articles.

  2. jim

    Jan 12, 2019 at 8:06 pm

    When Jordan was winning regularly,he would pick his club,line up his shot and hit it.Now it takes him forever to hit his shot.I really think he’s thinking too much.

  3. Patricknorm

    Jan 12, 2019 at 3:15 pm

    Hank Haney is correct because; Hank did have the yips; with his driver. I knew Lance Armstrong was dirty I too took EPO. So those of you giving Haney such negativity, he knows from where he comes. In fact the same could said for Rory Mcilroy who used to make everything but know struggles on the greens.
    My take is that things came so easily for Spieth and McIlroy that now that they have grown into their bodies , there are adjustments and these young guys are trying to figure it out.

    • frank cichon

      Jan 13, 2019 at 3:08 am

      I have been saying for the last 18 months that Rory has the yips. I am not sure that Rory made everything he looked at when he was winning. As for Jordan he had 2-2 1/2 years of making just about everything he looked at. No one can sustain that for any length of time. I think that Rory had success because his game what GOOD…DISTANCE and great iron play and the putting
      was (as the saying) goes just par for the course. If Rory wants to win all the majors he MUST putt better (his wedge play is fair to good at best. Rory MUST get a world class caddy that can control the 6 inches between the ears and one that CAN read greens, because IMO Rory is poor at reading greens.

  4. Scheiss

    Jan 12, 2019 at 2:13 pm

    He’s laying pipe now that he’s got a woman and every guy goes thru that slump due to lack of energy from too much humping. That’s all it is

  5. Ernie Happala

    Jan 12, 2019 at 12:54 pm

    You leave out the one stat that blows up your article, under 5 feet in 2018, way to make the numbers match your opinion. I am not a fan of Haney, have personally argued with him at a PGA Summit, but to completely ignore that stat is a slap to the face of a lot of passionate and intelligent members of GOLFWRX. Maybe it’s your opinion that is incorrect, present your argument with ALL the statistics and let the reader decide, leave the slanted journalism to CNN and Fox…

  6. James Glenn

    Jan 12, 2019 at 3:40 am

    Having the yips, and missing putts — as Haney implied clearly — are not mutually inclusive. No-one can miss the hole from two feet on tour greens without something happening. Speith stopped holing an ungodly percentage of putts from 15-25 feet and thuan he became a mortal once more. He’s a hell of a player, but something is indeed going on inside of 5 feet there.

    I’m a PhD in Sport Marketing and an amateur golfer that plays off of +4 — I think I’m just as qualified to weigh in as someone with a bachelors in Sports Journalism.

  7. Brad

    Jan 12, 2019 at 2:30 am

    pretty ignorant to think this writer thinks he knows more than hank. people don’t like it when people speak the truth and hank does just that. he has done endless studies on the yips. the yips is seen as the word you don’t say in golf, no tv commentator will ever say it. its not a death sentence like many people think, it can be over came and jordan looking at the hole is already one unconventional way of doing it. hank is a huge jordan spieth fan and people don’t like to hear the truth like it is.

  8. Scratchscorer

    Jan 11, 2019 at 10:22 pm

    Hank Haney is wrong. Jordan is struggling with the long game and putting better than 3/4 of the best players in the world. Only someone desperate for attention would claim he has the yips. His ‘hot take’ should be ignored entirely.

  9. AggOwl

    Jan 11, 2019 at 4:28 pm

    Evidently the author doesn’t understand Haney’s point. “You watch his hands… there is a tremor… I don’t care if the putt goes in …. his hands were shaking”.

    Haney as one of the most successful and respected teachers, ever, is giving an opinion of the mechanics he sees in the stroke. The author uses data and statistics to dispute Haney’s opinion of the mechanics and has totally missed the point.

    • Obee

      Jan 11, 2019 at 6:33 pm

      Exactly. Read one of my responses below. I literally cannot hit a put with ONLY my right hand without my right hand spasming out of control as I approach impact. With NOTHING on the line, on a practice putting green.

      If I turn my hand into the “claw” grip with that hand, VOILA, tremor gone.

      There’s something strange going on, and science is only beginning to understand it.

    • Mike C

      Jan 11, 2019 at 6:44 pm

      Do you see a tremor? I think Haney is the only person who can see his hands shaking.

      • Brad

        Jan 12, 2019 at 2:33 am

        would he not be one of the most qualified to do so ?

        • Bra

          Jan 13, 2019 at 7:28 pm

          I believe a doctor would be the most qualified to diagnose a tremor.

          Haney is getting older and likely can’t see as well as he used to. To my much younger eyes, I can’t see a “tremor” or shaking when Speith is putting, and I’ve checked out several recent videos of his putting. In fact, his hands look steady eddie.

  10. ButchT

    Jan 11, 2019 at 4:24 pm

    Thanks, Gianni. It is good to see thought provoking articles – whether I personally agree with them or not. If you did not have a degree in sports journalism, some here would be criticizing you for that! Disagreeing with someone in a civil manner is pretty much a thing of the past.

  11. Roy

    Jan 11, 2019 at 3:54 pm

    Poorly written – with the exception of distance putting there is no pre/post comparison. Current performance alone offers no proof as to whether he does or does not have the yips. Its like saying “I cant be an alcoholic, I work 40 hours a week” . If I used to work 60 hours a week, maybe Im drinking in the free 20 hours a week now???

  12. Jerry

    Jan 11, 2019 at 3:38 pm

    Spieth has been yipping his driver under pressure. When he won at Hartford he pulled his drive dead left on both 17 and 18 barely stopping before the water (I believe he even tried using a 3 wood.) He then pulled his drive dead left again on 18 in the playoff and luckily hit a tree and stopped him from going in the water. He was fortunate that he then hit his second shot into the bunker and holed out from the bunker. It sure looks like he yipped his tee shots.

  13. Prut

    Jan 11, 2019 at 2:26 pm

    3-foot putts have always been Spieth’s nemesis. Even when he was making everything outside 10 feet he was missing short ones.

  14. Ernie Els

    Jan 11, 2019 at 2:09 pm

    It’s hard to putt when you have snakes in your head”

    Haney and the golf ‘shrinks’ won’t help.

    Should spend as much time with fellow Texan Ben Crenshaw as he cab

  15. PGA Pro & Board Certified MSc Therapist

    Jan 11, 2019 at 2:05 pm

    Haney ain’t never been right. Screwed more players up than he ever fixed & should have been DISBARRED & SUED for malpractice for what he did to Woods – instead of teaching him a couple of obviously needed changes to stop tearing up his body halfway through his career (He actually knows nothing about functional human anatomy – especially AFTER INJURIES HAVE OCCURRED) but instead tried to make visible changes to say “look, I fixed TW” NO little tweaks on grip & takeaway that ruled the planet for 10 yrs – stuff he hadn’t thought of since he was 5 – were what that man needed.

    Haney is a made up guru of caca but a great marketer

  16. Jeff

    Jan 11, 2019 at 2:02 pm

    Don’t bring fine Bordeaux into your garbage article. It deserves better than that.

  17. Dlamb

    Jan 11, 2019 at 2:00 pm

    Haney trying to remain relevant in a world that has forgotten him!

  18. Jerry G

    Jan 11, 2019 at 1:56 pm

    If you did not know, Hank has the yips, especially an unusual case of driver yips, so anyone whose short game or putting goes south has the yips in Hank’s view. First, it was Tiger, now it’s Jordan. I wonder what Jordan said about Hank at a cocktail party that got back to Hank.

    You know what happens? Tiger or Jordan change a technique, gain more confidence, etc. IOW, they overcome and the so-called yips OR the lack of confidence misdiagnosed as yips, goes away.

    Hank must have felt lignored for a while, and needed to see his name in the limelight again.

  19. A. Commoner

    Jan 11, 2019 at 1:26 pm

    Shabby journalism. Grade of D minus on this essay.

  20. Rob

    Jan 11, 2019 at 1:14 pm

    I think he’s lost confidence, some of which dates back to Birkdale when he took way too long on the 4th RD 13th and probably took an improper drop. He was given leeway by the official because of who he is. I think he knows that and it’s bothering him. BUT his real prob is his awful grip on full shots, you can’t make putts if you are too far from the hole !!!

  21. Stephe Pearcy

    Jan 11, 2019 at 1:14 pm

    I believe it is not putting that’s Spieth’s issue unless you believe that unreal putting performance from long range was going to be the strength of his game. Physics pretty much dictates that no one is going to be able to consistently sink long range putts so, if he was counting on that, he’s in trouble. But I don’t believe he is and, since the statistics say his putting is not the problem, I believe Spieth knows exactly where it is – the long game. And, he’ll get it back, though dominating now, with the many, many superior players coming into the game, with be very, very difficult.

    • Dave

      Jan 11, 2019 at 8:18 pm

      +1. It will be hard, but he can scrape it as well as anyone. Unlikely to putt like 2015, but grinds in majors pretty damn well for someone so young.

  22. Mrs Haney

    Jan 11, 2019 at 1:03 pm

    Hank is right…..again.

  23. Dave r

    Jan 11, 2019 at 12:52 pm

    Most people making comments on here never had the yips I’ve had the yips lasted for 2years and I could not even pull the putter back to start a stroke ,they are not fun . Short putts are the hardest putts to make because you should make them never had a problem with long putts. This young man will figure it out he is probably the best long and lag putter out there . Mr Haney has his points and should just leave it at that no need to say anything about the problems unless he is asked by Jorden. Mr Haney is a good teacher and should stick to teaching not reporting.

  24. Tom

    Jan 11, 2019 at 12:47 pm

    Haney is a wacko….nuff said!

  25. Vance

    Jan 11, 2019 at 12:41 pm

    Only Jordon can say if it’s the yips or not. What are the yips? Fear of failure. Some observations, Jordon was maybe the best putter ever from 25-foot range, it was not going to be possible for him to continue that stellar putting forever. Jordon said that he could tell when another player was struggling with his putting as they followed the ball rather than keeping their head still. Jordon is following the ball. I do believe if he is going to win any more majors, he better start knocking those wedges stiff, the 25 foot putt days are over.

    • Obee

      Jan 11, 2019 at 5:07 pm

      The yips are “fear of failure.” Thanks, Doctor.

      Have you ever had them?

      Here’s how wrong you are: I’ve had the yips for 20 years. I had no idea how to cure them all that time. I would listen to people like you who minimized them and I would carry on. But I always had them, even when I was playing my best.

      Then one day I read an article about how putting with the claw can completely remove them for some people and I tried it. INSTANT CURE.

      I cannot putt a ball with my bottom (right) hand only without my hand spasming so bad that it’s visible to the naked eye. I realized this one day when trying to putt with only one hand (a drill that some instructors recommend). It was hilarious. I literally could not hit a single put, regardless of length, without my hand spasming prior to impact.

      A year later, after adopting the claw, I thought I’d try it again with just one hand. Maybe my brain had been re-wired. Tried it with my hand in a “normal” position and it was like I got electrocuted, spasm city. Grabbed the club with my right hand in the “paint brush” position (the “claw grip that I use”) and VOILA. I can putt one-handed with no yipping.

      There is something very, very real happening there that has NOTHING to do with fear.

      • Wes

        Jan 11, 2019 at 6:58 pm

        AGREE!! This is dead on accurate!

      • 24Linc

        Jan 12, 2019 at 9:58 pm

        Totally agree. There are “yips” and there are yips. If you have the real yips you can’t putt, chip or full swing without spasming sometimes even when you are not under pressure. Yes pressure makes it worse but doesn’t not cause it. It’s a miscommunication from the brain. You can retrain it but takes a lot of effort or you can use a different grip, motion etc to trick your brain.

  26. dixiedoc

    Jan 11, 2019 at 12:26 pm

    Yips or no yips he just looks twitchy all the time. Never settled or confident. He didn’t use exhibit those qualities

  27. MR Common Sense

    Jan 11, 2019 at 12:22 pm

    JS does not have the yips. Spank haney is an idiot in this regard. Although I respect him and what he’s done, he’s wrong here. When Jordan starts looking at the hole again, he’ll make EVERYTHING, just wait.

    • Obee

      Jan 11, 2019 at 6:31 pm

      Anybody who putts cross-handed and THEN resorts to putting while looking at the hole has had the yips. JS has had, and will continue to struggle with the yips until he does something to overcome his current bout, he will continue to suffer.

      If he starts looking at the hole again — if he starts making everything again — it will be because looking at the hole calms his yips.

      Most of you people who don’t have, or never have had, the yips just do not get it.

      Watch Mackey Sasser, Steve Sax. Rick Ankiel, Chuck Knoblauch, Markelle Fultz — all from other sports.

      The yips are a thing. They happen. Nobody wants them, they come unbidden. They are not caused by “poor mechanics” or “caring too much.” Find a few friends who have suffered. Talk to them. Learn a bit.

  28. Jose Pinatas

    Jan 11, 2019 at 12:02 pm

    Yippie dudda, yippie yie eh……. Speith can’t make a putt from 3 to 5 feet,,,Hey..

  29. TheCityGame

    Jan 11, 2019 at 11:39 am

    You are cherry picking statistics. 5-10 feet? 10-15 feet? The yips affect people on short putts and last year Spieth was 128th on putts inside of 5 feet.

    2019, it’s still too early to tell. We’re still at a stage where the top guys are at 100%.

    • Obee

      Jan 11, 2019 at 5:11 pm

      Hey, bud, they also affect people on long putts and uphill putts sometimes. I’ve had both kinds over the years. More so the longer ones than the short, actually.

  30. Jolonda

    Jan 11, 2019 at 11:35 am

    The last paragraph states that Spieth’s task to play better will be much easier if his performance on the greens will stop be criticized. That is false. Spieth playing better has nothing to do with what Haney or anyone else says. That is simply up to him to fix whatever ails him and perform better. That being said, I do agree that Jordan’s real issue is that he hits a lot of offline and strange shots for someone of his caliber—it is his ball striking from distance that lets him down.

  31. GMatt

    Jan 11, 2019 at 11:29 am

    I think I’d trust the opinion of an experienced golf instructor over the opinion of a hack sports reporter (with a bachelors degree in sports journalism yet) who probably doesn’t even play. Hank may be a Douche Bag at times but I’d say he probably forgot more about the golf swing than Gianni has ever learned…..

    • John

      Jan 11, 2019 at 11:49 am

      I agree. As someone who battled the yips for the best part of 30 years, I recognise the affliction in others. Spieth himself might not want to admit it but his putting stroke today isn’t anywhere near as assured as it was a few years ago. As the old saying goes: ‘There are lies, damn lies and statistics’ and, no matter what the stats say, Spieth is no longer winning because he isn’t holing out as well when it matters. Gianni is obviously a Spieth fanboy and, like all fanboys, refuses to acknowledge what is glaringly obvious to others.

  32. Obee

    Jan 11, 2019 at 11:20 am

    Yes, he has the yips.

    It is baffling to me that so many people (the overwhelming percentage of them who have NEVER had them) are so unwilling to even consider that a tour pro might have them. He exhibits literally everything I would associate with the yips last year.

    But the most telling thing: The hands trembling, as Haney mentioned. He’s not my favorite guy to listen to either, but he’s 100% right.

    Can Spieth get over them? Absolutely, but he’s going to have to make a change, and a pretty big one. If this continues, look for him to go to the claw.

  33. Nick

    Jan 11, 2019 at 11:13 am

    he dropped from 39th to 123rd in strokes gained: putting in 2018.

  34. Prime21

    Jan 11, 2019 at 10:55 am

    Hank is just moving on to the next “victim” so he can stay relevant. Didn’t Hank say Tiger had the chipping yips and that he’d never recover from them & once you have them they never go away? How’d that theory hold up? Just teach Hank, it’s what you’re good at, leave the commentary stuff alone.

    • Funkaholic

      Jan 11, 2019 at 1:38 pm

      The Hank Haney project says otherwise, this fraud rode Tiger’s coattails to fame and has never proven he was capable of teaching anyone.

    • d lamb

      Jan 11, 2019 at 2:03 pm

      exactly!!

  35. Brian McGranahan

    Jan 11, 2019 at 10:41 am

    The simple fact that his yips are visible and he missed more short putts than any player on tour last year means more than bs stats. You can still make a putt with a yip, Its going to get worse if he doesn’t do something.

  36. Wyatt

    Jan 11, 2019 at 10:37 am

    Yips are about what your hands do when the adrenaline is pumping, like on the back nine on Sunday, not what you do the other 63 holes of the tournament. That said, if you want to look at stats, it seems pretty clear that 1) Spieth has never been particularly exceptional inside of 5 feet and 2) last year was a low point for him. Putting Inside of 5′ and Three Putt Avoidance are pretty easy to check. I believe that Haney actually could help Spieth become a great short putter, and I think we all know that nerves do not age like a “fine Bordeaux.”

    The flaw in the article is trying to use such a small statistical sample size to discredit Haney. If we want to use the author’s logic, Jason Day is now a terrible putter because he’s currently 224th in Putting Inside of 5′.

    • Obee

      Jan 12, 2019 at 12:59 pm

      Yips have VERY little to do with adrenaline.

  37. John

    Jan 11, 2019 at 10:14 am

    Hank Haney is an insufferable idiot when it comes to golf commentating. He needs to stick to instruction, coaching, and teaching. All he ever does is bash Tiger because he got dumped all those years ago. He drones on an on during his painful Sirius XM show about the yips this and the yips that. I change the channel whenever he comes on now. He also turned into a snake oil salesman, pushing his “voodoo” pain cream. Looks like the end of Hank.

    • dat

      Jan 11, 2019 at 10:56 am

      Agree. He is hard to listen to on that program and doesn’t do himself any favors. It is all post-Tiger hate which is fairly old at this point.

    • Vas

      Jan 11, 2019 at 11:47 am

      Hank sold his soul to cash out on Tiger Woods, and now years later, he seems to be regretting that decision. Oh well. That said, if you watch Spieth closely, it’s pretty clear he gets flinchy at times. I’m not going to say he has the yips yet, but he’s certainly on that road unless he fixes something. The dude made a lifetime’s worth of chips and putts in like 5 years… that cannot possibly continue going forward. Also, he hits more foul balls than any other elite professional I can think of. I’ll always be a fan of his because he’s a great dude, but I’m not betting on him this year.

    • Jerrry G

      Jan 11, 2019 at 1:50 pm

      Correct – HH is unsufferable.

  38. Paul

    Jan 11, 2019 at 10:08 am

    Haney worked with Mark O’mera for years, who had the yips admittedly. I think he knows what the yips are and what they look like .

    • Brad

      Jan 12, 2019 at 2:40 am

      finally somebody who speaks the facts

    • Jerry G

      Jan 13, 2019 at 1:16 pm

      No, Haney admitted he has the yips and has written articles on dealing with it.

  39. Travis

    Jan 11, 2019 at 9:51 am

    He missed an incredibly amount of 2-3 footers last year where the ball didn’t even touch the hole. In these strokes there was a noticeable flinch of the hands. You hold a BA in Journalism when Hank Haney has coached the greatest players of all time, including Tiger Woods. I’m not defending Haney as the greatest teacher ever or anything like that, but ti call his criticism “lazy” is just plain ignorant and disrespectful. Spieth had a horrendous year last year on the greens and he very well could have a serious problem with his nerves, confidence, and physical putting stroke.

  40. Wes

    Jan 11, 2019 at 9:51 am

    I’ve seen Jordan twitch on putts. Look at the 16th hole from Pebble in the final round in 2017. He yips it, but it goes in. This article is so lazy and uninformed. You can have the yips and still be making putts, at least for a short period.

  41. carl

    Jan 11, 2019 at 9:20 am

    He got married, and there are lots of examples of getting married ruins your game. Bye bye Jordan

    • d

      Jan 11, 2019 at 11:26 am

      Yeah….Jack Nicklaus certainly suffered, dumb comment.

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There is a growing trend on the PGA Tour and other professional golf tours where some of the game’s best players favor a fade from the tee box. Amateur golfers often struggle with golf shots that slice away from their target. These shots can lead them out of play and have them eagerly chasing a more neutral or drawing shot shapes. Additionally, a large fraction of low handicap and professional golfers play a golf shot that draws repeatedly onto their target. These thoughts can leave you wondering why anyone would choose to play a fade rather than a draw with their driver.

The debate over whether players should fade or draw their golf shots has been intensely lobbied on either side. While this is highly player specific, each particular shot shape comes with a set of advantages and disadvantages. In order to discuss why elite golfers are choosing to play a fade and why you might as well, we must first explore how each shot shape is created and the unintended effects within each delivery combination. This article explores the ideas that lead some of the most outstanding players in the world to choose a fade as their go-to shot shape for their driver.

Before examining what makes each shot unique, golfers should be familiar with some common club fitting and golf swing terminology. Club path, clubface angle, impact location, spin-axis or axis tilt, and spin loft are all detailed below.

The curvature of a golf ball through the air is dependent on the backspin and sidespin of each shot. These spin rates are directly linked with each players golf swing and delivery characteristics. During every shot, each golfer will deliver the golf club back to the golf ball in a specific orientation. The relationship between the golf club face and the path of that club will determine much of how the golf ball will travel. A golf clubface that is closed to a club path will result in golf shots that either draw or hook. A clubface more open to the club’s path with create a shot that fades or slices. It is important that face angle measurements are taken in reference to the club path as terms like “out-to-in” or “in-to-out” can results in either of these two curvatures depending on face angle and impact location measurements.

Impact location should not be overlooked during this exchange and is a vital component of creating predictable golf shots that find the fairway and reach their maximum distances. As strikes move across the clubface of a driver gear effect begins to influence how the golf ball travels. In its simplest form, gear effect will help turn the golf ball back to the center of the golf club head. Impact locations in the heel will curve towards the middle and lead to golf shots with a more pronounced fading shape. Toe strikes lead to the opposite reaction and produce more draw or hook spin. Striking a golf ball from the upper half of the driver clubface produce higher launches and less spin, while strikes from the bottom create lower launches with higher backspin rates.

Spin-axis tilt or simply axis tilt is a result of the amalgamation of face angle, club path and strike locations. A golf shot will curve in the direction that its axis tilts during flight. Golfers familiar with launch monitors like Trackman and GCQuad, can reference axis tilt and spin-axis tilt measures for this measurement. Shots that curve to the left will have a leftward tilted axis, and shots to the right a rightward axis tilt. Golf shots tilting to the left and to the right are given names depending on which hand is dominant for that golfer. A draw or hook is a golf shot that curves in the air away from the golfers dominate hand. Right-handed players will see a golf ball hit with a draw spin from right to left in the air. Left-handed golfers see their draw shots spin from left to right. Fades and slices have the opposite shapes.

Spin loft is another critical component of creating and maintaining the flight of a golf ball. In concert with the spin-axis tilt of the golf ball, the spin loft influences the amount of backspin a golf ball possesses and will determine much of how stable that golf ball’s flight becomes. Golf shots hit with more backspin curve less violently than golf shots hit with too little spin especially in the wind. Spin loft is exemplified as golfers find themselves much more accurate with their wedges than their driver. More spin equals more stability, and this leads us to why professional players opt for their fade.

Modern drivers can be built to maximize the performance of each golfer on their best swings, but what about their misses? Golfers often lose confidence standing over their golf shots if they see the ball overdrawing or hooking too often. Overdraws and hooks create golf ball flight conditions that are unpredictable and lead to directional and distance detriments that can cause dropped shots and penalties. Because of this, elite right-handed players do not often like to see the golf ball going left from the tee box. By reducing their chances of hitting hooking tee shots, golfers often feel more freedom to swing the golf club freely and make smooth, powerful motions. This is never more evident than when watching Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson hit their drivers. While both players hit the golf ball both ways, their go-to shot from the tee is a left-to-right curving fade.

But wait, doesn’t a draw go further than a fade? While it is not inevitable that a draw will fly further or roll out more than a fade, the clubface and club path conditions needed at impact to produce each shape often lead to differences in spin rates and launch angles that affect distance. Less dynamic loft created by a closed clubface can lead to lower launch, less spin, and more distance. The drawback of these conditions is the reduced spin loft and decreased stability. So how much distance is worth losing to find more fairways? As we continue to see some of the longest hitters on the PGA Tour win tournaments and major championships distance is the premium.

Luckily, modern drivers and club fitting techniques have given players a perfect blend of distance and accuracy. By manipulating the center of gravity of each driver, golfers can create longer shots from their best strikes without giving up protection from their mishits. Pushing the weights more near the clubface of drivers has given players the ability to present more loft at impact without increasing backspin. The ability to swing freely and know that if you miss your intended strike pattern your shot will lose distance but not end up in the most dangerous hazards have given players better, more repeatable results.

While it can be advantageous for casual golfers and weekend players to chase as many yards as possible, players that routinely hit the golf ball beyond 300 yards can afford their misses to fall back if they will remain in play and give them a chance to find the green in two shots. More stability when things do not go as planned thanks to increased spin lofts and less violent curvature has allowed elite level golfers to perform consistently even under the most demanding situations and it is why we continue to see a growing number of players favor a fade from their tee shots.

 

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