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Why do Tour players prefer fades over draws from the tee box?

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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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Paul Liberatore was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. He has been an avid and passionate golfer for over 30 years, and loves learning and increasing his knowledge on the game. While still in college, Paul co-founded the AccuHit Company with his father and helped it to become one of the most recognized golf training aids in the world. A lawyer by day, his true passion is his website Golfers Authority which delivers the very latest in golf equipment reviews, buyer guides, tips, and advice that helps players take their golf game to the next level.

32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. Tim

    Aug 1, 2019 at 3:54 pm

    The simple answer is the players just aren’t good enough to play draws all the time. its become too strong of a shot for them. Only a select few can control it anymore.

    • Funkaholic

      Aug 14, 2019 at 1:45 pm

      I think shot shaping is not as easy with modern equipment and modern balls that favor straight flight and distance, it has nothing to do with skill.

    • Paulo

      Jan 7, 2020 at 11:50 am

      I guarantee they’re still better than 99.99999999% of people posting on here

  2. Eric Sidewater

    Jul 29, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    It has nothing to do with ball flight and everything to do with the aforementioned players having a closed face throughout almost all of their swings, so they lock in a slightly closed face and can use the ground to create massive leverage for their pivot, so the club path can rip hard to the left and you’ll get 10 yard fades with over 175 MPH of ball speed and your SG: Driving soars.

  3. Dan W

    Jul 28, 2019 at 3:15 am

    I’ll sum up the article for everyone. Fades have more backspin than draws. Fades don’t roll out as much, making the fairway wider than if a draw was played. It’s also wrong that a high spin shot is more stable in the wind. I almost laughed out loud st that one. Why do players flight down shots sometimes with more club in the wind? It spins less. Wind adds spin unless it’s down wind. Plus it’s hard to fade a low shot. So low flighted draws are always hit in high side or hurting wind. It’s pretty much common knowledge.

  4. Frank

    Jul 26, 2019 at 4:13 pm

    “Distance is the premium” yet after measuring over 40 PGA Tour events of tee shots from winners that led to birdies/eagles on par 4’s and 5’s, the average distance is only 295 and 305 yards, respectively. So that’s only 5 yards further than the average PGA Tour driving distance on par 4’s and 15 yards further on par 5’s. That’s not even 2 clubs difference.

    Also, the author doesn’t differentiate draws as push draws and fades as pull fades as push draws actually launches higher instead of lower than pull fades, because of the face angle being open to the target line and thus adding dynamic loft. Not to mention the angle of attack is less steep with an in-out path, making the ball launch higher as well.

  5. geo

    Jul 22, 2019 at 9:29 pm

    During every shot, each golfer will deliver the golf club back to the golf ball in a specific orientation

    With exception of those who sweep the inside quadrant of the ball.
    The back of the ball brings in the two way miss.
    Whether our go to shot is draw or fade; our misses should be restricted to one way. Ben Hogan learned to hit a fade, but his go to shot was a draw.

  6. Aztec

    Jul 16, 2019 at 11:21 pm

    I always thought that, for whatever reason, a controlled fade is less likely to turn into a slice than a controlled draw into a hook.

  7. Born

    Jul 15, 2019 at 2:56 pm

    Short version- balls spin less, drivers spin less, draw typically spins less, tour fairways are hard and 2100-2400 spin is ideal to hold fairways,. Also fade miss (over fading) is *typically* a more manageable miss vs over drawing especially it you’re at bottom end of spin threshold (ie 1800-200 rpm at tour level ball speed.

  8. Ralph Ebbutt

    Jul 14, 2019 at 10:43 pm

    In summary: a fade offers more control under pressure, and tour pros prefer predictability/control over distance

  9. Bob Saget

    Jul 14, 2019 at 6:59 am

    This is over-analysis to the max. Pros hit whatever shape the shot calls for. On straighter holes, it’s preference or whatever they’re more comfortable with

  10. Geoffrey Holland

    Jul 13, 2019 at 7:28 pm

    “growing trend”?
    Better players have been playing fades for decades this is not something new. I suggest you do a little bit of research before posting such drivel.

    • Tom

      Jul 14, 2019 at 1:38 am

      Lighten up mate not everyone is an expert like you? X being an unknown number & ‘spurt’ being a dip under pressure?

    • Bob Saget

      Jul 15, 2019 at 5:19 am

      I guess Rory McIlroy and Jason Day aren’t “better players” lol

  11. ChipNRun

    Jul 13, 2019 at 4:10 pm

    When I first started as a self-taught golfer, I had a lot of trouble with slices. After I eventually took lessons and straightened things out, I decided to play a draw to get rid of slices.

    If I’m hitting a slight draw, I’m squaring up at impact and moving through the ball smoothly.

    Another point: Gary Player reported years ago that he had gone to a draw because it was less strain on his back than a fade.

    I’ve found a similar thing: I’m right-handed, and I have an arthritic right hip that gets tight during golf. On the torso rotation machine at the gym, I can only rotate about 80 degrees to the right (backswing motion) but 90 degrees to the right (downswing motion).

    By setting up for a draw, I aim at the right half of the fairway. If all goes well, my ball lands in the fairway and rolls out toward the middle. My miss is a slight push, which puts me on the edge of the fairway or in the first cut of right rough, which is entirely manageable.

    This would support Prime21’s remark… “you can’t just say “they’re missing right” and that in and of itself proves that tour professionals are all hitting fades.” My miss right is the push that FAILED TO FADE.

    That said, I can fade a tee shot with a driver or a hybrid or a short iron. I mean, the ball is up on a tee on a flat surface, and with a slightly open stance can get the ball to go “the other way.”

    That’s my one trick shot. For most others I go with a draw.

    • ChipNRun

      Jul 13, 2019 at 4:16 pm

      CORRECTION:

      , I can only rotate about 80 degrees to the right (backswing motion) but 90 degrees to the {/r/i/g/h/t} LEFT (downswing motion).

    • Andrew McArthur

      Jul 13, 2019 at 5:00 pm

      Wow

    • Aztec

      Jul 16, 2019 at 11:17 pm

      Your miss right is a push that failed to DRAW. If you succeeded at the fade, your miss right would miss right even more.

  12. JP

    Jul 13, 2019 at 3:42 pm

    I always thought they preferred fades over draws because the rollout was more predictable.

  13. John

    Jul 13, 2019 at 1:33 pm

    Matt Kuchar is a donkey

  14. Lars Philipson

    Jul 13, 2019 at 1:16 pm

    As Lee Trevino said: “You can talk to a fade but a hook won’t listen.”

    • Joe

      Jul 14, 2019 at 11:23 am

      And it’s the most overused false statement that slicers cling to in order to make themselves feel better. A fade and hook are not exact opposites. That would be a slice and a hook. 99% of golfers who day they fade the ball are actually slicing it which is just as out of control as an equally hit hook.

  15. gery katona

    Jul 13, 2019 at 12:01 pm

    I volunteered at Torrey Pines this year and was positioned in the landing area on a par 4 hole and can confirm that the vast majority of fairway misses are to the right side.

    • Yippers

      Jul 13, 2019 at 12:55 pm

      Well there is an OCEAN on the left slide of #4. And it falls off pretty hard over there from fairway to rough to cliff to ocean. The green also opens up more from the right side. As long as you miss the fairway bunker right, there’s literally no reason to ever flirt with the left side on that tee shot.

      • MushPotatoes

        Jul 13, 2019 at 1:26 pm

        He said “a par 4 hole”, not hole #4 on the South Course.

        • Prime21

          Jul 13, 2019 at 3:09 pm

          The point was that you can’t just say “they’re missing right” and that in and of itself proves that tour professionals are all hitting fades. Many factors could go in to that, as Hole #4 proves, but to make a blanket statement as he did certainly offers little proof. A draw doesn’t always miss left and a fade doesn’t always miss right.

    • Pelling

      Jul 13, 2019 at 10:21 pm

      Except for Phil. He always misses left, badly.

      • gpfan

        Jul 14, 2019 at 7:32 am

        Any that would be hitting a fade. So the article must be true! I couldn’t bring myself to trying to finish reading it.

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Opinion & Analysis

From the GolfWRX Vault: How far should you hit your golf clubs?

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Editor’s note: Jaacob Bowden‘s 2013 piece on how far a club “ought” to carry based on clubhead speed—i.e. how far you should hit your golf clubs–remains one of our most widely read pieces (thanks, Google search). And while seven years have passed since its publication, the data remains the same, and thus the piece remains just as relevant today. 

We’re happy to crack open the GolfWRX Vault for this excellent bit of writing. 


One of the nice things about having all this new fancy technological equipment like Trackman, Flightscope, ShotLink, etc., at various PGA Tour events is that distance data can be gathered for each of the players.

In case you haven’t come across it already, here are the approximate Trackman carry distance averages for men at the professional level.

Average PGA Tour Carry Distances (yards)

Club Carry
Driver (Total) 289
Driver (Carry) 269
3-Wood 243
5-Wood 230
Hybrid 225
3-Iron 212
4-Iron 203
5-Iron 194
6-Iron 183
7-Iron 172
8-Iron 160
9-Iron 148
PW 136

Pretty cool info. Perhaps they hit it farther than you might have thought…or maybe they hit less than you may have been lead to believe based on what you’ve seen on TV, read on the internet, etc.

Since I deal a lot with swing speed training and helping people in general hit the ball farther, a relatively common question I get is, “How far should I hit my clubs for my swing speed?”

Well, since we also know that the average driver swing speed on Tour typically runs around 112 to 113 mph, using a bit of algebra and the above distances we can approximate a guide for how far you could expect to hit the ball (assuming fairly consistent and solid contact) given your personal driver swing speed.

Here are those carry distances.

Approximate Carry Distances by Driver Swing Speed (mph)

 Approximate Carry Distances by Driver Swing Speed (mph)

I took the ranges down to 60 and 70 mph because those are swing speeds I’ll encounter when working with some amateur women and seniors. I also went up to 140 mph because numerous long drivers I’ve trained can get their drivers up that high (RE/MAX World Long Drive champions like Joe Miller, Jamie Sadlowski and Ryan Winther can actually reach over 150 mph).

Aside from using the chart as a general reference point, here are a few other things that I think are worth pointing out:

First, these numbers are based off how the average Tour player strikes the ball. Although Tour players are overall good ball strikers with all their clubs, most of them are actually not as efficient (the Tour average is about 2.58 yards/mph of swing speed) as they can be when it comes to distance with their drivers because on average they hit drives that launch too low and with too much spin.

LGPA Tour players (2.65 yards/mph of swing speed) and Professional Long Drivers are actually more distance efficient with their drivers…but that’s a topic for another article. The good news for you is that greater carry and total-driving distances can be achieved at all the range of swing speeds shown above if you are a more efficient driver than the average male tour player at 2.58 yards/mph of swing speed.

With a 2-degree change in driver loft and some minor adjustments made to his swing path, angle of attack, etc, one of my amateur students went from being an already above-average efficient driver at 2.61 yards/mph to an extremely efficient one at 2.75 yards/mph. So with no change to his 102 mph swing speed, he increased his driving distance average from 266 to 280. Then after some swing speed training, he got up to 112 mph and can now hit drives around 307 yards with that same efficiency of 2.75 yards/mph. That’s 41 more yards!

Second, the club distances are based on the driver swing speeds that you would get from a system like FlightScope and Trackman. So if at all possible, get yourself checked on one of those. Otherwise, if you measure with something like a Speed Stik (which measure higher in my experience), you could get a false sense of how far you might expect to hit the ball.

As another example, Sports Sensors Swing Speed Radars (SSR) also read faster. It should be pointed out that SSRs are still a great personal training aid, and because of their accuracy and relative affordability and portability, they are actually the radar I recommend in my swing speed training programs.

However, the Doppler radar in an SSR measures the fastest moving part of the club head (typically the toe) versus a Trackman or FlightScope, which each have proprietary algorithms to calculate the speed at the center of the club face. For this reason, SSRs will read about 5 to 12 percent faster, depending on how you as an individual move the driver through impact. If you have an SSR, just hit 5 to 10 balls with it and a Trackman or FlightScope at the same time and you’ll find out your personal difference for sake of comparison.

Third, the above numbers can be useful for a good general reference, but like I mentioned in my article about understand distance variance, recognize that carry distances can vary a lot depending on conditions. Slopes, wind, temperature, altitude, etc., are all things that can affect how far the ball flies, so remember to factor that in.

Fourth, keep in mind potential loft differences between your clubs and the ones here. As a general rule of thumb, club manufacturers have made their club lofts (especially in the irons) continually stronger over the years as a way of marketing and selling consumers the new clubs.

Many top Tour players are being paid to play the latest clubs, which could mean they might also be playing irons with stronger lofts than the set you are playing. This isn’t always the case, however, but it’s another thing to be aware of.

Last, once you start approaching less than 80 mph with the driver, notice how the distances start bunching up between clubs.  At this point, you start getting to an area where you really don’t need a full set of 14 clubs. If this is you, perhaps you might also find that you hit a 3-wood or 5-wood further than a normal driver.

My wife is very strong and athletic, however, as a beginner who doesn’t play or practice very much, she hasn’t developed much swing speed. For that reason, we got her fitted for a 9-club set of Wishon 730CLs, a set that is designed specifically for men and women with less than 80 mph of club head speed.

The shafts are very light, the driver is 16 degrees and only 42 inches, the fairway woods are 20 and 26 degrees (versus the commonly used 15- and 19-degree fairway woods), and the remaining hybrids/irons are gapped out in 6-degree loft increments (compared to the normal 3- or 4-degree). Also, since many beginners, lesser skilled players and those with slower swing speeds can struggle with really high lofted wedges, the highest lofted wedge in the set is 54 degrees.

All of these things combine to provide a driver that can actually be hit in the air for distance, clubs that have substantial distance gapping, plus it’s just less clubs in general to lug around and choose from.

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Opinion & Analysis

Barney Adams: Why we play golf

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I played golf the other day with friends. COVID-19 restrictions, but we got out. They will attest that I stunk, but that isn’t news or the basis for this piece.

Normally that kind of golfing experience has me in borderline depression searching for a swing change that I know will allow me to play at my fantasy level. What was remarkably different was the pleasure. Being outside, sunshine, fresh air, joking with friends, enduring the glares from my partner. It was four hours that were singular in their positivity made more so by the daily media barrage of doom and being essentially quarantined for all other activities.

To start, one of the great things about golf is when you play, it requires total concentration—world events, personal issues are put on hold. You see, golf isn’t fun, it’s hard and that element is what brings us joy no matter how small our victories.

I’ve played the game for some 70 years and studied it for 40, working in the industry. One of my favorite exercises over the years has been to ask someone who played recently to describe their best shot of their previous round. Immediate answers flow accompanied by a smile or whimsical expression. Whether it’s a tee shot, a chip, putt, it’s a moment of slaying the dragon. And this is golf. Not an 18 or even 9-hole score—one shot, immediate recall and the reason to play again.

We find ourselves today bordering on panic—daily feeds from the media, warning us, frightening us. For those who play the game, it is a needed respite. There have been some articles, and I’m sure more coming, about what will happen in the distant morning. Massive unemployment, lost wages, and crashing investment portfolios, a small sample. Sadly, the media is going to have bad news to emphasize for months to come and there is no question that some of the collateral damage will be human lives and financial well-being.

It’s easy to sit and critique humans making decisions. But when asked the question about affecting lives now or in the future, it’s way more complex. Political expediency focuses on the now knowing there will be a pivot down the road.

What does all this have to do with golf? The game provides an instant middle ground. People can have four hours in the sun and fresh air and the difficulty involved forces them to temporarily shelve daily tribulations. Even with reduced course services as a precaution, just the chance to go to bed at night knowing the weather looks great and you can escape to the course for a few hours…it’s something that brightens one’s outlook.

So, I’m championing the playing of golf, while accepting various related restrictions. I’m championing a few hours where we can forget the drama, the panic, and get our butts kicked by a little white ball. And when done, we’ll make arrangements to play again.

Oh yes, now that the internet is overflowing with tips from golf teaching experts, I really need to play, because I have this new move that is guaranteed, guaranteed, to produce 12 more yards off the tee. You see, it all has to do with the position of the shaft vs. the left knee and…

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Opinion & Analysis

Everyone sucks at golf sometimes

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“Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole, with tools singularly ill-designed for the purpose.”

This quote dates back over 100 years, and has been credited to a number of people through history including Winston Churchill and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Although the game and the tools have changed a lot in 100 years, this quote remains timeless because golf is inherently difficult, and is impossible to master, which is exactly what also makes it so endearing to those that play it.

No matter how hard we practice, or how much time we spend trying to improve there will inevitably be times when we will suck at golf. Just like with other aspects of the game the idea of “sucking” will vary based on your skillset, but a PGA Tour player can hit a hosel rocket shank just as well as a 25 handicap. As Tom Brady proved this past weekend, any golfer can have a bad day, but even during a poor round of golf there are glimmers of hope—like a holed-out wedge, even if it is followed by having your pants rip out on live TV.

I distinctly remember one time during a broadcast when Chris DiMarco hit a poor iron shot on a par 3 and the microphone caught hit exclaim “Come on Chris, you’re hitting it like a 4 handicap out here today” – the shot just barely caught the right side of the green and I imagine a lot of higher handicap golfers said to themselves ” I’d love to hit it like a 4 handicap!”. This is just one example of the expectations we put on ourselves even when most golfers will admit to playing their best when expectations are thrown out the window.

– Gary Larson

Dr. Bob Rotella says golf is not a game of perfect, and that’s totally ok. The game is about the constant pursuit of improvement, not perfection and with that in mind there are going to be days when no matter what we just suck.

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