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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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“I recently found myself in a few sand traps in multiple lies and multiple degrees of wetness. I tried remembering all of the “rules” of how to stand, how much to open my club, how much weight to shift forward or back, etc. based on the Golf Channel but was hoping that you might be able to do a blog on the ‘why’ of sand play so that we can understand it rather than memorizing what to do. Is there any way you can discuss what the club is doing and why you open the club, open your stance, what you’re aiming for when you open up, and any other tips?”

Well, Art, you asked a very good question, so let’s try to cover the basics of sand play–the “geometry and physics” at work in the bunkers–and see if we can make all of this more clear for you.

First of all, I think bunkers are among the toughest of places to find your ball. We see the tour players hit these spectacular bunker shots every week, but realize that they are playing courses where the bunkers are maintained to PGA Tour standards, so they are pretty much the same every hole and every week. This helps the players to produce the “product” the tour is trying to deliver–excitement. Of course, those guys also practice bunker play every day.

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  2. Softer sand will provide less rejection force – open the club more and play the ball slighter further forward in your stance to create a flatter clubhead path through the impact zone.
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  4. On downslope or upslope lies, try to set your body at right angles to the lie, so that your swing path can be as close to parallel with the ground as possible, so this geometry can still work. Remember that downhill slopes reduce the loft of the club and uphill slopes increase the loft.
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