A draw, for a right-handed golfer, is a shot that curves from the right to the left. By contrast, a fade will tend to move from the left to the right. Theoretically, if the launch angle, ball speed, and spin rate are the same, a fade would carry the same distance as a draw.
In practice, it is found that a draw will usually outdistance a fade, and we will have a closer look at why the theory does not hold in practice.
If we are hitting a draw or a fade naturally, it might be a good idea to understand the mechanics of each shot and learn how to better control it.
This explains how to embrace and harness the draw and fade shot.
How to Hit a Fade?
Many golfers suffer from the dreaded slice, with disastrous results. They often go deep in the rough or even out of bounds. To eliminate the slice requires only a few minor tweaks, to achieve a controlled fade.
The first thing to understand is that a fade requires an open clubface at impact. You are wanting to shape the ball, right to left, about 3 to 10 yards. The more you open the clubface the more left to right it will go. Opening the clubface too far could be one, but not all, of the reasons for the slice.
Before we look at the setup, the grip has to be corrected. Grip the club normally, but strengthen the grip on your left hand. A stronger grip with more pressure on the left hand will prevent your wrists from rolling over, which will result in a draw. Next, rotate your right hand towards the left. Don’t overdo it, but try to see the knuckles of the right hand. This will weaken the grip making it easier not to roll the wrists and to hit a controlled fade.
Now the setup, you want to open your stance, that is, align your feet left of the target. Again, don’t overdo it. With an open clubface and being aligned left of the target all you have to do is swing along the path of your feet. You may also consider placing the ball slightly forward in your stance.
Some players try to manufacture the fade by manipulating the swing, bringing the clubface from outside to inside. This can work, but just adds more “thinking” to the process and introduces more things that can go wrong.
How to Hit a Draw?
To hit a draw would logically require some reversal of the technique used for the fade. For the draw, we don’t want to weaken the grip and the right hand will now play a more important role. Instead of rotating the right hand towards the left, turn it away to hide the knuckles.
Place the ball opposite your left armpit, and adjust your stance to a closed position. Your alignment should be right of the target as you want the ball to curve from the right back to the middle of the fairway. With this setup and grip, your wrists will now roll over producing the draw you are looking for.
The Benefits of a Draw and a Fade
There are pros and cons to both a fade and a draw. The draw normally will have a lower trajectory and have a pronounced topspin. This will tend to give you more distance and greater rollout. The bad news is that if you are offline you will travel further into trouble, making recovery more difficult and adding another shot to your scorecard.
A fade produces a higher trajectory, and with backspin will land more gently and settle quickly with less rollout. The error when you miss your line should be less damaging. The fade will also travel around 5 to 10 yards shorter than a draw, which may or may not be a disadvantage.
The object of the exercise should be to eliminate one side of the golf course. Control your draw or fade and hit the fairway more consistently will improve your overall score and enjoyment much more than the variance in distance.
Selecting The Best Option
Once you have managed to play and control your natural shot consistently you can start to practice the other one. Now you can choose a draw if there is a dogleg left ahead, and fade to a dogleg right off the tee. On an approach to the green, you can choose to run the ball to the back of the green, or land it softly with a fade if the pin placement is near the front.
It is interesting to hear the opinions of some of the top pros, past, and present. Many have the idea that some courses are better played predominantly with a draw or a fade. Lee Trevino was famous for his uniquely low fade off the tee, and claim that fades win tournaments.
Augusta, home of the Masters is known as a course that favors the draw, especially doglegs to the left on holes 2, 9, 10, and 13, with only 18 requiring a fade. Notably, Trevino never won at Augusta, yet Nicklaus, famous for his “power fade” won there six times.
Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are both successful power fade players. Martin Kymer is one that battled to adapt and become proficient at both shots. Dustin Johnson changed from playing a draw to a fade, and the list goes on.
Jack Nicklaus, known for his power fades says you shouldn’t try to hit fades unless you can first draw. His advice to play the draw is to start from the ground up with the feet and legs leading. This sets up a swing path into the ball with a closing clubface on impact. Now all you need to do is set up aiming left, open the clubface slightly, and make the same swing. Jack makes it so simple.
Interestingly, a poll was taken at one time asking which was “cooler”, and which was more effective. As might be expected about 30% of respondents were non-committal, 60% voted the draw was cool, and 10%, not cool.
On the question of effectiveness, the tables were turned, with 60% voting the fade more effective and 10% saying voting against.
Draw vs fade, which is better? Better is the one that works for you, the one that you can most consistently control. The best one is the one that will allow you to eliminate one side of the course and hit more fairways than rough.
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Nick Lomas is the founder of GolfSpan, an avid golfer, not quite a pro but has over 15-years of experience playing and coaching golfers from all over the world. His mission is to bring the golfing community a better experience then it comes to choosing the right golf gear, and finding the right set up for your game.