You Can Play Left To Right and Still Bomb It
There’s not a player on the US PGA Tour who can’t work the ball both ways. Each week we face at least a few holes where there’s pretty much no option but to curve your tee shot right or left. Sure, you can lay up short of most severe doglegs, but play conservative all the time out here, and you get dusted. Thing is, not all tour players shape it both ways properly. And I used to be one of them. For many years, my left-to-right tee ball was basically a big slice. I’d wipe the clubface across the ball, and my timing had to be really on to get a predictable result. Then last May, Butch [Harmon] taught me to hit a real fade. It transformed my game. Now I hit my little slider all the time, even when the design of the hole doesn’t demand it. Unlike a slice, where the ball starts far left of your target and then dramatically curves back, a real fade actually flies pretty straight before drifting to the right at the end. The ball holds its line into a strong wind, and really tumbles and gets out there when it hits the fairway – benefits that people always associate with the draw. If you’re a right-handed weekend player, chances are you’re used to seeing a left-to-right shot shape with your driver. That doesn’t have to change. But I can show you a way to do it with more power and consistency: the real fade.
1. TEE IT LOWER, AIM LEFT
To hit the fade, I tee it low. I want the ball’s equator level with the top edge of the driver, or even a little lower is OK. That brings your starting lines in – when it’s teed high there’s so much space for the clubhead to come at the ball from any direction, and you hit bigger misses. I tee it high only when I want to hit a high draw or big straight ball, like on a wide-open par 5. Just sit back and let it go. But for the fade, the lower tee height helps me to get my chest “on top of the ball” at impact with no hang-back.
The other thing I do is pick a spot about 10 feet in front of my ball, maybe a leaf or piece of mud, in line with the left edge of the fairway. I aim the clubface at that spot and then set my body parallel to the target line, as if the left edge of the fairway were the centre stripe. Then I think about standing tall with my chin off my neck, my whole body loose and athletic. I take my normal grip, nice and relaxed in my fingers. Just before starting the club back, I let the clubface peek open just a hair to the right.
2. KEEP TABS ON YOUR RHYTHM
The feeling of the takeaway is the same as when I’m trying to hit a normal straight ball. My first move is to rotate my left arm so the toe of the clubface pops open. Then I just slowly turn my shoulders to complete the backswing. You never want to get quick with the takeaway, because that will disrupt the tempo of the whole swing.
Then at the top, my only thought is Good rhythm. Back when I would hit the slice for my left-to-right shot, I could get too quick here. My spine would tilt back, my body would stop turning, and I’d throw my hands at the ball. I’d hold the face open to make sure the ball didn’t snap left, and the sound of the ball peeling right off the face never sounded solid. The way you want to feel at the top is that you have all the time in the world. If at this moment someone shouted directions to me to hit either a fade or a draw, I could do it.
3. MAKE IT AN ALL-BODY SWING
The death move on the downswing is starting with your hands and coming over the top. People do this because they think that to produce a fade, the club’s path has to cut across the ball from out to in, but that’s just a slice. The funny thing about a real fade is that it feels almost exactly like you’re hitting a draw. You’re attacking the ball from the inside and feeling all your big muscles – legs, upper body, arms – moving together towards the target.
Remember I said I wanted to feel my chest on top of the ball? This is that moment. For a draw, the only difference is I would add extra release with my hands at the bottom of the swing, really rolling the clubface over. This is what makes a real fade so reliable: You don’t do anything with your hands; it’s just a pure all-body swing. In the end, setting your stance towards the left edge of the fairway and opening the clubface slightly at address are the two most important adjustments you need to make to hit the fade. Got it?