The game of golf sometimes calls for a draw and other times calls for a fade. The ability to hit both shots or at least one shot in any condition will help you improve your game and your overall score.
There are “experts” or teachers that promote only hitting one shot and getting very good at it and others that recommend hitting the shot that the course calls for.
So what is the difference between a draw and fade in golf? A draw is a controlled shot that curves to the left for a right handed golfer. A fade is a controlled shot that curves to the right for a right handed golfer.
The best golfers in the world will typically hit each of these shots on demand and will pick the shape shot that best suits each particular shot, which can be influenced by pin placements and hazards.
Controlling the shape of a shot can help eliminate certain risky shots on a course and helps a golfer play to the percentages. There are other golfers that will get really good at always shaping the ball in one direction. This helps a golfer eliminate one side of the course and he or she can also take certain hazards and risky shots out of play.
This method may greater impact what club you are forced to hit and not allow you to cut some corners on doglegs.
Below we will go over the following:
- What Causes a Draw or a Fade: Ball Flight Law Overview
- How to Hit A Draw
- How to Hit a Fade
- When to Hit a Draw
- When to Hit a Fade
- Should amateurs attempt to play both a draw and a fade
What Causes a Draw or Fade: Ball Flight Law Overview
To help you better understand a draw vs a fade, let’s start with a basic overview of what causes a ball to fade or draw. This will help you better understand what is happening in your swing and to make some adjustments to hit the ball both ways if you so desire.
The basic ball flight laws tell us that a ball will start in the direction that the club face is pointing at impact. It will then curve away from the swing path.
Let’s give some examples:
Example 1 – If a golfer has a club face that is open or pointed to the right of the target line, the ball will start to the right. In this example we will say the club face is 2 degrees open. If the path is 4 degrees to the right, the ball will curve away from that path to the left. The shot in example 1 is a push draw that starts right and curves back to the target.
Example 2 – If a golfer has a club face that is open at impact 3 degrees and the path is 1 degree to the right the ball will start right and curve right. This would be considered a push draw. This shot can work if the golfer was aimed far enough to the left and wanted to hit a push fade. Lee Trevino and Jack Nicklaus hit many push fades in their careers.
Example 3 – If a golfer has a club face that is 2 degrees closed at impact and the path is 4 degrees closed or to the left, the ball will start left and then fade to the right. This is considered a pull fade as the ball will start left due to the club face being left and then curve away from the path which means it will fade to the right.
Example 4 – A golfer that has a club face that is 3 degrees closed with a path that is 1 degree left. The ball will start left and draw to the left. This is considered a pull draw. Similar to the push fade, a golfer can hit a pull draw and be successful. Arnold Palmer and Sam Snead both hit their share of pull draws.
The bottom line is that any shot pattern can work that produces a controlled curve with a predictable start line. What doesn’t work is if one time your path is 3 degrees right with a club face 1-2 degrees open and you hit a push draw and the next time you are trying to replicate this and your club face is now 5 degrees open, but your path is only 3 degrees right. Instead of your ball drawing back to the left you will hit a push fade and could end up in a bad spot.
Our goal is to produce a consistent ball flight that is predictable. I personally prefer to play a push draw on the majority of my shots, unless the hole truly demands a fade off the tee shot.
The golf hall of fame is filled with golfers that played different shaped shots. There is not necessarily one shape that is better than others. There are certain courses that might favor one shape over another.
For example, many of the courses that Jack Nicklaus designed such as Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio reward the player than can hit a fade. However, Augusta is known to favor the golfer that can turn the ball over and hit a draw.
Jack Nicklaus in his career was able to play well at Augusta, but his go to shot was a fade. The greatest can play well on any course and are able to adjust.
How to Hit a Draw
If we follow our ball flight laws, we understand that to hit a draw our club face must be closed to relative to the path. We can hit either a push draw or a pull draw. I would recommend the push draw and here are some tips to hit the push draw.
Put 60% of your weight on your front foot, ensure that your grip is on the stronger side and make sure you hit the ball on the backside of the swing arc. This means you will hit the ball with a slightly open face as your path travels out to the right.
If you are struggling, really close down and hit some bigger hook shots until you can gauge it down and find the right balance between face and path. One myth that was always out there is that you need to close the face to hit a draw.
The best push draw shots are actually hit with an open club face to the target, but the face is closed relative to the path. Simple drill – aim your club face right down the target line, put the ball a touch back in your stance and have the feeling that you are swinging out to the right.
If you are struggling, focus on getting your arms and hands to the ball before your chest opens up. This will help produce a path to the right, but your club face will be to the left of the swing path, producing a shot that draws.
How To Hit A Fade
If we follow the ball flight laws once again, we understand that the face must be open relative to the path of the swing. The club face can be closed to the target line as long as the path is left of the club face.
A slight pull fade can come in handy on shots where the hole curves left to right. In order to hit the small pull fade, we want a club face that is 1-2 degrees closed to the target line and a path that is about 3-4 degrees left of the target line. This will produce a slight pull fade that is easy to control and makes contact simple.
A drill you can use is to point the club face straight and feel like you are swinging slightly to the left. You can aim your feet a bit left and then swing along your stance line. This will produce a path left of the club face and you should see a slight fade.
To maximize your distance with a fade, you will want to hit a slight push fade. To practice either a draw or a fade, it is ok to see the extremes with a slice or a hook and then work it back to the middle ground.
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When To Hit A Draw
You will want to play a draw on holes that curve right to the left. This typically allows you to cut down some of the distance of the hole and maximize the angles.
If you try to hit a fade on a holes that curves right to left, you run the risk of running out of space distance wise and might cause you to have to take a lesser club such as a 3 wood or hybrid off the tee. A personal preference on curving the ball towards trouble or away from trouble is going to be an individual choice.
I personally go with my most predictable patterns which is a push draw and if trouble is left I try to reduce the overall amount of side spin. If the trouble is right, I try to maximize my spin to make sure it does curves to the left. On the approach shots, the angle of the green can required a certain shot or the placement of the pin.
Many people prefer to hit the draw when the pin is on the left side of the green. This allows the golfer to aim to the middle of the green and attempt to hit a slight draw. If the ball goes straight you are fine and if the ball curves to the left you now have a great shot.
Either way you are on the green. It minimizes the risk in the shot, but you still have a great benefit if you do hit the shot you want to.
When To Hit A Fade
You will want to hit a fade on holes that curve left to right. I can think of some specific holes that required a fade off the tee. It helps reduce the overall length of the hole as you can cut the corner of the hole a bit without bringing in major risk.
A shot where you can aim down the left side and be rewarded if the ball fades is great. If the ball holds a straight line, you are still fine. For the approach shot, once again if the pin is on the right side of the green you can take aim at the center of the green.
If the ball stays straight you are fine, if the ball fades towards the pin – even better! You once again minimize the risk, but have a high reward if you pull the shot off.
We cannot stress enough the benefits of having a predictable start line and being able to control the club face. In order to hit a draw or fade, you don’t have to do a lot with your hands.
Instead, the adjustments for the most part take ms place in the setup and then swinging along your stance line. You can aim the club face straight, set your feet right or left for either a draw or fade and then swing along your feet line.
Experiment with your setup pre adjustments and see how the ball responds. Keep the ball flight laws in mind and make adjustments as needed.
Should amateurs attempt to play both a draw and a fade
I would recommend learning to hit the ball both ways and then making good decisions about when to use it. For example, you might hit 80% of your shots as a fade, and then be able to draw the ball 20% time. It doesn’t have to be a 50-50 split with with a draw vs fade.
Find your comfort go to shot, but have the other shot in your skill set. You might only play your least favorite of the two shots in extreme situations. Also, one other tip is to see how you feel during each round. If your shot seems to be drawing significantly, trying to hit a fade might be difficult.
One good thing about being able to hit the ball both ways, is that if you start hooking or slicing the ball, trying to hit the opposite controlled shot can balance out your swing
Who are the Best Instructors and Best Videos for Learning How To Work the Ball?
We highly recommend the Shawn Clement approach to hitting a draw and a fade. He has some incredible videos. Here is a link to our review of Shawn Clement and right below is a video of his that explains how to work the ball.
Go out and practice each of the two shots and see what your most comfortable with. Some people love the visual of hitting whatever shot the course calls for, while others want their go to shot. There is no right or wrong way, but being able to hit both will help take your game to the next level.