When you sit down to watch golf on the television have you marvelled at how professional golfers have the enviable ability of shaping golf shots?
When we watch professional golf we’ll maybe hear the commentators talk about how the player has had “the golf ball on a piece of string”.
This doesn’t mean they have been hitting the ball arrow-straight the entire round but they have had the ability to bend the ball to their desired flight and shape.
Professionals even talk about how they practice shaping golf shots which they know will help them in tournament play.
Nick Faldo talked about bending golf balls right to left and left to right around a tree when he was young and he was one of the best exponents of controlling a golf ball in tournament play.
Tiger Woods often uses a “nine window” drill which helps shape shots to a desired trajectory and shape – there is a famous Nike advert from the 90s where he demonstrates this drill – with real windows involved!
We’re not advocating for one second that you should find a building where you can try and emulate the advert and the skills of Mr Woods!
So why is shaping golf shots important?
Most golf courses don’t feature holes that are “ruler” straight and the pin locations on the greens aren’t always found in the middle of the green therefore we need to find ways to navigate our way around the course by shaping our shots.
It can also be highly useful if we get into trouble and need to manufacture a shot to escape and get back into play.
Shaping golf shots – the basics
Shaping golf shots refers to a golfer being able to hit a draw or a fade. These are controlled shots that the golfer wants to hit and not be confused with slicing or hooking which are uncontrolled shots.
Let’s now have a look at what these shots are and how you can incorporate them into your game.
The draw shot – if you are a right-handed golfer, this is where the ball sets out to the right of your target and falls back left onto the intended target.
The fade is the opposite (again for a right-handed golfer) – the ball starts left of your target and moves right back onto the intended target.
For left-handed golfers, your draw shot will move from right to left and your fade will move right to left.
As golfers, we tend to get caught up in swing technique and it’s easy to fall into this trap if you want to learn to draw or fade the golf ball.
The bottom line is – you don’t need to alter anything in your swing.
By making some simple adjustments to your set-up you can swing the club normally and make shaping golf shots easy.
Let’s go through how to make these changes.
How to hit a draw
As mentioned, the draw shot is where the ball starts right of your target and falls left back onto it.
So, how do you set up to hit a draw shot?
All the changes necessary take place at the address position and we’ll look at those for a right-handed golfer, for the lefties it will be the opposite.
- Set the club face aiming at your intended target
- Address the ball with your feet, knees, hips and shoulders aiming slightly to the right of your intended target
- Stand slightly further away from the ball without reaching – your set-up should always be comfortable with no feeling of tension
- Swing the club along the line of your feet
The slightly closed stance will help to promote the clubhead coming more from an inside path which will help promote a draw flight.
To alter the trajectory you can move the ball back in your stance to get a lower flight or move it up towards your left instep if you want to achieve a higher ball flight.
When playing an approach shot you may want to consider one less club if you are going to play a draw shot. The reason for this is that less backspin is imparted on the golf ball so when it lands it will run out slightly more than with a fade.
Things to avoid
Some golfers will tell you the easiest way to hit a draw is to “flick” or “roll” your wrists through impact to create draw-spin. This is not advisable.
Anytime you make your wrists and therefore your hands more active in the swing – especially at impact you are introducing a large degree of inconsistency with the quality of the strike and the direction of the shot.
A draw shot is a controlled shot with a predictable outcome.
How to hit a fade
We’ve now mastered the draw shot but now let’s get comfortable hitting a fade.
Remember, a fade shot will see the ball start left of the intended target and fall back to the right onto the target if you’re right-handed.
Like the draw, everything happens in the address, there is no need to alter your swing in any way.
- Set up with the club face pointing at your intended target
- Address the ball with your feet, knees, hips and shoulders aiming slightly to the left of your intended target
- Stand a little closer to the ball without crowding over it – you still need some room to swing!
- Swing the club along the line of your feet
Standing marginally closer to the ball at address will make you feel like you are a little taller in your address position.
This will help promote a marginally more “upright” swing which will help produce a shot that moves left to right in the air.
As with the draw, this is not about feeling uncomfortable at address. The best swings happen when you are fully relaxed with no tension in your body.
As we saw with the draw shot, you can alter the trajectory by moving the ball in your stance. Moving the ball position towards the middle of your stance will help promote a lower ball flight.
If you move the ball closer to your left instep you can get a higher ball flight.
For approach shots, you may want to consider taking one more club than normal.
The spin imparted on the ball will likely see it stop quicker on the green.
This is particularly useful to bear in mind if the pin is located deeper in the green.
Things to avoid
A fade is a controlled shot – like the draw you are looking for a predictable outcome.
The danger golfers can fall into is aiming too far left promoting a more pronounced swing path which can start to produce a slice – this is not a controlled shot!
When setting up to hit the fade you don’t have to have a wide-open stance.
Off the tee
We’ve spoken about the considerations for hitting draws and fades into greens but what about off the tee?
As mentioned, not every hole is completely straight.
When faced with a hole that “doglegs” right to left the draw shot is ideal.
Your setup is exactly the same as discussed.
Another thing you can do to help is to tee up on the right side of the tee box and if using a wood tee the ball slightly higher up as well.
If we are looking at a hole that goes left to right then we adopt the same setup as mentioned for our fade.
This time tee up on the left side of the tee box and if using a wood tee the ball marginally lower than normal which all goes to help promote a fade.
When it’s windy
There are many days when we step out onto the golf course and it’s far from calm.
When we have to compete with winds blowing across the course shaping golf shots can also have its uses.
The beauty here is that you have two options you can utilise.
Let’s take an example where you are standing on the tee and the wind is coming off the left-hand side.
With our ability to draw and fade the ball you have two options:
- Set up for a fade and let the wind take the ball further right and maybe even gain a little more distance on the shot. This is useful if there is no trouble on the right side of the hole.
- If there is trouble down the right you might want to draw the ball into the wind which will keep it safe
Shaping golf shots – hitting draws and fades are valuable attributes to have for your golf game.
They can allow you to take advantage of the shape of a hole, attack a pin location that’s tucked away in the corner of a green or even help you get out of trouble.
As we’ve demonstrated they do not require different swings to achieve the desired results.
Following a few simple changes to your set-up will make shaping golf shots easier to accomplish so next time you go to practice try hitting a few draws and fades at a target.
Just make sure when you set a target for practice it doesn’t involve real windows – leave that one for Tiger, he can probably foot the bill easier!