Working The Ball
I got an email question from Ryan about hitting draws and fades, so I thought I would tackle that subject today. He was confused by all the various methods that he reads – changing the grip, changing the set up, changing the swing path, etc. Specifically, Ryan asked:
What is the correct way to hit a draw or fade? If there is no "right" way, what way do you think would work best for most golfers?

Well, Ryan, the correct way is whatever works for you, but there are certainly many different methods. What I’m going to do is share with you what I think is the easiest way to learn to “work the ball”. But this comes with a warning: If you have a method that is working for you, stay with it. And if you are still trying to figure out how to move the ball north and south, and breaking 85 is still your goal, you probably don’t need to work on this yet.

That all said, here’s what I think is the easy way to approach the process.

Hitting the Fade

I’m a huge fan of playing everything with a fade. I find that for me it’s more consistent and doesn’t move that far, so I can just target down the left side of every fairway, and hold my line out left of every pin and fire away. I got away from that approach to golf a while back and it’s taken me a few years to get back to the old reliable fade. As Lee Trevino said, “You can talk to a fade, but a hook just won’t listen.” This game is so much easier when you know the ball is almost positively going to curve in only one direction.

So, for me, hitting the fade is merely a matter of two things – a weaker grip on the club, and a conscious thought of slowing down the rotation of my hands through impact.

For those of you that want to perfect the fade, here are what I think are the basics:
  1. Make sure your hips and shoulders are aligned slightly left of your intended flight line, with your left foot (for RH players) pulled just slightly back from parallel. This allows a more easy rotation of your hips to “get out of the way”, so that your hands can release a little slower through impact.
  2. When you take your grip on the club, slightly rotate your hands to the left, so that the “Vs” formed by your thumb and forefinger point to your right shoulder or even your chin.
  3. Consciously make an effort to “hold” your hands quiet through impact and release your upper body and legs, rather than “flip” the clubhead with your hands.
  4. THINK FADE! I’m a big believer that your body responds to your thoughts, so if you think fade, you’re more likely to hit one.

Hitting The Draw

As you would expect, hitting the draw is almost the opposite of hitting the fade, but I think a draw is harder to control than a fade. A draw can quickly become a snap hook, while a fade rarely turns into a big slice. At least that’s my belief.

But there are times you just need to work the ball right to left, and knowing how is helpful. For me, I’ve worked so hard to groove a consistent fade, working a draw is the hardest thing. But here’s how I do it:
  1. I set the club behind the ball and purposely close the face a little, then take my grip on the club, with my hands slightly stronger on the grip (rotated right) than my normal hold on the club.
  2. I take an extra few seconds to be careful in my alignment, as I am so conditioned to set up left of the center of the fairway or green. I then make sure that my stance is slightly closed to the new intended target line.
  3. My only swing thought is to “quicken” the rotation of my hands through impact, and I slow down my swing pace so that I can be more precise with this. And I keep the body moving to reduce the possibility of that draw turning into a snap hook.

So, those are my keys to working the ball right or left. I’m sure you guys all have other ideas that work for you, so let’s hear them. Then Ryan can experiment with all that we’ve shared with him and see what works best with his swing.

But I want to re-iterate that working the ball is a two-edged sword. First, learning how will exponentially increase your enjoyment of the game. There is no thrill quite like envisioning a shot that curves right into the fairway or the flag, and then executing it just like you pictured. But you will experience a learning curve trying to achieve this skill that will cost you some shots. It’s your choice, but to me, the great enjoyment of this game is the challenge of exerting complete control over that little white pill. One shot a round that turns out just like you imagined is a huge payoff for me.

OK, guys and gals, share your thoughts with Ryan on “working the ball.”
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[ comments ]
lcgolfer64 says:
'Wedge Guy' is absoultely right-on. A lot of it is 'thinking correctly' I can't tell you how much this improved my game (and range work) this year.

My routine for this was telling myself to "just put it there" and visulize the shot going the way I intended. While it didn't work 100% of the time, it did a majority of the time.

It definitley made the game more enjoyable and the satifaction of hitting it the way I wanted to, where I wanted to - came from my set-up routine more than anything.
bducharm says:
I like to keep things simple. I do not change my grip at all. When I want to fade or draw the ball, I either open or close my stance and keep the blade pointed at the target - where I want to the ball to end up. I then make the same swing. This has worked very well for me.
Banker85 says:
The fade is my shot of choice. My setup is identical but i dont change my grip for a fade. I just try to make sure i "cut across the ball to get the side spin that creates the left to right shot. As far as the hook/draw goes thats another story. I usually hit the snap hook when trying this. I saw Stewart Cink on TV about 2 weeks ago and he talked about hitting a draw his idea was just hitting a certain spot on the ball which is back/bottom/inside of the ball and a buddy i work with is getting lessons and his instructor gave the tip of keeping the right elbow close to your body creates the out-to-in swing that promotes a draw.
aaronm04 says:
During a lesson, I got these nuggets from the instructor which really works well for me. He told me that he got this advice from his college golf coach. It has to do with the relationship between your upper and lower body. As he described, your hands and your hips.

For a straight shots, your hands and hips should start the downswing at the same time. For fades, slightly start your hips first. For draws, slightly start your hands first.

While the timing is something to work on, I found myself being able to put the intended ball flight on my shots. As mentioned, you also have to tell yourself the ball flight you want. Though not always perfect, this really helped me.
aaronm04 says:
I should also mention that all of the above starts from your normal setup and grip. Only the timing is altered, which, for me, made it "feel" easier rather than having to adjust to an altered grip or stance.
martyr says:
I tried working the ball the last time I was at the range. After about six or seven attempts to hit a snap hook (only one of which actually worked...sorta) it took me about twenty balls to undo the adverse effect it had on my regular swing. It got the timing in my hands all screwed up. I'm still trying to break 100 and realize I have no business trying to shape shots at this point, but I thought it would be good for a laugh.
zandercutt says:
draw: close the stance and take the club back flatter.
fade: open your stance and take the club back steeper.
make a big backswing for a draw and try to come more down on the ball for a fade.
aaronm04 says:
@martyr : like Terry said in his post, if "breaking 85 is still your goal, you probably donGÇÖt need to work on this (working the ball) yet." Plus, snap hooks are bad. You shouldn't be working on them. About the only time you might need one is to get around an obstacle. Even then, there are probably better options.

If you haven't broke 100, I'd say spend a lot of time chipping and putting (more than trying to work the ball). That's where you can really get your score down. Also an area where high-handicappers generally struggle (at least the ones I know).
wedgeguy says:
Good stuff, guys. For "aaronM04", you don't want to "adjust" to the altered grip. By changing the orientation of your grip, when your hands return through impact naturally, the clubface is helped closed or open because of that changed starting point. Maybe I didn't make that clear. Keep up the comments, fellows. We're all learning here.
Dogberry says:
I rarely try to shape shots, since my swing consistency is still pretty bad. But I have tried hitting fades and draws on the practice range when I'm hitting the irons relatively well. I use player's cavity back irons and adjusting my grip stronger or weaker is all I need for a draw or a fade. I think the equipment you're using will be a big factor in how the different methods work for you.
mikeyg1115 says:
first of all i want to say, ryan what an excellent question. i have been waiting for someone to ask it. i just didnt know the right way to put it. and wedge guy this is some of the best advise i have ever heard on this topic probably ever. i love you man.....
Kolt15 says:
I do what Tiger Woods does to fade the golf ball always have i put it 1 ball up in my stance and a ball closer. Thats makes me get more upright and lets me fade the ball... I have a natrul Draw so i dont have anything for drawing the golf ball
onedollarwed says:
Nice disclaimer. People have natural "English" on the ball. especially with certain clubs. The subconcious factors are real produce nice natural effects. Alignment can be a very subconcious obstacle as well.
A freind of mine was always talking about tee boxes that were "bad set-ups." Course designers can align tee boxes to be misleading, and visual/real obstacles can cause havoc with swing thoughts. Have you ever said, "I can be fading all day, but I always hook it into that pond!"
Turning away from targets without truly realigning causes this. The guy who opens up more thinking he's aiming left to make room for a slice goes even further right.
onedollarwed says:
What I'm saying is that no matter how you work the ball, on purpose, or accidentally, it's feedback for your swing and ball contact. Ping-pong physics is the best example. For working the ball I use alignment and opening/closing of the club face. This produces lofting/delofting and distance adjustments. However, if when getting blanced over the ball you feel that your swing will produce certain spin/direction with the most athletic attack, go with it. (these would be up/down/side/wet/foot in hole/ etc.) The physics doesn't lie. There are only limited reasons a ball will curve. Either the clubface has motion (top,back,sides) in addition to flush impact, or the clubface is angled to flush impact (up,sides), and of course both.
onedollarwed says:
With a nuetral swing, aligning right and closing the face should produce a draw , and aligning left with an open face should fade it.
And here's the best news about working the ball.... it's the most worthwhile thing to do at the driving range!
eventHorizon says:
As has been mentioned, working the ball is usually a low percentage shot and therefore most players don't gain much from doing it and probably commonly get themselves in more trouble. With that said, for me, when I want to work the ball, I don't change my swing one bit. I use the knowledge that the plane of the swing gives the ball its starting path and the face of the club through impact puts the spin on the ball causing it to turn. Therefore, I just line up my feet/shoulders with where I want the ball to start, place the face of the club in the direction of where I want the ball to finish and then take my grip (the grip feels normal to my stance however the clubface is closed -- I did not close my face using my grip). Something I want to learn however is how to pick the sharpness of the curve that the ball takes. That meaning, be able to control at what point the ball starts to move and at what angle. Seems impossible.
onedollarwed says:
Yes, a low percentage shot often, unless you really have a great opportunity. For instance, going around obstacles is by far the best use - either dog legs, or recovering from errant shots. In many of these cases there is a wide margin of error, due to large spaces on the course that can be exploited. Straight lines are very limiting when trying to cover ground, trying to go left down a dogleg with a fade is even worse. Even a small curve in your shot can gain huge yards in the right direction. If you had to choose extra distance or curve control, which would you pick? Good, then start working on it!
808yota says:
I think everyone has given GREAT advice. Here's one's that's terrible, but works for me...Fade, I set up left, feet, shoulders, hips, and swing at bout 95-100%...hands don't have time to "catch up" and instant fade.
Draw, a little closed, sloooowwww backswing, full turn...
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