There seems to be a common assertion in golf that a draw is the optimal ball flight we should all be striving for – but, maybe, it’s actually a fade that could bring our scores down.
Think about it: 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus played a fade. Dustin Johnson started winning tournament after tournament when switching to a fade as his stock shot.
Even Rory McIlroy – the undisputed king of the high, booming draw – experimented hitting more fades with driver off the tee during the 2021 season because of it being an easier shot shape to control.
So, while commentators on TV may rattle on about how great it is to move the ball right-to-left through the air (as a right-handed player), the reality is you can play high-level golf while shaping it left-to-right.
But before we dive into the advantages of hitting a fade, we should first look at how to do it.
Table of contents
How do you fade a golf ball?
Fading a golf ball requires just three easy steps: first, align your clubface to your target (or marginally to the left of it); second, open your stance slightly; and third, swing along your feet line while holding the clubface square to your target. If done correctly, the ball should start left of your target before fading back towards it.
How do these steps create a fade, you ask? Let me explain (for clarity, I’ll be describing the process for right-handed players).
Opening your stance to your target line, and then swinging along your feet line, naturally creates an out-to-in club path.
Holding your clubface square at, or slightly left of, your target at impact (meaning it is actually open to the path you’ve created by swinging along your feet line) should result in a ball flight that curves left-to-right.
A lot of amateurs, when trying to hit a fade, make the mistake of opening their clubface to their target at address, while also opening their stance too much.
What this actually does, in most cases, is create excessive left-to-right curvature – otherwise known as a slice – and makes it difficult to control the amount of lateral movement the ball has through the air.
When hitting a fade, remember: you only need to open your stance slightly, while keeping your club pointed square at, or slightly left of, your target and then swing along your feet line.
The more you open your stance and clubface, the more the ball will curve.
How to hit a fade with driver
An easy way to hit a fade with driver is to tee the ball down and move it back to the middle of your stance. What this tends to do – when combined with slightly open feet – is promote a negative angle of attack and an out-to-in club path, both of which will help impart left-to-right spin on the ball.
The only disadvantage of addressing the ball in this manner with driver is you’ll likely lose some distance, as in order to maximise your length with the big stick you need to tee the ball high and play it off your front foot (as I’ve explained in detail in another article).
But while you may be sacrificing a few yards by playing a fade off the tee, it’s typically an easier ball flight to control and may increase your chances of finding more fairways (and if you still can’t, it might be time to invest in a driving iron).
If you find you’re unable to fade the ball with driver by simply changing your ball position, try opening up your stance a bit more as this will further aid your ability to create a left-to-right ball flight.
How to hit a fade with irons
To hit a fade with irons, first position the ball in the middle of your stance. Second, open your stance slightly to your target line. Third, when taking your shot, try swinging the club down your feet line – while doing so, you should also feel like you prevent your wrists from rolling over and closing the clubface at impact.
Stopping excessive movement in your wrists by ‘holding the face open’, as I’ve heard some golf instructors call it, will help keep the clubface more stable as you strike the ball.
Another sensation you can envisage while attempting to hit a fade is to feel as though your club exits left, underneath your lead shoulder, when you complete your follow through.
Doing this will promote a more out-to-in club path that will help produce the left-to-right ball flight you’re craving, and stop you swinging too far from the inside (which encourages more of a draw-type shot shape).
How to hit a low fade
Hitting a low fade is the same as a normal fade, with some subtle differences. The ball needs to be placed back in your stance to lower the trajectory, and your feet need to be much more open than for a stock fade to compensate for the change in ball position and to get the ball starting left of target.
The farther back the ball is in your stance, the more it tends to start right of target (due to your natural club arc pushing it that way) and this is why you need to address the ball more open than you typically would.
It’s best to experiment with your ball position and stance the next time you’re at the driving range or practicing on the course, as you’ll soon get an idea of where the sweet spot is in terms of optimal curve and flight.
I’ve written another article on how to hit low and high shots that you can also check out to learn more about controlling your trajectory.
How to hit a fade with a strong grip
To hit a fade with a strong grip, you need: a stance that is slightly open to target; a club path that is moving to the left of target (for a right-handed player); and a clubface that is a fraction open to your club path. Regardless of whether you have a strong grip or not, if you can deliver the club to the ball doing all those things, you’ll have no problem hitting a fade.
Many amateur golfers think you need a weak grip to hit a fade, but it’s simply not true.
PGA Tour superstar Dustin Johnson – one of the best players in the world – has an extremely strong grip, but is known for hitting his long, penetrating power fades off the tee.
In fact, he credits making the switch from hitting draws to fades as his stock shot as one of the reasons for his repeated success in recent years.
So, if you have a strong grip, have no fear – as long as you can create a club path that is travelling left of your target (for a right-hander) and a clubface that is slightly open to that path, you’ll have no problem generating a fade.
Is it easier/better to hit a fade or a draw?
Every player has a preferred shot shape based on their natural swing mechanics, making it easier for them to hit a fade or a draw. Rory McIlroy, for example, has always drawn the ball as he finds it more comfortable swinging the club from the inside. Someone like Jack Nicklaus, however, found it easier to hit a fade.
At the end of the day, it’s better to embrace your natural shot shape rather than trying to change it because if you try to force corrections, it means you’re going against the natural movements of your body.
By fighting your own biomechanics it’s more likely your swing will resort to what is comfortable under tournament pressure, which is probably going to hurt your consistency.
As they say, old habits die hard.
The moral of the story: embrace the ball flight that comes naturally to you.
If that means you hit fades instead of draws, so be it! Hitting a draw doesn’t automatically make you a better player and your focus should be on practicing the shot shape that will help you shoot the lowest possible scores.
Why can’t I hit a fade?
If you can’t hit a fade, it’s likely the result of: your stance being too closed; your shoulders being too closed; or your clubface being too closed at impact. Closing your body off at address will encourage an in-to-out path (which promotes a draw flight) and a closed clubface will exacerbate right-to-left movement through the air.
Below are some other articles I’ve written that can help get your alignment, ball position and takeaway into a neutral position, which you can then adjust until you get your desired fade ball flight:
- Alignment Tips: How To Aim In Golf
- Ball Position: Where The Ball Should Be In Your Stance
- Start Your Swing: How To Perfect The Takeaway
Remember: be kind to yourself. While this article may help put you on the right path to hitting fades, the only way you will make long-term improvements is if you practice regularly (find out how many range sessions you need per week to get better).
If you’re too time-poor to get to the driving range, it might be worth investing in a practice net so you can hit balls at home after work, or on the weekends, while filming your swing.
I did that myself and I was shocked at how quickly I improved after buying one, due to getting much more practice in each week.
Why is it good to hit fades?
Hitting a fade has distinct advantages over hitting a draw. A fade is usually easier to control and has a more predictable flight; they land softer meaning you’ll hold more greens; and they have less overspin, meaning the ball is less likely to run and roll from the fairway and into the rough.
However, hitting a fade also has disadvantages – the ball typically has less carry distance; the flight is less penetrating through the air, meaning the ball is typically impacted more by wind; and a fade can quickly become a big, high slice if you don’t get your address position and club path/face correct.
Sometimes a golf hole will require you to play either a fade or a draw off the tee – or on approach into the green – depending on its layout, and the best players will know which shot shape to try and hit to maximise their scoring potential.
It really boils down to what shot shape you are most comfortable hitting.
I’ve got plenty of mates who play a fade off the tee and are excellent golfers, likewise other friends who play a draw and shoot equally good scores.
Pick the shot shape that will give you the highest chance of getting the best result.
What’s the difference between a fade and a slice?
For a right-handed player, a fade is a shot that moves slightly left-to-right through the air (no more than a few yards). A slice is a shot that behaves in the same way, yet the left-to-right curvature during flight is far more excessive (usually more than 10 yards).
Rarely does a golf hole require a player to hit a huge, curling slice – unless you’re attempting some sort of miracle recovery shot like the one Tiger Woods hit from the fairway bunker at the WGC Mexico event in 2019 – and most golfers will focus on executing a fade with no more than a few yards of left-to-right curve.
This is because it’s usually far easier to hit your target the less the ball is moving sideways through the air.
Hitting a fade is actually really easy once you know how to do it, and it can be a great shot shape to have in your arsenal.
Next time you’re at the driving range, practice hitting both big and small fades – the feedback you get from each shot, and how it moves through the air, will help you determine how open your stance and clubface should be, what path you should swing on, and where you should position the ball in your stance.
Eventually, if you stick at it long enough, you’ll be fading the ball on command out on the course.