While the right-to-left shot, or draw, can add distance to the right-handed golfer's drives, a left-to-right shape (fade) is easier to control. And the “power fade” provides ample yardage for players with medium to high clubhead speeds.
Many golf greats have employed the power fade, most notably Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. The shot starts slightly left of target, then gently curves to the right. The power fade flies higher with more backspin than a draw, landing softly with little roll.
Any golfer with a driver swing speed of at least 90 mph should have the power fade in his repertoire. Best of all, the driver's minimal loft makes the fade much easier to achieve than a draw.
Here's how to hit the power fade:
Be sure not to open the clubface too much in relation to your body's alignment, as your intended fade will become a slice.
In reality, it is basically impossible to hit a straight shot in golf. When the club is capable of swinging through the hitting area at more than 100 miles per hour, the goal of getting the club face perfectly square to your swing path is simply not going to be reached. This is why it is such a good idea to work on a specific shot shape, like the power fade. Rather than trying in vain to hit straight shots, work on a curve that you can repeat time and time again. Once you master the feel of hitting your shots with a slightly open club face at impact, you should be able to call on your power fade whenever you need it.
Power Fade Delivers Driving Distance with Control
When choosing a ball flight to use for the majority of your tee shots, you are faced with something of a dilemma. For most players, a draw will travel farther, so it is an attractive option. However, many players experience more control with a fade, and hitting more fairways is certainly a good thing for your score. So, which do you choose? Do you opt for the more-powerful draw and the extra missed fairways? Or do you pick the fade and just accept the fact that you will lose a few yards?
Before you make that choice, there is a third option that may allow you to have the best of both worlds. It is known as a 'power fade', and it is a left to right shot (for a right handed golfer) that is hit from a powerful impact position. Golfers who can execute this shot correctly are able to enjoy impressive power off of the tee while still maintaining control over the golf ball. There are plenty of players on the PGA Tour who employ a power fade with great success, the most-notable being two-time Masters Champion Bubba Watson.
It is important to note that there is a big difference between a power fade and a small slice. A slice is a ball flight that is hit accidentally due to poor swing mechanics. On the other hand, a power fade is an intentional shot shape that you decide to use before stepping up to the ball. Hitting a slice is never good for your game, even if you are able to limit how much it turns to the right. Instead, you want to work on your swing mechanics until you reach a point where you can create this left to right shot on purpose at any time.
While it would be great to develop the ability to switch your ball flight back and forth between a draw and fade as needed on the course, you can actually use a power fade as your only tee shot and still play good golf. The key is consistency – if you can produce the same kind of power fade swing after swing, you should be able to pick a target line that allows this shot to work even on holes that turn to the left. Take the time to master the power fade from the tee and you will have a trustworthy shot that can lead you to lower scores.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you play golf left handed, please be sure to reverse the directions as needed.
Three Benefits of the Power Fade
If you aren't yet convinced that a power fade is the right option for your game, it may be beneficial to review what you stand to gain from using this ball flight. Of course, you don't have to decide that you want to play a power fade – there are certainly plenty of different ways to maneuver your ball around the course. However, the power fade is a viable option with plenty of positives, so you should at least take the time to give it serious consideration.
Following are three benefits enjoyed by players who are able to successfully implement the power fade into their game –
- Eliminating the left side. Perhaps the biggest benefit to using a power fade is being able to 'eliminate' the left side of the golf course from your thought process. Since you will be turning the ball from left to right, you won't have to worry about hazards or trees that may be guarding the left half of the hole. Playing this style can help to simplify your thought process throughout the round, as you can walk up to the tee and only concern yourself with what is awaiting down the right side of the fairway. As long as you execute your swing and successfully turn the ball from left to right, the left half of the course won't be able to hurt your score.
- Ability to make aggressive swings. When playing a draw, you will probably always live in fear of your draw turning into a hook at the worst possible time. The draw is a great ball flight when it is controlled, but too much rotation of the club head through the hitting area can turn a nice draw into a nasty hook. The same cannot be said of a power fade. While it is possible to over-fade the ball from time to time, rarely are you going to see your fade turn into a huge slice that flies way off course. Since you don't have to worry about a big miss, you can be more aggressive in your downswing. This freedom will enable you to maximize your swing speed, and in turn, your driving distance.
- Control the run out. If you play golf on courses that have firm and fast fairways, you already know what a challenge it can be to get your ball to stop on the short grass. Even if your drive lands in the fairway, it may not stay there by the time the ball is done rolling. Hitting a power fade is a great way to control the run out of your shots so that more of them stop in the fairway. A fade will almost always roll less than a draw, so you can expect to hold more of the fairways that you hit.
Each of the three reasons above is enough motivation to at least head to the driving range to try your hand at hitting a power fade. Whether you want to make the power fade your go-to shot off the tee, or you just want to be able to hit it once in a while when necessary, practice time on the range will be required. As you gain experience on the range, you should gain more and more control over your power fade so that it can be employed successfully on the course.
Hitting a Power Fade is All About Controlling the Club Face
In many ways, the swing that you need to make to create a power fade is just a standard, fundamentally sound, golf swing. You want to make a full shoulder turn, maintain your balance, and keep your eyes down on the ball as the club swings toward impact. The same fundamentals that are important for any kind of shot still apply when trying to hit a power fade. In fact, there is only one substantial difference between a power fade and a shot that flies mostly straight – the club face needs to be open in relation to the swing path.
The direction that the club is traveling through the hitting area is known as the swing path. This 'line' could be the same as the target line, but that is not usually the case. More often than not, your swing path will either be pointing to the right or left of the target line, with the curve of the shot intended to bring the ball back to the eventual target. This concept can be a little bit confusing at first, but it becomes easy to understand after just a little bit of practice.
To highlight this point, let's walk through an example of how your swing path could work when hitting a power fade. To start, you pick out a target where you want the ball to land. On a standard tee shot, this could very well be the middle of the fairway. However, since you are planning to hit a power fade, you don't actually aim at the middle of the fairway – you aim down the left side, expecting the ball to curve to the right. As you set up to the ball, you align your feet and the club face down the left side of the fairway to set up perfectly for your fade.
However, your work is not done just yet. If you were to swing through on a path that is pointed down the left side of the fairway, and your club face was square to that line, you would hit a straight shot. Rather than fading back to the middle, the ball would simply fly straight in the direction that you aimed. In order to successfully hit the power fade, you will need to make sure that you arrive at impact with a club face that is open relative to your swing path.
It might be helpful to think about it in these terms – swing the club in the direction you want the ball to start, and point the club face at the area where you want the ball to land. In the case of the power fade, that means you will be swinging on a path that is pointed to the left of your target, while the club face is aligned with the target itself. Of course, you can't think about all of this when the club is moving through impact at high speed, but it is important to at least have an understanding of the mechanics at work. To implement this shot, you will need to use some basic drills to gain control of your club face through the hitting area.
Two Simple Swing Drills to Produce a Power Fade
While all of the discussion above on swing path and club face position should be helpful for you in understanding how the power fade works, it really isn't going to help you produce one. For that, you will want to use the two drills that follow. Each of these drills is meant to help you understand how the club should be working through the hitting area. If you can spend enough time with these two drills to teach your body the right mechanics, a beautiful power fade should be the result.
The first drill is going to focus on the motion of your lower body in the downswing. One of the biggest keys to successfully hitting a power fade – and not having it turn into a quick hook – is getting your lower body 'cleared' through the shot. Your legs will have to work hard when hitting a power fade, and this drill will get you ready for that reality.
Follow the steps below to complete this drill at your local driving range.
- Start by pulling your seven iron out of your bag, and set aside ten golf balls to hit while doing the drill.
- Next, pick a target that is around 100 yards away from where you are standing. Most driving ranges have a sign or a flag at 100 yards, so it should be pretty easy to find an appropriate target for this drill. You may end up hitting the ball farther than 100 yards, but that's okay – you are only using this target to establish an aiming point for the swing.
- Take your regular stance and aim at the target you have selected. Don't make any adjustments to your normal address position – stand over the ball as if you are going to hit a standard shot.
- Start your takeaway and continue the backswing until your left arm becomes parallel with the ground. At this point, the shaft of the club should be pointing up to the sky. When your arm gets to parallel with the ground, stop your swing and transition into the downswing.
- Using your lower body, rotate toward the target and swing through the shot. Strike the ball, and continue on into your follow through. Instead of cutting the follow through shot, swing all the way up into a full finish on your left side. Do your best to reach a balanced position that allows you to hold your pose as you watch the flight of the ball.
- Repeat this process until you have hit all ten shots.
The purpose of this drill is to force you to use your lower body to power the swing. Since you cut your rotation short in the backswing, it will be up to your lower body to generate speed through impact. If you don't use your legs effectively in this drill, you aren't going to be able to hit solid shots that fly toward the target.
As you watch the ball fly toward the target you selected, take note of the direction that it is traveling. If you have hit a pull to the left of the target, there is a good chance that you didn't use your lower body enough in the downswing. If you are dead-on the target, or even a little bit to the right, you can feel confident that your lower body did its job. Watch all ten shots and see if you notice a pattern in the shots that you hit. If more than one or two shots miss to the left, work on engaging your lower body more aggressively in the downswing.
The other drill that you can use to learn the power fade relates to the position of your club face at impact. Turning your lower body toward the target in the downswing is a good start, but it is only going to produce a power fade if you combine it with a slightly open club face. The best way to learn this position is to slow the swing down and start with small shots.
On the range, take out your five iron and another ten golf balls. You want to be sure to use a long iron for this drill because the lack of loft will make it easier for you to see the curve on your shots. For a target, use the same 100-yard aiming point that you used for the previous drill. However, instead of aligning yourself with that target, aim out to the left of the target so that you can use a fade to bring the ball back to the right.
Once your feet are aligned to the left of the target, set the club head down behind the ball. Don't match the club face position to your feet – rather, aim it at the target. Now you will be in a position where the club face is open to your stance, and you are ready to create a fade. Choke down on the grip to limit the size of your swing, and hit a punch shot by swinging along the line of your feet. When executed correctly, the ball will start to the left and quickly fade back toward your target. Hopefully, by the end of the first set of ten shots, you will be successfully creating a fade.
After working through a couple sets of this drill, slowly start to make bigger and bigger swings until you are hitting full shots with a powerful fade. The idea with a full swing is the same as it is with a small swing – open the club face at address, swing along your foot line, and produce a nice fade. When executed properly, it actually feels surprisingly simple and repeatable. Hit as many fades as possible on the range with a variety of clubs before you try hitting this shot out on the course.
If you follow the directions for the two drills above, you should be able to hit a power fade in your very next practice session. However, there are still a couple other tips that could benefit you in this endeavor. Use the quick tips below to help iron out any problems that you are having with the power fade.
- Tee the ball lower. A lower tee height when hitting your driver will encourage you to hit a power fade instead of a draw. When you tee the ball up high in the air, you have plenty of room to attack from the inside – which is exactly how you hit a right to left shot. Lower your tee height slightly to promote an outside-in swing path, and a power fade.
- Everything moving left. If any part of your body hangs back to the right during the downswing, you will be at risk of hitting a hook – or at least a pull. Once the downswing is finished, your entire body needs to be committed to moving left through the shot. Your lower body leads the way, but everything else has to come along for the ride. Only when you are fully committed to getting left will you be able to hit the left-to-right ball flight consistently.
- Move the ball up in your stance. If your ball flight is struggling to turn as much to the right as you would like, try moving the ball up a couple inches in your stance. This slight change will help you catch the ball later in the swing, meaning the swing path will be turning further to the left at impact. It is easy to overdo it when making this adjustment, so only move your ball position a little bit at a time until you find the perfect spot.
The power fade is one of the best ball flights you can hit from the tee – but only if you can repeat it time after time. Work through the drills above on the driving range to learn the basic motion for this ball flight, and use it on the course once you are convinced in your ability to repeat it time and again. Once you are playing a consistent power fade off the tee, you might wonder how you ever got by without having this valuable shot as part of your arsenal.