How did men of such modest stature make such a huge mark on the game? Both were brilliant around the greens, of course. Tough as nails under pressure, too. But it takes more than a world-class short game and intestinal fortitude to win major championships, as Player did nine times and Corey Pavin once.
Both were superb shotmakers who could adapt to any type of hole or course, including extra-long ones. Gary Player and Corey Pavin couldn’t carry the ball as far as, say, Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman, but they compensated by hitting a low draw (right-to-left shot) that rolled forever in the fairway. They used the shot to reach greens that appeared out of range, too; witness Pavin’s stunning, victory-sealing 4-wood on the 72nd hole of the 1995 U.S. Open.
Undersized or less powerful golfers would be wise to emulate Player and Pavin. If you’ve got swing speed to spare, it never hurts to have another weapon in your arsenal. Indeed, the low draw is highly effective when playing into the wind.
What it looks like: Aiming well right of the target, usually with a long iron or fairway wood but occasionally the driver, Player and Pavin would sweep the ball off turf or tee, sending it screaming just a few yards above the ground. The ball would scoot forward after landing, sometimes rolling even farther than anticipated.
Player often exhibited his legendary “walk-through” finish when hitting the low draw, while Corey Pavin is noted for the “low and around” finish common among right-to-left hitters.
How Player and Pavin do it: Player was (and remains) a workout warrior with forearms to rival Popeye’s. By rotating his powerful forearms through impact, Player imparted the wicked hook-spin required to play the running draw.
Corey Pavin is less muscular, but owns an extraordinary pair of hands that help him manipulate the club to generate the needed spin.
How you can do it: To execute a basic draw, simply align your feet and body right of the target, aim the clubface directly at the target (e.g. where you want the ball to finish), and make your normal swing along the line of your body.
The same fundamentals apply when hitting the low, running draw, with the following adjustments:
- Play the ball back in your stance, closer to the right foot. The farther right you go, the lower the ball will fly, but anything right of center and you risk a mishit.
- Make sure the clubface points directly at your target. When placing the ball back in your stance, it’s easy to leave the face slightly open.
- Your hands should be ahead of the ball with the shaft leaning toward the target.
- Check that your shoulders are level, or very close to it. (For normal shots, the left shoulder is higher than the right.)
- Place slightly more weight on your left foot than your right, in no more than a 60-40 ratio.
- When swinging, try to limit the rotation of your lower body. This will cause the upper body to take over on the downswing, with the forearms rotating through the ball to create the needed side spin.
When practicing the running draw, experiment with your ball position, alignment and weight distribution to find a setup that works for you. Varying these factors will change the ball’s trajectory and spin, and you’ll develop a full repertoire of draws.