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.
Low, Hot Running Draw Shots
One of the great things about the game of golf is the many ways in which you can attack the course. There are a number of different ball flights which can be used, meaning you can tailor your game to the course in front of you. The best golfers are able to call on specific ball flights at just the right time in order to come up with a perfect shot. It takes years and countless hours of practice to master the skill of controlling your ball flights, but all that effort is usually rewarded with low scores. Rather than playing with just a single ball flight all the way around the course, you should be striving to develop a number of different shots that you can dial up on command.
In this article, we are going to cover one type of shot specifically – the low, running draw shot. This is a ball flight that is actually not going to be used all that often, but it can be incredibly effective when it is put into action. The frequency with which you pull this shot out of the bag is going to depend largely on where you play your golf, and what kind of courses you typically play. Golfers who play 'links style' golf on a regular basis will likely find plenty of opportunities to employ the running draw, as links courses usually have space for you to run your ball up toward the green. On the other hand, 'target style' golf courses – such as those commonly seen in the United States, will not offer quite as many chances to hit a low running draw. However, no matter what kind of course you call home, it is still worthwhile to learn how to produce this effective shot. Even if you only pull it out of the bag once or twice a round, it can save you strokes when used properly.
Of course, you can only use this shot successfully if you know how to produce it in the first place. Without the ability to actually create this ball flight, all the planning in the world will go wasted. So, in the content below, we are going to cover two sides of this topic. First, we are going to talk about how you can go about creating a low draw by altering the mechanics of your regular swing slightly. Then, we are going to determine exactly where on the golf course you should be looking for opportunities to use this ball flight. When you bring those two points together – solid technique and good decision making – you have a real chance to move your game in a positive direction.
As you work on adding this new shot to your repertoire, it is important to remember that you should only try to add one thing at a time to your game. If you are working on the low draw, don't also try to learn a high fade at the same time. Step by step improvement is the best way to actually create progress in your game. Focus on this new shot until you have it mastered, and then move on to another. If you follow that pattern, you will quickly find your overall game has improved rather dramatically.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
How It Works
The way your club head interacts with the golf ball at impact is going to determine your ball flight for any given shot. While there are plenty of various mechanics and fundamentals that go into the action of swinging the club, there is only one point in the swing where the club actually touches the ball – impact. If you can apply the club properly to the back of the ball in order to create the shot you have in mind, it really won't matter what you have done during the rest of the swing.
So what needs to be happening at impact in order to produce a low, running draw? The following points are key.
- Club head moving from left to right. If you were looking directly down the target line from behind, the club head would need to be moving from left to right through the hitting area. Said another way, the club head should be gradually getting farther away from your body as you swing through the shot. This is a requirement for the production of a draw, as swinging from left to right is going to produce right to left spin which will curve the ball as it flies. Golf is a game of spin, and controlling the path of the club head through impact is how you dictate the spin that is placed on the ball. Even if you are someone who usually produces a fade, you should be able to create a low draw by following the steps that will be provided in the next section.
- Club face closed relative to the swing path. In addition to swinging from inside out through impact, you also need to be sure that the club face is closed at impact. 'Closed' means that the face of the club is pointed to the left of the path that you are using for your swing. It is the combination of a closed face and an inside out path which will create the draw spin you need. A slightly closed clubface is going to produce a slight draw, while a dramatically closed face is going to cause the ball to turn hard from right to left (a hook). Since the club moves through the hitting area too quickly for you to manually control the position of the club face, you have to get it in the right position by using solid fundamentals earlier in the swing. Players who attempt to use their hands to control the face at the last moment before impact will always be destined to fail.
- Shallow angle of attack. If you want to hit the ball high in the air, especially with your irons, you need to hit down steeply into impact. So, what should you do when you want to hit a low shot, such as this running draw? Just the opposite, of course. Rather than hitting down on the ball, you are going to hit the ball using a shallow angle of attack. With the club coming in on a shallow path, you will minimize the amount of backspin that is created, keeping the ball closer to the ground as it turns from right to left. In the end, you will have a shot that flies low, takes a big bounce forward when it lands, and continues to run out – hopefully in the direction of your target.
The concept of producing a low draw really isn't all that complicated. If you swing through the hitting area from inside out, with a closed club face and a shallow angle of attack, you are going to produce a hot draw. It's just that simple. Of course, nothing is that easy in golf when you actually get out to the course, so a visit to the driving range is in order to learn how to play this shot.
Creating the Perfect Swing
Anytime you attempt to produce a ball flight which is different from the one your 'normal' swing produces, you are going to have to make some mechanical adjustments. However, it is important to note that you are still using your same basic swing. It would be a mistake – and nearly impossible – to build an entirely different swing simply for the purpose of hitting a low draw. Instead, you are going to learn how to adjust only a few basic things in order to turn your standard ball flight into a low, hot draw.
To learn this shot, it is a good idea to start with one of your mid-irons. The mid-irons are a good place to start from because they offer enough distance to allow you to see the shape of the shot while still being pretty easy to hit. Once you get the idea of how to execute this technique, you can move on to longer clubs.
So, set yourself up at the driving range with at least one of your mid-irons and a bucket full of practice balls. When you are ready to go, follow the steps below to produce a low draw of your own.
- Pick a target. Everything in golf starts from a target. If you don't have a specific target in mind for your shot, you are always going to be simply hoping for a good outcome. Before you get into anything technical, even on the range, you must pick a target. Select something out on the range that you can easily see from your position, and use that point to guide all of your shots.
- Square shoulders, closed stance. This is where we start to adjust specifically for the goal of hitting a low draw. With your target picked out, walk up to the ball and take your stance. At first, this is going to be a normal stance, just as you would use for any other shot. However, before starting the swing, you are going to close your stance to the target line while keeping your shoulders square to the target. It is important that you have a separation between your shoulders and feet at address, so don't let your shoulders turn along with your feet. If you do, your new stance will simply be aimed to the right of the target – it won't be modified to produce a draw. If necessary, you may wish to practice taking this stance in front of a mirror to make sure you are getting it right.
- Takeaway along your foot line. As the club starts in motion, it is important that you follow the line of your feet back during the takeaway phase of the swing. The takeaway is going to set the path for the rest of your swing, so make sure you trace the club back along the line that your feet have created. In doing so, you will be far more likely to attack from the inside when the downswing rolls around. Keep your hands quiet in the takeaway and allow your shoulders and arms to do all of the work.
- Swing out to the right. Unfortunately, most amateur golfers go wrong during the transition from backswing to downswing when trying to hit this shot. The average player, uncomfortable with the swing they are making, will move the club over the top in order to swing down on a path that is headed more directly to the target. This is a mistake, of course, and will either produce a pull or a slice, depending on the position of the club face. From the top, you need to be committed to swinging down along the line that you established with your feet. It will feel like you are swinging out to the right of the target, because that is exactly what you are doing. Trust that this swing path is going to work, and swing through with confidence.
- Cut off the finish. The last thing you are going to do during this modified swing is to cut off your finish slightly. By thinking about swinging to a lower finish position, you should wind up with a shallower attack through the hitting area, creating the low flight that you desire. As a good rule of thumb, try to point the club in the general direction of the target as you finish. If you can do so, with your right arm extended, you should see the ball turn from right to left beautifully as it flies toward the target.
As you might expect, these shots may not go according to plan right from the start. This is why you are practicing the shot on the range prior to using it on the course. You will need some time to learn how to make this shot work with your own swing. Be patient, don't worry about a few poor tries along the way, and see it through until you are happy with the outcome.
Making Minor Adjustments
After a period of time has been spent working on this shot on the range, you should find that you are starting to hit some nice, low draws. With practice, you should only get better and better at executing this shot. However, there are still going to be some rough spots, and you might need to adjust slightly in order to optimize your results. Making these adjustments is part of the process, so don't feel bad if your technique needs a few tweaks before it rounds into form.
One common adjustment that may be required is to move your grip into a slightly stronger position. Players who usually hit a fade often don't have enough release through the hitting area to produce a hot draw. If that sounds like you, a stronger grip could be the key to your success. Turn your left hand slightly to the right on the grip, and then place your right hand to match your left (with palms facing each other). This stronger grip position is going to encourage a full release and a closed club face at impact. Don't be surprised if you are suddenly capable of hitting hard draws after making an alteration to your grip. Even a slight grip change can do dramatic things to your ball flight, so start small and keep adjusting until you find a 'sweet spot'.
You may also need to adjust the way you aim these shots before you are happy with the results. While the process we laid out above – aiming at the target and then turning your feet to the right – is a good place to start, it is not going to work perfectly for all golfers. The change you need to make here will simply be dictated by the results you are seeing from your shots. Consistently missing the target to the right, even after the ball draws? Obviously, you need to aim a little bit farther left. Or, if you are 'overcooking' your draw and missing left, try aiming farther to the right. This is a trial and error process, and one that should soon lead you to a happy medium.
Picking Your Spots
Moving on from the discussion of how to hit this shot, we are now going to look at when you can put it to use. The exact opportunities you choose to put this shot into play are going to be up to your own personal preferences and playing style, but the following list of situations is a good place to start.
- Long approach shot to an open green. When playing into a green from a long distance away, you may be intimidated by the idea of trying to carry the ball onto the putting surface. To be sure, hitting high long iron shots is one of the biggest challenges in golf. So, instead, you should consider trying to run the ball up onto the putting surface using your new draw shot. As long as there is room in front of the green to allow the ball to roll up, there is no reason you can't employ this technique. The game was originally played by running the ball along the ground rather than hitting it high in the air, so playing this way will actually take you back to the roots of golf.
- Tee shot into the wind. Standing on the tee while feeling a strong wind in your face is intimidating to say the least. You know you are going to lose distance when playing into the wind, and that wind may blow your ball off-target as well. However, if you opt for the low running draw, you can get back some of your lost distance by avoiding the wind to the greatest extent possible. You will need to have room to turn your draw into the fairway in order to use this shot, so make sure there are no trees or other obstacles lurking down the right side of the hole.
- Work your ball around a corner. This might be the first situation that comes to mind when you think about hitting a hard draw. If you find that your ball is in a position where you need to work it from right to left around an obstacle in order to reach the target, your low draw may be the perfect option. You don't want to put yourself in this kind of situation very often, but having the right shot for the occasion is a great feeling.
- Short approach to a back hole location. When the pin is located in the back of the green, and you only have a short distance to cover, it might be wise to hit a low drawing wedge shot into the green. Instead of trying to carry the ball all the way to the back of the green, allow your shot to land in the middle of the putting surface before it bounces back toward the cup. This is a creative shot, and one that can potentially set you up for a great birdie chance.
Think of ball flights as being tools in your golf tool kit. By adding as many 'tools' as possible to your game, you will have the answer for a wider variety of situations. Is learning how to hit a low draw going to single-handedly turn you into a great player? No – probably not. It will help you deal with certain situations, however, as you will have one more option to turn to in a tough spot. Continue to add more and more shots to your game over time and you will be on a path of constant improvement. Good luck!