Lee Trevino is known for his outgoing personality and quirky swing. The six-time major champion is also considered one of the finest ballstrikers in golf history.
In his prime, the “Merry Mex” was a virtuoso who could play any shot shape on command. But his favored shot was the fade, which curves left to right, lands softly and is easier to control than a draw.
Trevino's swing is unorthodox, and so is his method for hitting the fade. The conventional way is to align the body left of target, aim the clubface at the target, and swing along the line of the body. Trevino follows the first two steps, but swings down the target line rather than with his body.
The deviation actually produces a swing path that's inside-to-out relative to the body, and directly down the target line. Trevino produces the left-to-right spin necessary for a fade by delaying the release (rolling over) of his hands through impact.
According to Trevino, his routine produces more power than the traditional technique. He acknowledges that the ball will finish right of the target, but suggests simply lining up the body and clubface farther left to compensate.
If you've struggled to generate a power fade, try it Trevino's way. It's worked pretty well for him.
Try Trevino's Unorthodox Power Fade Swing
When you watch golf on TV today, many of the swings look like they were taken from the same instructional manual. The positions that the various golfers use are nearly identical to one another, and you may have trouble telling one golfer from the rest just by watching his swing alone. That, however, was not always the case. In years gone by, golfers had very distinct swings, many of which were homemade and only honed through trial and error. Lee Trevino had one of those swings, and it led him to become one of the greatest players in golf history.
There is a long list of items that caused Trevino's swing to stand out from the pack, and those points will be covered in the content below. However, before even getting into the details, it is important to appreciate the willingness of someone like Trevino to use a swing that was uniquely his own. He didn't care about 'looking good' on the golf course in terms of using picture-perfect technique – he only cared about getting the ball in the hole and winning tournaments. Many modern golfers would be wise to learn from this example. There are too many players today who want to make pretty swings instead of focusing just on playing great golf. As the old saying goes, 'there are no pictures on the scorecard'. As long as you swing can get the job done, who cares what it looks like?
Also, you shouldn't make the mistake of thinking that Trevino only succeeded in his day because the competition wasn't as stiff as it is now. Yes, Trevino had a homemade swing, but he used that swing brilliantly to carve the ball in every direction possible. Today, there are still players who make it to the very top of the game with swings that are uniquely their own. In fact, Jordan Spieth uses a move which is something short of conventional, and yet it has led him to become the top ranked golfer in the world. Other notable professionals with unique swings include Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson, Bubba Watson, and more.
So what does all of this have to do with you and your game? The point should be very clear – swing the club in a way that helps you play great golf, not in a way that will impress your friends because it looks pretty. There will never come a point where you are given credit on the scorecard because your swing looks nice. Whether you are playing in a tournament or just a casual round with your friends, the only measure of your game is the score that you write down at the end of each hole. Build your swing on the driving range and take it out onto the course with pride, no matter what it looks like. As long as your scores are consistently going down over time, you will know you are taking your game in the right direction.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
A Fade Doesn't Have to Be Weak
One of the common misconceptions held by many golfers is that a fade is a weak shot. Most players think that they need to hit a draw in order to hit it long, so they work tirelessly trying to learn how to shape the ball from right to left. While it is true that many of the longest hitters in the game use a draw, there have also been plenty of bombers who chose the fade instead. Jack Nicklaus was known for hitting a fade in his prime, and he was one of the longest hitters of that generation. In the modern game, Bubba Watson drives the ball ridiculous distances off the tee while playing a fade the majority of the time. As long the club is delivered properly to the back of the ball, there is no reason a fade can't lead you to impressive distances with every club in the bag.
The important element to understand it that there are different ways to create a left to right shot shape, and some are better than others. If you are currently hitting a slice that turns to the right immediately off the face of your club, you are a long way from hitting a power fade. Technique is crucial in golf, and you have to be using the right technique in order to deliver the club to the ball with power and control. When done correctly, it is possible to hit a powerful fade by attacking from the inside with a slightly open face in relation to the target line. This is what Trevino did on many of his shots, and it helped him to incredible success.
If you watch a number of other golfers on the driving range as they work on their technique, you will see that many of them are moving the ball from left to right. However, these fades and slices likely have very little in common with the fade that Trevino was using to win all around the world. The average amateur golfer creates a left to right shot on accident, by moving the club over the top during the transition of the swing and then pulling it across the target line at impact. This is a weak method of swinging the golf club, and it is one that will only lead to frustration. You are never going to hit a 'power fade' by coming over the top, and there is certainly no sign of an over the top move when you watch video of Lee Trevino. In order to create your own power fade in the style of the great Trevino, you will need to ditch that over the top technique and learn the right way to create a left to right shot shape.
Ideally, you would be able to create a number of different ball flights on command depending on the hole you are playing and the conditions at hand. However, having the skill to hit a variety of shots is rare for an amateur golfer, as it requires countless hours of practice and a number of advanced techniques. Instead of trying to learn three or four different shots that you can use around the course, the best plan is to first master a single shot that can get you through most situations. Once you have this 'go-to' shot in place, you can then add other shots to your arsenal as time goes by. When picking your 'go-to' shot, you would be wise to give the power fade strong consideration. The power fade will offer you plenty of distance, but it is often easier to control than a draw - which can turn into a hook from time to time. Trevino hit many of his greatest shots using this power fade, and it has the potential to pay off in your game as well.
The technique that Trevino used to create his power fade certainly wasn't conventional, but it was effective. If you would like to test out an unusual swing technique that just might lead you to improved performance on the course, there are a few basic principles you will need to use. Remember, this swing goes against some of the commonly-taught fundamentals of the modern game, so you will need to be open to new ideas in order to give this swing method a try. Of course, you should put this technique into practice on the driving range first before you give it a go out on the course.
If you would like to test out Trevino's power fade for yourself during your next trip to the range, make sure you use the following basic techniques.
- Open stance. This is one of the calling cards of Trevino's swing – a stance which is slightly open to the target line. To create an open stance, you first need to select a target out in the distance. That target could be the middle of the fairway, the hole itself, or any other point that you wish to use to orient your shot. With the target line clearly identified, step up to the ball and make sure that your left foot is slightly further away from the target line than your right foot. You will have to experiment with how open you want to have your stance, so feel free to try different variations of this open position until you settle on a stance that feels comfortable and as natural as possible.
- The rest of the body points left as well. Once your feet are settled, put the rest of your body in an open position as well. You don't just want the feet pointing left of the target while your hips and shoulders are square – you want the entire stance to be open to the line. This is the part of the setup that will most likely give you trouble. It is foreign to most golfers to stand with their hips and shoulders open to the target line because it goes against everything you have learned throughout your golfing life. Even though it feels odd, stick with it and commit to this position if you are going to work on a power fade.
- Aim the club at the target. With your body in position, set the club head down behind the ball and aim it directly down the target line that you have picked out for the shot. This is another point that can trip you up, because it will look like the club face is open at address. In reality, the club face is only open in relation to your stance – it is still square to the target. This is the perfect position to start from if you want to hit a power fade. Since the club face is open to your stance, you should be able to swing through the ball with a slightly open face at impact. That open face position will encourage a fade while still allowing you to apply plenty of power through the hitting area.
- Restrict the release. The final fundamental involved with this swing technique is perhaps the most important. As the club is swinging down toward impact, you want to do your best to restrict the release of the club head and hold the face square to the line for as long as possible. Again, this is another technique that you will likely have trouble with at first. The natural tendency is to allow the club to release through the zone, encouraging the draw spin that most golfers desire. However, when you are trying to hit a power fade, that release is what you want to avoid. To do this successfully, you will need to rely on your lower body to move through the shot as the club comes down. If your legs and hips stop moving, the club will have no choice but to release through impact. Drive your legs hard as you rotate to the left and use the rotation of your body to deliver the club into the ball.
The four points above might sound easy enough, but they will likely be difficult to put together into one cohesive unit. If you simply show up to the range and expect to hit great shots with this new method, you are going to leave frustrated and disappointed. Keep your expectations low for the first few practice sessions while you get accustomed to the new mechanics of this swing.
The Likely Problems
As with any swing change, you are likely going to have trouble with this technique at first. The ball flight probably won't look very pretty, and your swing is going to feel extremely uncomfortable. All of that is to be expected, but you will still doubt yourself when you aren't seeing results as quickly as you would like. The best way to get through these early growing pains is to know exactly what to expect going in. If you can foresee the problems you are going to have with the swing before they even happen, you will have a better chance of handling them successfully. Following are three of the likely issues that you will run into when trying to learn how to hit a Trevino power fade.
- Missing way right. It is possible that you will start to hit the ball solidly with this new swing – and yet the ball will still be sailing to the right of the target. If it isn't taking a big curve to the right, but rather just heading straight right, you are hitting a push. There are a couple of ways to remedy this issue. The first is you can aim a little bit farther to the left and make the same swing. That is obviously the simple solution, but it will only work if you are hitting a small push – you can't aim way right without causing other problems. If you are hitting a big push, work on getting more rotation and less lateral slide in your downswing. Sliding your lower body to the left is a great way to hit a push, so focus on making sure you rotate your hips through the swing while minimizing your lateral motion.
- Topping the ball. For some people, just making decent contact while using this technique is going to be something of a challenge. If you find that you are topping the ball from time to time, make sure your ball position hasn't moved up too far in your stance. If you position the ball up near your left foot, you will have trouble reaching it at impact. The ball should be in front of the middle of your stance, but not all the way up to the left foot. Experiment with different ball positions for various clubs until you settle on a spot that seems to allow you to make solid contact consistently.
- Hitting a pull to the left. When you are trying to hit a power fade, missing to the left is just about the worst thing you could do with the swing – because you were already aimed a bit left to begin with. A pull in this situation is likely to put you in bad shape, so it is important that you know how to avoid the left-side miss when you get out onto the course. Most likely, you are hitting a pull because you have released the club prematurely in the downswing. An early release will close the club face relative to the target line and the ball will have no chance to go anywhere but left. If the pull becomes a consistent problem on the range, work hard on the movement of your lower body. Getting your legs and hips to initiate the swing right from the top is the best way so prevent that early release from ruining an otherwise good golf swing.
If you don't want to deal with the problems that come with trying a swing method, you should just stick to your old swing because there are sure to be issues along the way. However, if you are willing to work your way through these problems until you find a light at the end of the tunnel, you just may be rewarded with a useful and repeatable power fade that you can take with you to the course.
How to Use a Power Fade
Hitting a new shot on the range is fun, but it isn't going to help you shoot lower scores until you take it onto the course. Learning how to use a new shot might not be as easy as you would think, even if you are getting good at executing the mechanics of the swing. Much of the issue has to do with how you pick targets on the course. If you are used to hitting a draw, or even a big slice, you will have developed methods for picking targets that leave your ball as close to the hole as possible. These methods might even be subconscious, but they are in there somewhere. When you make the change to a new ball flight, you will have to alter the way you see the course in order to pick the right lines.
To make this adjustment as successfully as possible, try to take extra care when picking your target lines during the first few rounds while using the power fade. Don't just play the round on 'auto pilot' – really focus in on thinking your way around the course. Pick smart targets that allow for plenty of room for error should you miss your line slightly in either direction. Once you pick a target, commit yourself to that target completely without any doubt or hesitation.
It is also important to remember that you shouldn't get too carried away firing at flags just because you are feeling confident in your new ball flight. A conservative game plan remains the best option for most players as it keeps your ball in play and big numbers off the scorecard. Feel free to fire at the flag when you have a good yardage and plenty of room to work with, but remember that patience is your best friend when trying to post a good score at the end of the day.
It is unlikely that you will be able to use the power fade to the same level of success at Lee Trevino. Very few players in the history of the game have played to the same level as Trevino, no matter what ball flight they preferred. However, even if you come up short of his lofty standard, you can still learn to hit quality shots with this unique method. While it might not come straight out of the golf manual, following Lee Trevino's lead on how to hit a power fade may be the best thing that ever happened to your game.