There is an endless debate over which shot shape is better, the fade or the draw. Some will argue that the fade is better because it provides more control, and can offer a softer landing. Others will say the draw is superior because the ball with travel farther, and cut through the wind more effectively.
Here’s my answer after playing both shots myself.
The better shot is the one you can repeat, and count on.
I played a fade for about the first 15+ years of my golfing life, or at least I thought that's what I was doing. It was more of a controlled block. The thought of moving the ball from right to left was foreign to me, so I didn’t even try playing a draw.
I had two major misses when I tried to work the ball from left to right. I would either hit a huge block, and miss my target well to the right, or I would have the dreaded “double cross,” where I would come over the top and hook the ball badly to the left. I don’t think there is a worse shot in golf than the double cross. It’s exactly why Rory lost his composure and tossed that 3-iron into the drink at Doral.
I will build to this point later in the article, but I was bringing both sides of the golf course into play with my fade, and it wasn’t good.
About 4 years ago I took two lessons with a really great pro named Tom Sutter. He took a look at my swing, and immediately told me I was too vertical on my swing plane. He had me experiment with taking the club on a more inside path. It felt very weird at first, but after practicing a few weeks I started to hit a controlled draw, and everything changed for me.
I felt like I could hit the ball with more power, and my overall swing felt more free. I really began to release the clubhead without any fear. It was like my eyes were opened up for the first time! Everything about it just felt natural, and I felt like I had been missing out on something big for a while in my game.
As a side note, I think this is a why everyone should take a lesson once in a while. I hadn’t noticed how vertical my swing had gotten over the years, and having someone else look at it really helped me.
I think it’s taken my game to a whole other level over the last few years because I can repeat my draw swing with regularity than what I was doing before. When I set up for a shot I am always aimed a little bit to the right knowing the ball will come back most times. My miss is usually to the right a little bit, when the ball will just stay on its initial line and not come back. Occasionally I can hit a big block, but I almost never hit those huge hooks anymore.
Eliminating one side of the golf course
This is the most important part of this article, and the main thought I want to get across. I believe that committing to one shot shape will help eliminate one side of the course for you, which is an enormous advantage in golf. This is exactly one of the reasons why Tiger won all of those majors; he eliminated one big miss.
With my draw I have effectively eliminated a big miss to the right. It happens from time to time, but I can count on the fact that if I set up a little bit right of my target, the ball is not going to end up 30-40 yards right of my line. Most times I will have kept everything to the left of that line in play.
I think this is the main advantage to committing to one shot shape, and why I don’t believe one is necessarily superior to the other. If hitting the ball left to right comes naturally, stick with that shot. If you can perfect it, perhaps you have eliminated the left side of the golf course for yourself.
What can you repeat?
Repetition is everything in golf. If you can gain confidence with a shot, no matter how dull it might look, it is one of the greatest tools you can have. I feel most players try to do too many things well, rather than focusing on perfecting one or two shots.
It’s like going to a diner that offers food from multiple cuisines, versus a great restaurant that focuses on one kind of cooking. The diner might have the bigger menu, featuring dishes from multiple categories, but all of them will be mediocre. On the other hand, the restaurant that focuses on fewer dishes from one cuisine will offer better food on average because they have mastered those 5 or 6 dishes.
Don’t try and be like the diner!
At this point I don’t even try to play a fade. I can do it on the practice range, but I feel that it brings up a conflicting swing thought in my head if I try to use it on the course. I don’t want to get my signals crossed in my brain, and push my luck so to speak. Maybe one day I may be able to incorporate both shot shapes into my game, but I’m just not willing to take the risk of forgetting what the draw feels like right now.
Neither shot is better
To summarize, I can’t say that you should just be playing one shot because it’s inherently superior. You should play the shot that comes naturally, and that you can repeat without trying to force yourself into it. If you can hone one of these shot shapes than you will have conquered one of the great challenges of golf, which is eliminating one side of the course.
When you can step up to a shot, and know with confidence that you will not usually miss to one side, it unlocks great potential in your scoring. So keep this in mind when you are trying to figure out the shot that is right for you.