I recently wrote a post about the most desired shot in golf, the draw, so it’s only fitting I now write one about the not so sexy alternative, the fade. If you’re unsure about the concept of fading a golf ball, no problem. By the end of this post, you’ll be armed with all the necessary knowledge to go to the range and start practicing a fade.
A fade in golf is simply a shot that curves from left to right, for a right-handed golfer and right to left, for a left-handed golfer. For a right-hander, the shot starts to the left of your intended target line and “fades” back to the right towards the target. For a left-hander, the shot starts to the right of your intended target line and “fades” back to the left towards the target.
For the rest of the post, I’ll discuss the fade from a right-handed golfers perspective, to reduce redundancy.
What Causes A Fade In Golf?
The swing path/club face combination is what causes the golf ball to curve while in flight.
For clarity, the swing path is simply how far left or right of the target line the club head is traveling through impact, per GolfWRX. This is measured in degrees as is how much the club face is opened or closed at impact. The difference between the two is what produces curvature on the ball. The lower the difference, the less curvature the ball will have in flight.
For the ball to fade, the swing path needs to be slightly to the left (out-to-in) with the club face slightly closed to the target line at impact. The club face cannot be closed more than the swing path or the ball will go straight left.
Let’s use an example to further illustrate the relationship between the swing path and club face on a fade. I’ve pulled some Trackman data from a Dustin Johnson driver swing. Dustin is a notorious fader of the golf ball at this stage in his career, so this data is pretty much the gold standard. On this particular swing, Dustin has a swing path of 3.5 degrees to the left with the club face being closed 1.2 degrees to the target line. The difference between the two, also known as face to path, was 2.3 degrees, which produced a nice power fade for Dustin.
How To Hit A Fade In Golf?
Now that we understand the dynamics which cause the ball to fade, let’s learn how to hit it.
- Alight the body left of the target on setup. This includes the shoulders, hips, and feet.
- Move the ball position one ball forward of normal. This allows us to hit the ball later in the swing when the club is likely traveling on a path slightly left of the target.
- Align the clubface between where your body is aimed and the target line.
- Swing naturally. Don’t dramatically alter your swing so you’re swinging way over the top to the left. Keep the same swing!
That’s it. If you follow the steps above, you should be able to start hitting fades. Like anything in golf, it will take some practice if this is not your normal shot shape. Don’t be discouraged if you hit some bad shots initially. The results will come in due time.
The most common faults occur during the first three steps. The setup is super important to get right. If you align your shoulders left of the target line but not the hips and feet, some squirrely shots are sure to happen. The same happens if the hips and feet are aligned properly but the shoulders are square to the target. Make sure to get all three correctly aligned.
Another common fault is not moving the ball position up a ball in the stance. Some will play it the same or even move it back in the stance. If anything, this setup would promote a draw shot shape as the club head would be swinging more to the right at impact. Remember, the swing is on an arc so ball position is critical when it comes to shot shaping.
The last common fault is the club face being aligned incorrectly. This is the category I fall into sometimes when trying to hit a fade. I tend to align the clubface directly to the target line. This makes the club face super open to the body line by impact and can cause a huge slice, which we’ll discuss next.
What Is A Slice In Golf?
A slice in golf is simply when the ball curves excessively to the right for right-handed golfers and excessively to the left for left-handed golfers. The golfer is essentially over-fading the golf ball to create a slice. Unlike a nice fade, which is normally a centered strike off the face, the slice is hit with a more glancing blow, which causes the shot to lose a lot of distance.
The slice is the shot that plagues most golfers. It can be an absolute nightmare, especially if you don’t aim for it at setup. If you are afflicted with a slice and you aim straight ahead, you will lose a lot of balls, especially with the driver. You must aim out to the left in order to keep the ball in play.
I had a slice most of my golfing career until the last few years. I actually took a solid one-year hiatus from golf because the slice was frustrating me so badly. If you can’t turn your slice into a fade with the steps I’ve provided, try switching it up completely by playing a draw. If anything, you’ll see the ball go left, even if it’s not a draw per se. Just seeing a left shot after slice after slice can put you in a better place mentally. My post about hitting a draw is here. Check it out.
PGA Players Who Play A Fade
The fade isn’t the sexiest shot when compared to the draw, but it’s the more reliable shot to play. You may lose a small amount of distance hitting the fade, but the accuracy of the shot more than makes up for it. Lee Trevino has a great quote about the fade. He said “You can talk to a fade but a hook won’t listen”. I wholeheartedly agree. A draw or worse, a hook, is the harder shot to control.
So we just mentioned Lee Trevino, who definitely played a fade throughout his career. Arguably, the greatest golfer of all time, Jack Nicklaus did as well! Nick Faldo is another all time great who rode a fade to six major championships.
In today’s game, ball-striking machines like Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson, and Collin Morikawa all play a fade. If there was any stigma remaining about playing a fade, it should be gone at this point.
In this crazy age of distance and then more distance, the fade is an often overlooked shot. In my opinion, it shouldn’t be. As long as you understand the swing dynamics and have the proper setup, the fade will be your best friend. There is no better feeling than aiming left and giving it a rip knowing it will always fade back to the target. You can literally take one side of the golf course out of play by implementing a proper fade. Good luck!