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boil3rmak3r

How does an intended draw or fade lessen the results of a bad shot?

21 posts in this topic

Let me preface my question by recognizing that this topic has probably been discussed a million times on TST.  I did some searches and couldn't find a specific answer to this question.  If there is an existing thread that answers this, can you please direct me towards it?

Among professionals, it seems to be universally agreed that trying to hit a straight shot is a bad thing.  One should always attempt to draw or fade the ball (even if it's only a few yards).  Because I've heard/read this from so many skilled players and teachers, I believe that it's true.  I don't understand why, though...

The only reason I've heard is that it "eliminates one side of the course."  While that can be true with a well struck shot, it's very common for us amateurs to block an intended draw and end up fading it or, hood the club on an intended fade and end up drawing it.

My intuitions tell me that many shots would be best played by TRYING to hit the ball straight.  Let's say you have an approach shot where the flag is in the middle of the green and there are bunkers boardering the green's edge both left and right.  Why wouldn't I try to hit a straight shot at the flag?  That leaves me room to miss in either direction (which I probably would) and still have a birdie putt.  Another example...  There is a very wide fairway with no real trouble on either side.  Why no try to hit it straight and a slight miss left or right would still be in the fairway?

No matter what shot you are trying to hit, none of us amateurs can achieve the exact same club face angle at impact.  Maybe we can get it to within 1* or 2* of our intended target, but we'll rarely get it exactly square.  Whether you are attemption a draw, straight ball, or fade, wouldn't the misses be just as wide?

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The objective is to eliminate one side of the course. Any good player will tell you, its not fun when you're playing a two way miss. If the player can consistently play a draw that rarely over draws and there is water on the left, they can aim down the right side knowing that their shot cone will be right of the water, safe. If you try to play a straight shot at the flag and the ball has any curve on it, it will be curving away from the flag.
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Originally Posted by boil3rmak3r

Let me preface my question by recognizing that this topic has probably been discussed a million times on TST.  I did some searches and couldn't find a specific answer to this question.  If there is an existing thread that answers this, can you please direct me towards it?

Among professionals, it seems to be universally agreed that trying to hit a straight shot is a bad thing.  One should always attempt to draw or fade the ball (even if it's only a few yards).  Because I've heard/read this from so many skilled players and teachers, I believe that it's true.  I don't understand why, though...

The only reason I've heard is that it "eliminates one side of the course."  While that can be true with a well struck shot, it's very common for us amateurs to block an intended draw and end up fading it or, hood the club on an intended fade and end up drawing it.

My intuitions tell me that many shots would be best played by TRYING to hit the ball straight.  Let's say you have an approach shot where the flag is in the middle of the green and there are bunkers boardering the green's edge both left and right.  Why wouldn't I try to hit a straight shot at the flag?  That leaves me room to miss in either direction (which I probably would) and still have a birdie putt.  Another example...  There is a very wide fairway with no real trouble on either side.  Why no try to hit it straight and a slight miss left or right would still be in the fairway?

No matter what shot you are trying to hit, none of us amateurs can achieve the exact same club face angle at impact.  Maybe we can get it to within 1* or 2* of our intended target, but we'll rarely get it exactly square.  Whether you are attemption a draw, straight ball, or fade, wouldn't the misses be just as wide?

LOL, mvmac answered almost this exact question in logman's "drawing and ball position" thread just a minute ago.  He might be answering you right now too ;)

Anyways, here's my take.  I agree that if you don't know where it's going to go then you are probably best off aiming down the middle, furthest away from both edges where the trouble usually lurks.  But, that is precisely why the goal should be to develop a swing that will consistently produce a fade or draw.  If you've developed a consistent pattern then you've basically doubled your margin for error.  With a draw, for example, can aim to start the ball down the right side of the fairway and hit a straight push, hit it as intended, or overdraw it, and in all cases you are still in the fairway.  Like Mike said in the other thread, anything worse than that is just a bad shot, no matter where you're aiming.

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Originally Posted by WUTiger

That illustration is a perfect example of what my question is....  Again, I've heard this concept enough from reading that I HAVE to agree that it's true.  I still have trouble understanding WHY.  In the illustration above, Nicklaus shows the possible dispersion of your golf shot.  Looks like it could be 15 yards or more from his alignment line.  He doesn't even show what a push slice would do or what a draw would do (even a 7 handicapper like myself could do both of those things...).  What if his intented targed line were at the flag?  If you use his logic, a slice would be just right and a hook would be just left.  A draw OR fade would put you in great position!

I think Nicklaus, and other pros, use this since they are skilled enough to virtually elimate a mistake in the direction they don't want to miss (they are the world's best golfers and can do this...).  Does that really apply to us amateurs?

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Originally Posted by boil3rmak3r

That illustration is a perfect example of what my question is....  Again, I've heard this concept enough from reading that I HAVE to agree that it's true.  I still have trouble understanding WHY.  In the illustration above, Nicklaus shows the possible dispersion of your golf shot.  Looks like it could be 15 yards or more from his alignment line.  He doesn't even show what a push slice would do or what a draw would do (even a 7 handicapper like myself could do both of those things...).  What if his intented targed line were at the flag?  If you use his logic, a slice would be just right and a hook would be just left.  A draw OR fade would put you in great position!

I think Nicklaus, and other pros, use this since they are skilled enough to virtually elimate a mistake in the direction they don't want to miss (they are the world's best golfers and can do this...).  Does that really apply to us amateurs?

I think it could be one of those "because the pros do it we should too" moments

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Originally Posted by boil3rmak3r

... I think Nicklaus, and other pros, use this since they are skilled enough to virtually elimate a mistake in the direction they don't want to miss (they are the world's best golfers and can do this...).  Does that really apply to us amateurs?

Don't mean to sound like I'm dodging the question, but go with what works. If you have a natural fade, or draw, go with it. Don't try to fight nature.

IF you have a slice or a hook that gets you into trouble, this is excessive nature and you probably want to get it toned down. But, a fade or draw can give you a basic shot shape you can rely on.

I've had multiple lessons from three different pros in the past 10 years, and general advice seems to be:

  • Start out trying to hit the ball straight when rebuilding swing or making major swing adjustment
  • Once you start hitting the ball solidly, go with a fade or draw as your main shot. (Or, with the new straight balls and high MOI clubs, you may be able to play straight ahead)
  • Be able to go the other way if you really need to.
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Originally Posted by WUTiger

I missed an important statement in the illustration above.  The caption says, "A player who can fade the ball regularly gains a margin of error on approach shots."  In other words, if your normal ball flight is left-to-right or vice versa, this logic makes since.  But, he has a fade because of good mechanics and he intents to fade the ball.  A high handicapper who comes way over the top and slices the ball would want to use this logic as well (even though their swing mechanics are horrible).  My point is, I haven't developed a consitent draw or fade with my irons.  My ball flight is fairly straigh and will somtimes curve a little in either direction.  Why would I want to develop a consitent bend one way or another unless it were a specialty shot?

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Originally Posted by WUTiger

Don't mean to sound like I'm dodging the question, but go with what works. If you have a natural fade, or draw, go with it. Don't try to fight nature.

IF you have a slice or a hook that gets you into trouble, this is excessive nature and you probably want to get it toned down. But, a fade or draw can give you a basic shot shape you can rely on.

I've had multiple lessons from three different pros in the past 10 years, and general advice seems to be:

Start out trying to hit the ball straight when rebuilding swing or making major swing adjustment

Once you start hitting the ball solidly, go with a fade or draw as your main shot. (Or, with the new straight balls and high MOI clubs, you may be able to play straight ahead)

Be able to go the other way if you really need to.

I don't take your response as dodging the question at all.  In fact, I appreciate your thoughts.  The crazy thing is, I have recently been making major swing changes.  They have produced drives that tend to draw and irons that tend to be generally straight (which has always been my tendency's).

While I am no where near a a GIR machine (I average 6 per round), I feel my swing path and club face angle match up fairly well.  Would I be better served to change my club face angle to consistently work the ball one way or another?  If so, why?

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That illustration is a perfect example of what my question is....  Again, I've heard this concept enough from reading that I HAVE to agree that it's true.  I still have trouble understanding WHY.  In the illustration above, Nicklaus shows the possible dispersion of your golf shot.  Looks like it could be 15 yards or more from his alignment line.  He doesn't even show what a push slice would do or what a draw would do (even a 7 handicapper like myself could do both of those things...).  What if his intented targed line were at the flag?  If you use his logic, a slice would be just right and a hook would be just left.  A draw OR fade would put you in great position! I think Nicklaus, and other pros, use this since they are skilled enough to virtually elimate a mistake in the direction they don't want to miss (they are the world's best golfers and can do this...).  Does that really apply to us amateurs?

His intended target line IS at the flag. But if he accidently hits it straight he's still fine. Same if he over cuts it a bit. He has a shot shape which is tuned to his game. A draw when he intends to hit a fade would be a rare occurance. Since his stock shot is a fade, if he accidently lines the face up with the path, its a straight shot. He has tuned his swing to avoid the possibility of the face being closed to the path which would cause a draw. That's what golf is about. I personally play a draw. I don't want to see my ball end up left of my target line and that's what I work towards.

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For what it's worth, I think there's a general communication breakdown when this subject gets discussed.

From what I've seen, what a very good player describes as "shaping" a shot is very often what a handicap golfer would describe as essentially a straight ball. There are outliers on tour (Bubba and Kenny Perry spring to mind) - but from what I've seen, most pros are aiming inside of any trouble and playing a very small amount of curve away from there. Good drives look more or less straight, perhaps falling a little left or right. Maybe, if you have a very fine degree of control over face and path, then a 5 yard curve feels particularly vivid.

I don't believe that working the ball per se keeps you out of trouble, or widens your margin for error. I think having fine control over shot dispersion, which can happen with large or small degrees of curve (or width of shot cone), is what does that. Say "fade" and many folks (self included) will think Hogan and Trevino - but Trevino himself said that he hit the ball basically straight, and many people have said similar of Hogan. Shots where the topography of the hole demand some curve in order to hit it close are a separate issue - and nothing to do with the "margin for error" or "one/two-way miss" arguments.

I do think that psychology plays a part. If you know that your ball is likely to curve, then if you aim for a straight shot you know that your ball is likely to fly away from the target - so I understand the instinct to aim off and try to anticipate the curve and then hopefully watch your ball work towards the target. But I reckon this is a form of attractive self-deception, rather than geometrically valid.

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Uh huh, testify sister, I'm right into "attractive self deception"

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But by "self deception" I don't necessarily mean that it's wrong in anything other than a trivial sense.

I don't think any good would come of trying to hit a shot that you're not comfortable playing. If you "see" a fade landing on the green and working towards the hole, then (provided you have some basis for believing that you can realistically hit that shot) I'd think that's the shot to go with and the facts of geometry be damned.

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my understanding is that if you have a consistent draw, you're hitting the ball with an inside out path and closed face (relative to swing path). if you make a slightly bad swing and open the club face a bit more, you hit the ball straight. if it's too closed, you over curve. either way, you have a one way miss. so if you line up so that a push would not be in trouble, youre shot will end up there, or left of there, but not right. if you pay it straight, then those mistakes will cause the ball to go right or left. and since mistakes are not planned you never know where your ball is going.
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Originally Posted by Golfingdad

I agree that if you don't know where it's going to go then you are probably best off aiming down the middle, furthest away from both edges where the trouble usually lurks.  But, that is precisely why the goal should be to develop a swing that will consistently produce a fade or draw.  If you've developed a consistent pattern then you've basically doubled your margin for error.

That's the answer. The thread could have ended after that post.

Originally Posted by logman

I think it could be one of those "because the pros do it we should too" moments

No, sorry, as much as you want to try to shove that down people's throats, it's simply a better player's way to play golf. No good to great players play golf not knowing which way their ball will curve.

Originally Posted by birlyshirly

From what I've seen, what a very good player describes as "shaping" a shot is very often what a handicap golfer would describe as essentially a straight ball.

Agree. A pro curves the ball two yards or so. The guys a step or two behind the PGA Tour pros will tend to curve it a little more. And the guys a step or two behind them will curve it a little more. They do so because having a pattern is a good way to play golf - hitting the ball and not knowing what it's going to do is a lousy way to play golf.

Originally Posted by birlyshirly

I do think that psychology plays a part. If you know that your ball is likely to curve, then if you aim for a straight shot you know that your ball is likely to fly away from the target - so I understand the instinct to aim off and try to anticipate the curve and then hopefully watch your ball work towards the target. But I reckon this is a form of attractive self-deception, rather than geometrically valid.

I wouldn't call it "attractive self deception" at all - it's simply playing your pattern. Even those PGA Tour players will aim two yards left or right of where their final target is with a mid-iron, or five yards off with a driver, and let the curve work the ball to their target. A ball curving away from your target is disheartening. A ball curving towards your target - even if it doesn't curve quite enough - is still a more positive experience.

Goal #1 of any player we tend to teach is give them a pattern. Whether it's fades or draws, we give them a pattern, because playing a pattern-free game leads to frustration and high scores.

Once you have a pattern, your natural shot cone emerges, and you play for that. It looks a lot like the Nicklaus photo above, except it's half as large: we generally don't like to see the over-curve.

It's almost purely psychological. You could try to hit the ball straight, but the odds of that are almost nil, and your ball is almost always working away from your target. Or you can curve the ball with your pattern and play the expanded Nicklaus shot cone, where even the ball that curves away from his target (the "slice" in his photo) at least crossed the target rather than starting away and curving farther away.

The little bit that isn't psychological? The fact that when you hit your typical shot playing your curve, you'll end up closer than when you hit your "typical" shot playing no curve. Yes, if you slice and hook the ball equally your average works out to straight, but that's like missing a putt two feet high and missing one two feet low and saying that because of that you made them both. :P

Update:

Originally Posted by dsc123

my understanding is that if you have a consistent draw, you're hitting the ball with an inside out path and closed face (relative to swing path). if you make a slightly bad swing and open the club face a bit more, you hit the ball straight. if it's too closed, you over curve. either way, you have a one way miss. so if you line up so that a push would not be in trouble, youre shot will end up there, or left of there, but not right.

I think a lot of better players would still call that a two-way miss.

It's basically the same as this:

That's still a two-way miss in my book. The point is, you don't really have a shot cone. Your shot cone should END at your target. A ball that over-curves is also working away from your target. Jack talked about eliminating one side of the golf course, and you can't do that if you're playing for a straight ball AND a ball that over-curves. You need to pick your poison.

For a righty, if you're playing a draw, your "miss" should either be a ball that doesn't draw much at all (i.e. a push) or a ball that ALWAYS curves but perhaps draws more than you want (an over-draw). THEN you can eliminate one side of the golf course (the left side for the guy who pushes as his miss, the right side for the guy who over-curves as his miss). You can't eliminate one side playing both misses.

BTW here's a relevant thread that's overlooked: http://thesandtrap.com/t/39974/shot-cones . Notice I have the Nicklaus over-curve in the "leaving the cone" diagram.

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Well I was about to put my 2 cents,  then Erik posted the greatest explanation... ever of any question I've had in golf.

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always thought that the shot shaping is more about going with the shape of the hole (i.e. shape of the fairways and greens and where the pin is)... than about margin for error.

in other words, if every fairway is dead straight, and every pin is in the dead center of a perfect circle green..... how much advantage is still there to shape the shots... I do agree with Jack N's theory about 'fading has advantage'... but I think it comes also from the fact that a fade has more underspin and holds the green better.

on the other hand, if we are dealing with doglegs and corner pins, yeah, shot shaping definitely has advantage.

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Originally Posted by iacas

I think a lot of better players would still call that a two-way miss.

For a righty, if you're playing a draw, your "miss" should either be a ball that doesn't draw much at all (i.e. a push) or a ball that ALWAYS curves but perhaps draws more than you want (an over-draw). THEN you can eliminate one side of the golf course (the left side for the guy who pushes as his miss, the right side for the guy who over-curves as his miss). You can't eliminate one side playing both misses.

That "or" is the part that I never understood, and that changes everything.  Thanks.

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