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To Shot Shape or Not to Shot Shape?


ZANDER1994
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So this season I have seen a remarkable improvement in my game, as I now live across the street from a range and have had an immense amount of time to practice in the work-from-home environment. I also used the Planemate religiously and reinvented my swing. I went from just over a 17 handicap to a solid 12 in the last 6 months. 
 

The biggest game changer for me this year was really learning how to hit a draw. A little over a year ago, I could probably only pull it off about 50% of the time I went for it so it was a risky shot. These days if I want the ball to draw I can do so on command. It is no harder for me to hit than a fade, though *how much* draw I put on the ball is still a bit harder to control. 
 

Anyway, I find myself on the course *wanting* to shot shape far more than I probably need to. I am constantly enticed to shape the ball around doglegs, around that tree that is blocking me from the green, or to get a better landing spot on the fairway. Should I fight this and train myself to only shot shape in emergencies that call for it? Or will I get better by continually practicing this and letting myself do that on the course? 
 

This past Sunday after 4 pars in a row it REALLY stung to get a triple bogey after stupidly trying to shape my way around a dogleg for no reason and hooking into the woods. 

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I'm not the greatest golfer in the world. But I think I'm qualified to give you an answer here. 

When I first started playing golf, I didn't get any lessons. Just jumped right in. After a couple years I was a 28 handicap. (I know). 
So, I got lessons from a pro, whom to this day, I really think was a great teacher. I started playing a draw almost exclusively, after a couple more years I got all the way down to a 10 handicap.

I moved away from that pro and over the years my draw started to become a snap-hook. It was awful. Golf started to be no fun at all. I can say from experience that snap-hook golf is the least amount of fun of any golf out there. Handicap climbed up to near 30 or so.

Got a new pro, worked on learning to play the fade. Got my handicap all the way down to a single digit. Playing a fade almost exclusively. I could still hit a draw, but only used it rarely. My go-to shot was a fade. 

Then that fade turned into a weak slice.... Ugh.... I lost the draw completely. My game went to Hell in a hand-cart. My handicap quickly climbed back up. Game fell apart. I'm fighting my way out of that now. 

Today, I have a 2-way miss. I'm working on it and sometimes I play and things go okay. But not knowing which way you are going to miss sucks. 

What's the point of all this. I truly believe you can play well hitting a draw or hitting a fade as your "standard" shot. If you can do either on command that's probably the best of both worlds. Either way, you need a go-to shot. Hitting a slice sucks, hitting a snap-hook sucks. Not knowing if you are going to hit a slice or a snap-hook really really sucks. 

My advice, for what its worth. Is get good at a go-to shot. One that you can hit under pressure, one that you feel confident in. Make it your strength. Then go out and play to your strength. 

 

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First, read this quote from a topic in the "Swing Thoughts" section of this site: 

Quote

A Quick Word on Shaping the Ball

95% of the shots a pro plays (Tiger Woods may be one of a group of very small exceptions, and even he isn't as different as many think) are their stock shot. They don't curve much, but if a player is a drawer of the golf ball, 95% of their shots draw. It's the most reliable, dependable way to play - with a pattern.

Kenny Perry (a pronounced drawer) was playing at Doral a few years ago and someone asked him what he does with a pin on the right side of the green. He said he aimed at the flag and if his ball didn't draw, he got lucky, but otherwise he was content to have a 25-footer for birdie.

Then the person asked him what he did when the pin was on the left side of the green. "I make birdie" he said. 🙂

You'll get better, faster if you develop a pattern. Shaping the ball is over-rated - not even the pros do it all that often. Shaping the ball can get you out of trouble. It can be a good shot when the ball needs to be worked around an obstacle (reaching a par five in two, the tee shot on a dogleg, etc.). But if you've got a look at the flag, take the Kenny Perry approach: aim for your shot cone and play your pattern.

Second, FWIW, I've been able to get my handicap down to its' lowest ever, a 2.2 and my normal shot is fairly straight with a slight fade as I get further up the bag. I legitimately can't hook the ball or make it draw if I had to. I asked my instructor last week to show me how to hook the ball, and the only time I will ever even consider using it is if I have legit no other option and my choices are to basically punch out backwards, or hook the ball.

Dogleg left? No big deal, start a tee shot at the left corner and let it fade back to the middle.

Tucked left pin just over a bunker from 150 yds? I'd aim a little right of the flag and let it fade gently towards the center of the green, knowing that even if I'm 30-40 feet away, lag putting and speed control is a major strength of mine so I will rarely 3 putt.

Left edge of the fairway but a tree is overhanging and drawing an iron around it would be perfect? I simply don't have that shot, so I'd either go under the tree and try to run something up and give myself an easy chip, or if I can see any of the green depending on how far out I am and where the pin is I'd just aim for the section of the green I can get to, even if it means leaving myself a 60 foot putt.

Shorter par 4, maybe like 350yds having a tee shot with OB down the entire right side and a hard left to right wind? Maybe I lay back a little and hit a hybrid or something since the left to right wind would make my drive dispersion increase for that hole and bring the OB into play. I'm not going to try and draw a driver into the wind, I simply don't have that shot. 

My point of all that is you can get really really really good by only hitting one shot shape 95%+ of the time. I'd be willing to guess that as a 12 handicap there are other areas of your game that need improvement as well, it's not like if you could suddenly curve the ball both ways on command that you'd drop from a 12 to a scratch or something. 

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The straight shot is the hardest shot in golf. I always try to shape my short/mid irons one way or the other, and my misses will go straight. Longer clubs my safe shot is a fade, which I know wont run into trouble and I find easy to control just how much fade. Often when trying to draw a longer iron or wood I overcook it and end up in trouble.  

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I guess that I am not a sophisticated golfer since I try to hit it straight 😃. I do recall playing with a co-worker some years back that was somewhat new (3 years?) to golf and he surprisingly shot a nice round of bogey golf. This person was older, overweight and did not come across as athletic.

He had an incredibly predictable and reliable "power" fade. The ball started out down the left side of the fairway or even rough and ended up on the right side of the fairway/green or close to it almost every time. His length maxed out at maybe 200 yards. He never lost a ball or had a penalty shot the entire round that I recall.  He was either on or near the green in regulation consistently. I won't forget that round and came away realizing that many of us may be overthinking and trying to play above our abilities. You are just trying to get a little ball into a hole in as few strokes as possible. If we think that requires a 300 yard drive and make that our goal off the tee, then we may be disappointed with the result.

This guy knew what his result would most likely be before he swung and planned accordingly to a very decent result.

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2 hours ago, ChetlovesMer said:

I can say from experience that snap-hook golf is the least amount of fun of any golf out there.

No. Just no. Actually, not even close.🙂

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1 minute ago, Vinsk said:

No. Just no. Actually, not even close.🙂

Had that personal favorite of yours happen to me on Monday. 

It sucked.

Blaming it on heat exhaustion.

 

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9 hours ago, ZANDER1994 said:

Should I fight this and train myself to only shot shape in emergencies that call for it?

I would play one default shape and just plan your shots accordingly. Have the other shape in your pocket just when necessary (e.g., you're dead behind a tree or something and don't want to merely chip out and the circumstances are otherwise relatively safe; be sure to weigh your options so as not to unjustifiably make the situation worse). Consistency comes when you can start the ball every time on the same line and have the ball finish in a desired window. Based upon better players with whom I have spoken, and my own personal experience this means:

If you play a draw and are right-handed, make sure your ball always starts to the right hand side of the target line. However, make sure that the ball never crosses that line. In essence, you are playing a push to a push draw pattern. That means you miss should be a push that does not draw back. Your miss should not be a hook. If you are a fader of the ball, the opposite is true: start the ball to the left of target each time, but never fade the ball past the target line; your miss should be a pull that doesn't fade.

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Even for us high handicappers there are occasions where a shaped shot is the right choice. Each of us has a certain variety of shots we actually can hit reliably, so the challenge is choosing the right one at the right time.

In my particular instance, I know I can hook a punch shot. So if I'm buried in the trees on the left, I can be aggressive with that. But, if that shot has to be straight or a fade, I better just chip it out of there. 

 

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My long game is far better than my short game/putting and if I absolutely needed to hit a draw or fade at some point, I am about 50% sure I'd get it wrong.  Not that the swing wouldn't come out well, but rather that I'd do the opposite:  I know enough to aim the clubface where I want the ball to start, but I'm pretty sure I'd drop the wrong foot back.  So I don't try it:  there's a great post higher up by @klinekaabout playing for what you have with you.

The only time I try to deliberately move the ball is an out-of-trouble shot, where I'd like to be able to hit a low hook with my 5-iron.  I practice it a bit at the range, but the two times (warning: low sample size) I've tried to pull it off on the course have been met with failures.  It's something I need to practice during my rare outdoors-range practice. 

But a draw or fade on command from the fairway or the tee?  Not on my to-do list unless my instructor tells me otherwise.   When I'm playing, I know my dominant shot shape, and I'm usually looking at zones, not a pin.

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Honestly I would like to have a consistent shot shape, whatever it is.  Ideally I would like it to be straight rather than a fade or draw.  However, my sorta normal shot these days is a bit of a fade, especially with my longer clubs.  With the shorter clubs I am straight.  The problem almost invariably is when I aim left to allow for a fade I wind up pulling it straight left and sometimes futher left than I am aiming 🤦‍♂️

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I can shape the ball both directions, and for years I used to primarily hit a draw. Now since seriously getting back into golf I've been mostly playing one course that is decidedly shaped for a right-handed golfer's fade, so I play a fade as my standard shot nowadays.

I'm no tour pro, but in 95% or more of scenarios I want the ball to curve to the right from where I start it. The only time I specifically try to hit a draw is if it's the only option available to me (such as when I hit it into the trees and the angle dictates a right to left curve). It's hard enough to get the ball to fade every time, trying to hit the same shape of shot, much less making things even more difficult by changing yet another variable from swing to swing (intended shot shape).

The thing that I believe helps is that, unless I'm trying to hit a complete slice or a ripping hook, I make the same swing for a draw as I do a fade. I try to change as few variables as possible, for the sake of consistency, and that means the same swing for both. It still has an in-to-out path relative to the alignment of my feet, but I have changed my setup to a more open stance (compared to when I used to predominantly hit a draw) while leaving the face square to my intended target line. When I need to hit a draw I still leave the face aligned with my intended target line, then close my stance slightly back to where it used to be (nearly square). Face angle always points towards my starting line, swing path always goes in-to-out, only thing that changes is my feet - at least that's the goal anyways.

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If I make the swing that I want, it is a slight fade. We have a few tee boxes that require a straighter shot or a draw and I do try to swing differently on those tees with varying levels of success, nothing being consistent. I am happy with the fade. 

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Over the years I've tended to be a fairly straight ball hitter with my miss being a draw. As I gotten older (68 now), I've found my body has become more comfortable with a slightly open stance and using the fade as my go to shot. I can still manage a draw/hook ..... just never when I need it 😡. For me, its stick to one basic shot pattern and learn to work with it.

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