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Draw Vs Fade In Golf – Your Questions Answered

In this article we’ll cover the difference between draw vs. fade. explain what causes both shots, the advantages of each, and how you can control the amount of draw vs. fade in your golf game.

Draw vs. Fade in Golf: What is The Difference?

For right-handed golfers, a draw is a shot that curves left to right through the air. Whereas a fade is a shot that curves left to right through the air. These shot shapes are flipped for a left-handed golfer.

Both fade and draw shots are caused by side-spin being put on the golf ball, as a result of how the golf ball is stuck at impact. The draw example above is due to anti-clockwise spin being placed on the ball, whereas clockwise spin causes a fade shot.

If we’re being a little more detailed, all shots have a mixture of backspin and side spin that actually creates a spin vector (see below).

Draw vs Straight vs Fade
A graphic showing draw, straight and fade ball flights along with the spin axis that creates each one.

In this article we cover fades and draws for right handed golfers. Sorry lefties, you’ll have to just flip these terms when we move through each section – hopefully the information is still super useful for your golf game.

What is a fade shot?

A fade shot starts left of your intended target, curves to the right during the air and lands on your target. As discussed above this is due to the spin axis imparted on the golf ball. The more tilted the spin axis the greater the curvature in the air.

A slice is essentially the same golf shot as a fade on a larger scale, in golf coaching terms the difference between a fade in a slice is that a fade is controlled and finishes on your target. Whereas a slice finishes to the right of your intended target and was not intended.

What causes a fade?

Fade Golf Shot
A graphic showing a fade ball flight and the combination of swing path and face angle that creates a fade.

A fade is caused by the spin placed on the golf ball, however what causes this spin axis is commonly misunderstood by golfers and is a big reason many golfers struggle to improve. Golfers commonly believe a fade or slice is caused by them cutting across the ball, or an out-to-in swing path. However, fade and slice spin are actually caused by your club face being open to your swing path at impact.

This is a small, but very important difference. To stop a slice player should focus on squaring up their club face to their swing path, resulting in pure backspin placed on their golf shots.

A second reason a golf ball will fade or slice is due to where the ball is struck on the club face. Striking the golf ball towards the heel results in fade/slice spin being placed on the golf ball due to the gear effect (let us know if you would like an article on this).

Focus on your club face angle first if they have a fade or slice, but also take a look at ball marks on your irons and driver and take note of where you strike the golf ball. If they are towards the heel this isn’t helping your slice.

Fade Golf Shot Heat Map
A graphic showing a heel strike pattern, this strike pattern adds fade/slice spin to the golf ball.

Positives of a fade

Many amatuer golfers spend years trying to get rid of a fade. However, a small, controlled fade is commonly used by many pros. This ball flight offers slightly higher, more controlled iron shots that stop quickly.

Also, the mechanics of hitting a face mean the club face can stay pointing to the target for longer through impact, creating a wider window to hit accurate golf shots. Don’t worry about this too much if you are new to the game, but realise a fade isn’t a bad shot shape if you can control it.

Negative of a fade

When you strike the golf ball with your fade shot, the clubface is slightly open. That open clubface has more loft and therefore costs you a bit of ball speed and yardage. Expect the fade shot to be a few yards less distances than a straight shot.

What is a draw shot?

A draw shot starts to the right of your target, curves to the left during its flight and lands on your target line. As discussed earlier, this curvature is due to side spin, or more accurately a titled spin axis imparted on the golf ball at impact.

If there is too much draw spin on the golf ball a draw can turn into a hook. A hooked golf shot is similar to a draw but finishes left of your intended target and is not considered to be controlled or intended.

What causes a draw?

A draw ball flight (moving right to left) is caused by side spin being placed on the ball along with backspin, resulting in a titled spin vector (see below). The more titled the spin vector, the more the golf ball will curve during its flight.

Just like a fade, draw spin is created when the golf ball is struck with a club face angle that is not square to your swing path. When your club face is pointing left (closed) to your swing path at impact, torque is applied to the golf ball and the golf ball will leave your club face with draw spin. The more closed your club face is to your swing path, the greater the amount of draw spin and the more your golf shots will curve.

It isn’t an in-to-out swing path that causes the shot shape, as many golfers falsely believe.

Draw Golf Shot
A graphic showing a draw ball flight and the combination of swing path and face angle that creates a draw.

A second cause of draw and hook golf shots is golf shots that are struck from the toe of the golf club. Striking the toe of the golf club results in twisting through impact and draw spin being placed on the golf ball, causing it to move right to left through the air.

If you have a large, consistent draw or hook you should be away of your strike pattern, but focus on your club face angle if you wish to change your shot shape.

Draw Golf Shot Heat Map
A graphic showing a toe strike pattern, this strike pattern adds draw/hook spin to the golf ball.

Positives of a draw

Because the club face is closed to your swing path there is less loft on the club face. This results in a higher ball speed and a lower trajectory, resulting in longer shots. This is why a draw is considered a more powerful golf shot – not because of some mystical draw-spin.

Negatives of a draw

The problem with a draw is that it can be hard to control. If you close the club face too much, it can turn into a hook that often results in a powerful ball flight towards trouble on the left. Also, a big draw results in lower shots that don’t stop as quickly on the greens, this can make it tough to become a high-level iron player.

A small draw is great to play golf with, but if the curvature becomes too much it can result in reduced consistency and control.

As we mentioned earlier, neither a fade nor a draw are bad, as long as you can control them. To prove this point, here is a tour coach and TrackMan rep James Martin sharing some PGA Tour insights, you can watch the full interview here.

What is best a Draw vs. Fade in golf?

You can become an elite player hitting a draw or a fade as your standard shot. Dustin Johnson is a great example of a player who only hits a fade. Whereas, Rory McIlroy is a player who tends to favour a draw, but can hit the ball both ways.

The key with both shots is that you can control them and your misses are not too big. You’ll find one shot far easier to play than the other and this is due to your swing mechanics. Most beginner golfers struggle with a large fade and slice, because of their golf grip.

Hitting a draw or a fade is always a case of ‘the grass always looks green on the other side…’. To become a consistent player work on only having a small draw or fade and try to make the dispersion of your golf shots as small as possible.

Fade vs. Slice

Both a fade and slice curve left to right through the air, but a slice shot tends to have more curvature and finishes right of your intended target. This increased curvature is due to a more tilted spin axis on the golf ball, caused by your club face being more open to your swing path at impact.

Draw vs. Hook

Both a draw and hook curve right to left through the air, but a hook shot tends to have more curvature and finishes left of your intended target. This increased curvature is due to a more tilted spin axis on the golf ball, caused by your club face being more closed to your swing path at impact.

How does equipment play into a draw vs a fade?

Equipment will never fix the underlying swing issues but can help in squaring up your club face to your swing path and consequently reduce the amount of spin on the golf ball and result in straighter shots.

Here are a few things to look out for:

Shaft flex

The more flexible the shaft you have in your golf clubs, the more it will help reduce a slice. More flexible shafts load earlier in the downswing and kick back to close the club face through impact. Contrary to what most golfers think, more flexible, lighter shafts tend to help reduce a slice. Whereas, heavier, stiffer shafts tend to help golfers with a hook.

Club head weighting

Many drivers have movable weights and some have fixed weights off-center to help reduce shot shapes. A driver with more mass in the heel will help square up a club face and reduce a fade. If you shift more mass to the toe of a golf club, the face will rotate less and will help a golfer who hooks the golf ball.

Club offset

Club offset works in a similar way to the concept above. The more a club head is set behind the hosel, the easier it is to rotate the club face square and minimise a fade or slice. Whereas little or no offset is best for a golfer who struggles with over drawing golf shots and hooks.

Final Thoughts

Rather than thinking you need to hit a fade or a draw, consider how you can get more consistent playing with your shot shape. I really hope this guide has given you a much deeper understanding of what causes each shot shape.

One of the simplest tips is to learn how far you fade or draw given golf shots and to aim an appropriate distance left or right on the golf course. When you play golf, allow for your draw or fade and use time on the golf range to improve or alter your shot shape.

Happy golfing – Will @ Golf insider

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Will is a PGA golf professional, with a PhD in Biomedical Science and MSc in Sports Biomechanics & Psychology. He spent 10 years lecturing part-time at Leeds Beckett University and the University of Leeds in Biomechanics and Motor Control before becoming the Head of Golf for the University of Exeter. He currently runs Golf Insider UK, Sport Science Insider around wider consulting and academic roles in sport performance and motor control.

3 thoughts on “Draw Vs Fade In Golf – Your Questions Answered”

  1. Hi Will,
    These concepts have been mentioned to me in passing during golf lessons over the years, but various coaches did not spend enough time on the subject and I did not comprehend what they were saying. With hindsight, I should have insisted that they were explained using different words/language and they should have checked my understanding.
    Now I get it, this makes so much sense. I have been playing golf for about 65 years and enjoy trying to find ways to improve. I am off to practice on the course today and look forward to applying what you have taught me.
    Thank you Will!

    Reply

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