Golf Ball Flight
When starting out on the tee box most golfers have the same question; which way is my ball flight going today, left or right?
Golf ball flight is an important part of the game of golf. It is the path a golf ball follows in the air after being struck by a clubhead. When it comes to golf swing technique, there are three shots that can be hit - straight, draw and fade. We'll be discussing the draw versus fade today.
A straight shot is just that, straight. A draw shot moves from right to left and is has a boring ball flight while a fade goes left to right. Most golfers tend to hit a draw or fade. To hit a successful draw or fade, you must understand how your swing affects ball flight and adjust accordingly.
A draw shot requires you to use a closed stance with your feet pointed slightly toward your target line as well as setting up behind the ball with your hands slightly ahead of it during the backswing, this will close your clubface a bit.
During impact, focus on keeping your face square through impact so that it will create spin on the ball resulting in it curving towards its destination.
A fade requires an open stance with your feet pointed away slightly from your target line and the ball slightly forward of your hands during the backswing. During impact, set up with a square face to create spin that will result in it curving away from its intended target line.
How a golf ball flies
The golf ball flight is determined by the path of the club head and the clubface angle at impact. When a golf ball is hit, it will start to travel in a straight line.
If the club face is square to the path of the swing, the ball will continue to travel straight. If the club face is open (angled to the right for a right-handed golfer), the golf ball will veer to the right (a "fade").
If the ball is hit on the sweet spot of the clubface, it will tend to draw (move from right to left for a right-handed golfer). The reverse is true for left handed golfers.
When you hit a golf ball, it will start out straight but then will gradually curve to the left or right. This is called a draw or fade. If you hit the ball with a closed clubface, it will curve more to the left. If you hit the ball with an open clubface, it will curve more to the right.
How the clubface affects ball flight
The clubface is the striking surface of the golf club. It is the part of the club that makes contact with the ball. The angle of the clubface relative to the swing path has a major impact on the direction and curvature (draw or fade) of the ball flight.
If the clubface is square to the swing path, the ball will travel straight. If the face is open (toe pointing up at target) at impact, the ball will start to the right and curve further right (for a right-handed golfer). This is often referred to as a "fade" or "cut".
If the face is closed at impact (heel pointing up at target), the ball will start left and curve further left. This is often referred to as a "draw."
The open or closed position of the clubface can be caused by faulty grip, posture, stance or swing. It can also be intentional, depending on what type of shot you are trying to hit.
Why the clubface affects ball flight
One of golf’s most important concepts is the relationship between the clubface and the path of the swing. Simply put, the clubface is the part of the club that makes contact with the ball, and the path is the direction that the club is swinging. Golf draw vs fade is a dynamic that plays out on the golf course everyday.
Based on my observations, the vast majority of amateur golfers slice the ball, meaning that their shots tend to start to the right of their target and then curve further to the right.
This happens because most amateurs swing too much from out-to-in relative to their target (i.e. their clubhead path is too far from inside-the-ball-to-target at impact).
When this happens, even if they manage to hit the ball dead center on the clubface, due to centrifugal force the ball will still start offline to the right.
How the swing affects ball flight
There are two primary forces at work when you hit a golf ball: gravity and centrifugal force. Gravity pulls the ball straight down toward the ground, while centrifugal force tries to fling it outward.
Your golf swing sets these forces in motion, and the way you swing ultimately determines the flight path of your ball.
As discussed, a draw is a ball that curves from left to right in the air (for a right-handed golfer), while a fade is just the opposite, curving from right to left.
Most amateur golfers tend to slice the ball out on the golf course, meaning it starts out to the right of their target before curving further in that direction; this is effectively a fade with a lot of side spin.
A hook is the extreme version of a draw, starting to the left before curving way off to the left. Both these types of shots are to be avoided if you want to stay out of trouble out on the course.
There are a number of factors that can influence ball flight, but ultimately it all comes down to how you swing. If you want to hit a draw, you need to make sure your clubface is square at impact and that you’re swinging on an inside-out path; for a fade, do the opposite.
If you’re not sure which way your ball is curving, ask a friend or colleague to watch you hit a few balls; they should be able to tell you pretty quickly whether you’re hitting fades or draws.
Why the swing affects ball flight
So why does the type of golf swing affect ball flight? It all has to do with how you deliver the clubface to the ball at impact. When you hit a draw golf shot, you are closing the clubface slightly, which causes the ball to spin from right to left.
This spin gives the ball lift, and makes it start out to the right before curving back towards the left (the target). A fade is just the opposite – you open the clubface slightly, which makes the ball spin from left to right. This spin makes the ball start out left of target, before curving back towards the right (the target).
Knowing how your golf swing affects ball flight is important because it can help you make adjustments in your game. If you are consistently hitting a fade, you can try opening up your stance or using a more upright swing plane.
If you are consistently hitting a draw, you can try narrowing your stance or using a flatter swing plane. Experimenting with these small changes can help you find that perfect golf swing that produces straighter, more consistent shots.
The draw and fade shots have their respective advantages and disadvantages. Knowing when to use the draw vs fade can be the difference between a good round and a great one.
The draw is useful for getting out of trouble, while the fade is better for avoiding obstacles. Ultimately, it's important to understand which shot works best for each situation, as well as understanding your own personal playing style in order to determine which shot will work best for you. It's just a matter of a few degrees but it makes all the difference in the world.