Rare is the golfer that relies solely on hitting straight shots. Golf requires its players to possess the ability to shape shots to combat natural elements like wind and to maneuver around obstacles like trees. One such shot type relied heavily upon by golfers of all abilities is the fade.
So, what is a fade in golf?
In golf, a fade is a type of controlled golf shot where the golfer shapes the shot toward their given target, like the fairway or the flagstick on the putting green. Fades curve from left to right for right-handed golfers and right to left for lefties.
A fade is one of two predominant golf shot types used by golfers on each swing. A golfer that can consistently hit fades displays excellent ball-striking skills and above-average accuracy.
Fades typically travel shorter than straight golf shots because the clubface is open at impact. The open clubface adds loft to the shot and creates a left to right rotating backspin, both allowing the ball to float gently towards its target for a soft landing.
What Is a Fade in Golf?
A fade is a type of golf shot that when executed correctly, starts left of a right-handed golfer’s target and gently falls back towards the target line. For a left-handed golfer, fades start right of the golfer’s target and gently fall back towards the target line. Fades are often the preferred shot for golfers to play because it provides advantages that a golfer can reliably expect time after time.
The first such advantage is control. A golfer that plays a fade has significant control over the direction of the shot, the ball’s trajectory of the clubface, how far the ball carries and how much the ball rolls after landing on the ground.
A second advantage is accuracy. Because of the increased control over the shot, a golfer that plays a consistent fade is better able to judge where to aim, allowing them to hit the ball closer to their target more often.
One disadvantage to playing a fade is a lower average carry distance for the golf ball. Fades usually have higher trajectories than normal straight shots and the left to right backspin allows it to float in the air longer leaving it easily influenced by natural elements like the wind. Thus, a golfer playing a fade into a headwind needs to account for decreased yardage by using a club that hits the ball farther.
What Causes a Fade in Golf?
A fade is the result of the combination of an outside-in swing path and a clubface neutral to the target line. Together, for a right-handed golfer, these two factors create the left to right arc of the golf ball.
The curving arc is the product of the left to right spin caused by the clubface being open to the golfer’s swing path and square to the golfer’s target line. A left-handed golfer experiences a right to left arc due to the left to right spin.
What Is a Swing Path in Golf?
The swing path, also called the club path, is the direction the golf club travels during the downswing, through impact, and into the follow-through. The swing path is a straight line representing the linear direction of the club during the golf swing. There are three types of swing paths: Straight, Outside-In, and Inside-Out.
- Straight – A ‘straight’ swing path is parallel to a golfer’s target line, or the straight line from the golf ball to the golfer’s intended target, like the flagstick or the left-center of the fairway.
- Outside-In – An ‘outside-in’ swing path starts on the outside of the target line during the downswing, crosses over the target line at impact, and finishes inside the target line during the follow-through.
- Inside-Out – An ‘inside-out’ swing path starts on the inside of the target line during the downswing, crosses over the target line at impact, and finishes outside the target line during the follow-through.
Swing Path vs Target Line
The swing path is the linear direction the golf club travels as it’s swung. Conversely, the target line is the straight line from the golf ball to the golfer’s intended target. A straight swing path is parallel from the target line while outside-in and inside-out swing paths are slightly askew from the target line.
Golfer’s Alignment vs Target Line
The target line is the straight line that runs from the golf ball to the golfer’s intended target. A golfer’s alignment is the linear direction in which they orient themselves to their target line. A golfer establishes their alignment by positioning their body in such a way that their toe line (a straight line created by the tips of their toes) is parallel to their hip line and shoulder line.
For a golfer to consistently hit the ball well, the toe, hip, and shoulder lines must be parallel to each other. There are three types of orientations golfers can align their toe, hip, and shoulder lines to their target line: Neutral (also called Square), Open, or Closed.
- Neutral Alignment – A neutral alignment is when the golfer’s toe, hip, and shoulder lines are parallel to their target line. A neutral alignment, straight swing path, and neutral clubface produce a straight golf shot.
- Open Alignment – An open alignment means the golfer has slightly rotated their toe, hip, and shoulder lines to the inside of their target line. An open alignment for a left-handed golfer points right of the target. For a right-handed golfer, an open alignment points left of the target.
- Closed Alignment – A closed alignment means the golfer has slightly rotated their toe, hip, and shoulder lines to the outside of their target line. A closed alignment for a left-handed golfer points left of the target while a closed alignment for a right-handed golfer points right of the target.
What Is a Clubface in Golf?
The clubface is the part of the golf club that makes contact with the golf ball and features horizontal grooves that affect spin onto the ball at impact. The golf ball moves in a straight line off the clubface at impact so it is important the golfer understands and controls the positioning of the clubface at the moment of truth.
There are three orientations for the clubface at impact: Neutral (also called Square), Open or Closed.
- Neutral or Square – A neutral or square clubface means the straight line coming from the center of the clubface is parallel to the target line.
- Open – An open clubface refers to the degree to which the clubface points right of the target line at impact for a right-handed golfer or left of the target line for a left-handed golfer. An open clubface increases loft, or trajectory, to any shot and accentuates side spin in the golf ball, both of which cause the ball to not travel as far as a straight shot.
- Closed – A closed clubface refers to the degree to which the clubface points left of the target line at impact for a right-handed golfer or left of the target line for a left-handed golfer. A closed clubface decreases loft, or trajectory, to any shot and accentuates side spin, both of which cause the ball to travel further than a normal straight shot.
What Are the Nine Ball Flight Laws?
The nine ball flight laws represent the nine different shot shapes and are the direct result of the relationship and orientation of a golfer’s swing path and clubface. A fade is one of the nine ball flight types.
Here are all nine of them listed with their swing paths and clubface orientations. They are listed left to right across the spectrum from a right-handed golfer’s perspective. A left-handed golfer would be the opposite.
- Pull Hook – Outside-in swing path with the clubface closed to the swing path line.
- Hook – Straight or inside-out swing path with the clubface closed to the swing path line.
- Pull – Outside-in swing path with the clubface ‘square’ to the swing path line.
- Draw – Inside-out swing path with the clubface ‘square’ to the target line.
- Straight – Swing path the same as the target line with a clubface ‘square’ to the target line.
- Fade – Outside-in swing path with the clubface ‘square’ to the target line.
- Push – Inside-out swing path with the clubface ‘square’ to the swing path line.
- Slice – Straight or outside-in swing path with the clubface open to the swing path line.
- Push Slice – Inside-out swing path with the clubface open to the swing path line.
Is Hitting a Fade Good in Golf?
Hitting a fade in golf is good and when a golfer does it consistently, they’ll see increased control and accuracy, each of which will help lower scores and increase the enjoyment of the game.
How to Hit a Fade in Golf
While some golfers may have the innate ability to hit a fade, the rest of the golfing world has to position their bodies in a specific way to hit it consistently. To hit a fade a golfer must use either a straight or outside-in swing path.
- Straight Swing Path – To hit a fade with a straight swing path, the golfer must combine a slightly open alignment with a neutral or square clubface to the target line. The ball comes off the clubface in a straight line down the golfer’s toe, hip, and shoulder line and the openness of the clubface to the golfer’s alignment creates the necessary left to right spin for a right-handed golfer or right to left spin for a left-handed golfer.
- Outside-In Swing Path – This is not the optimal swing path for hitting a fade because it often invites a slice if executed incorrectly. So, the golfer must set up their alignment neutral, or square, to the target line and hit the golf ball with a clubface that is neutral or square to the target line. The outside-in swing starts the ball in the proper direction and since the clubface is open to the swing path, it affects the necessary spin causing the ball to fall gracefully back to the intended target.
Fade vs Draw in Golf
A fade and a draw are two shot types that are exactly opposite of each other. Where a fade moves right to left for left-handed golfers and left to right for right-handed golfers, the draw moves left to right for left-handed golfers and right to left for right-handed golfers.
To hit a draw, the golfer needs to combine a straight swing path and an alignment closed to the target line with a clubface that is square to the target line. Because of this, draws travel farther than both a fade and a straight shot because it produces a lower trajectory and more accentuated topspin because of the closed clubface.
Fade vs Slice in Golf
A fade and a slice are both similar in that the spin exerted on the ball moves it from left to right for right-handed golfers and right to left for left-handed golfers. There are a couple of distinct differences between each shot type. The first difference is intent.
Most golfers never intend to hit a slice unless it is for the sole purpose of shaping the shot around an obstacle. The second difference is the clubface orientation. The clubface is open at impact for both shot types but the clubface for a slice is significantly more open as evident by the extreme curvature of the shot.
Fade vs Cut in Golf
The terms fade and cut can be used interchangeably. The only distinction between the two is that a ‘fade’ describes the shape of the ball’s flight and a ‘cut’ describes the actual name of the golf shot.
Fade vs Push A fade and a push are two different types of ball flights. As discussed, a fade is a shot type where the ball starts inside of the target line and curves gently back to the intended target. A push on the other hand is a shot type that starts outside of the target line and moves in a straight line ending up off line of the intended target.