The final, absolutely key ingredient to fine-tuning your shot shapes is visualization. A great drill for that is hitting around obstacles. If you have a few moments on an open course, throw a few balls down behind a tree and see how well you can work your magic. Or, on the range, try to hit balls so they start off heading toward one target (perhaps a flag or a distant tree) but curve one way or the other and land between you and a second target. Even better, I've found, is to place your bag about ten yards in front of your ball and try to hit both ways around it. (Leave your watch or cell phone in the bag for some extra excitement.)
Most players have a natural preference for a fade or a draw, and there's no reason to recommend one over the other. Draws, because they entail top spin and generally a lower trajectory, tend to roll farther on drives, and fades tend to stop more quickly, which is useful when hitting into greens. But your ability to hit one better or more naturally trumps those theoretical considerations. If you can't chose, consider a fade unless you're older and really need the extra distance.
So when should you actually use your newfound shot-shaping ability?Only when you feel confident you can pull it off. That may mean never, in routine circumstances. If the pin is tucked in the corner of a green and you don't feel reasonably confident, hit the safe shot to the middle. Reserve your shot-shaping skills for when you really have no choice—when you're deep in the woods, for instance, or in a match-play situation where you have to pull off something dramatic. But remember this: Just knowing how to curve the ball will put you in the top 10 percent to 20 percent of all players—and that should be a big boost to your confidence no matter how much you end up using the shots.
Setting up to Bend the Ball
The simplest way to hit a fade is to set up as normal along a line that aims to the left of the target. (While practicing, check your aim by laying a club along your toe line and another club parallel to it just outside the ball.) Before taking your grip, twist the clubface open so it's square to the target, then make your usual swing. The ball will start along the aiming line but drift right, toward the target; the more you open your stance, the bigger the fade will be. To create a right-to-left draw, take a normal stance but set up aiming to the right, then square your clubface to the target and swing along your setup lines.
The Hold-Off Fade
The main benefit of being able to shape your shots is that it can help you to avoid trouble. With the pin on the right and a hazard to the left, try the hook-fighting "hold-off fade." The idea is to resist turning your wrists over for as long as possible after impact; the ball starts out at the middle of the green, but its clockwise spin moves it to the right once velocity decreases, and it should end up next to the hole. If it fades too much, it may end up to the right of the pin or on the fringe. In the worst-case scenario—if it goes straight—the ball will end up in the middle of the green, but the hazard on the left won't be an issue.
How the Pros Do It
Many superb players, even at the highest levels, manufacture fades and slices by adjusting their setup positions. But the better you get, the more you can make fine adjustments based on feel. In my prime, I don't think most outside observers could tell from my setup how I wanted my ball to fly, except in extreme cases when I wanted it to move more than, say, ten yards in either direction. I was, in fact, making slight, usually unconscious adjustments to my ball position, body position and weight placement, but I was relying even more on precisely timing when I released my wrists and on how much I rotated my forearms through the ball. When top players are on their game, this method provides superb feedback and control. And recreational players, whether they realize it or not, will also start making these "feel" adjustments as they become more advanced in their shotmaking skills.
The Faldo Golf Institutes
Chip Koehlke, U.S. Director of Instructional Programs
The curriculum at Faldo Golf Institutes is built around fundamentals. Each site offers schools, private lessons and club-fitting sessions.
Marriott's Grande Vista; Orlando, Florida
Marriott's Shadow Ridge; Palm Desert, California
Seaview Marriott Resort; Galloway, New Jersey
Marco Island Marriott Resort; Marco Island, Florida
Brocket Hall Golf Club; Hertfordshire, England
Nick Faldo on the Air
Nick Faldo's wit, insights about golf and candid assessments of fellow Tour professionals can be heard on the following scheduled telecasts:
May 5-6, Wachovia Championship, Quail Hollow (CBS)
May 10-13, Players Championship, TPC Sawgrass (Golf Channel)
May 26-27, Crowne Plaza Invitational, Colonial (CBS)
May 31-June 3, Memorial Tournament, Muirfield Village (Golf Channel; CBS)
June 7-8, Stanford St. Jude Championship, TPC Southwind (Golf Channel)
June 9-10, The McDonald's LPGA Championship, Bulle Rock (Golf Channel)
June 23-24, St. Paul Travelers Championship, TPC River Highlands (CBS)
June 30-July 1, Buick Open, Warwick Hills (CBS)