The ability to shape shots from side to side, control their trajectory and play from a wide variety of lies in all conditions are some of the hallmarks of an accomplished golfer. And once you are able to "control your ball," you are ready to elevate your game to a new level of skill, subtlety, challenge and enjoyment.
The key is to hit these shots when you need to get the ball into the fairway or near the pin during a tight spot in a match.
For example, at the 2007 PGA Professional National Championship -- played at Sunriver (Ore.) Resort and won by Chip Sullivan, PGA head professional at Ashley Plantation, in Daleville, Va. -- PGA of America members who competed in the event typically preferred ball flight paths that would follow either a slight left-to-right fade or a right-to-left draw. Yet, when they needed to, these PGA Professionals shaped shots that would either fade or draw significantly -- and when necessary -- hook or slice dramatically. This is one part skill and one part understanding how to hit these shots.
This level of golf expertise is why Sullivan and the PGA Professionals who finished in the Top 20 at the PGA Professional National Championship earned the right to advance to the 89th PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla., Aug. 6-12.
Hitting a Draw
As for everyday golfers, I usually recommend the basic fundamental of playing from a square or neutral address position, as this will give you the best chance of delivering your club squarely to the ball at impact, in order to produce a straight ball flight.
Yet, to deliberately curve the ball, you need to make some adjustments -- primarily in your address position.
To illustrate, in order to draw the ball from right to left, you want your clubhead to enter the hitting area from inside the target line. The simplest approach is to close your address position. In other words, pull your trail side (right side for right-handed golfers) back from the target line. This sets your feet, knees, hips and shoulders in position to make an inside-to-down-the-line-to-inside swing, which will put a counterclockwise spin on the ball, causing it to curve to the left.
You will need to aim the clubface where you want the ball to start. This swing shape allows your arms and club to rotate faster than your body through the hitting area and helps ensure a proper inside-to-outside swing path to produce a draw.
A few more thoughts on hitting draws...
The best club to practice a draw or a fade with is a 5-iron, since it has enough loft to easily get the ball airborne and still put enough sidespin on the ball to properly execute the shot. The more loft a club has, the more difficult it is to curve the ball.
The ball tends to have lower flight and run farther than it would if it were played with a standard shot, because you are actually taking "effective" loft off the club. In other words, a 5-iron will really have the loft of a 4-iron at impact. So, make sure that you select a club with enough loft to play this shot.
It is difficult to hit a hook with a long iron, because the shape of your swing causes the clubface to close down as it reduces the true and effective loft of the club.
Hitting a Fade
Conversely, you need to address the ball with a slightly open stance when hitting a fade - with your target or forward foot pulled back away from the target line. This promotes both taking the club away from, and returning to, the ball outside the target line. This swing path allows the clubface to cut across the ball at impact, producing a clockwise spin that curves the ball from left-to-right.
Because the swing you make with a fade places your body ahead of the club, a fade will cause the ball to fly higher than normal and often stop more quickly when it hits the ground. As a result, many people believe it is a safer, more easily controlled shot than a draw - but keep in mind that the shape of a fade swing actually increases the effective loft of a club. While the ball will fly higher than a normal shot, it won't carry as far. So, in effect, when playing a fade shot with an 8-iron, you will actually produce a shot that has the trajectory and distance of an 8-iron.
The PGA of America Golf Schools at The PGA Learning Center in Port St. Lucie, Fla., can help you develop and enhance your shotmaking techniques, as well as advance your game -- whether you are a beginner or a highly advanced player. Call (800) 800-GOLF (4653) or visit www.pgavillage.com for more information.