Let tennis teach you how to draw and fade the ball.
By Alex Fisher | Photographs by Chris Duthie
TENNIS AND GOLF have more in common than their country-club pedigrees. Did you know that Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic all boast single-digit handicaps? Or that four Wimbledon winners have gone on to play golf professionally? Tennis players make good golfers not only because they have great hand-eye coordination, but also because they train their hands and arms to react quickly in order to hit a variety of shots. Whether hitting a power return or a delicate lob, they understand how to release their racket as they hit a tennis ball.
The reason that golfers struggle with curving the golf ball on purpose is because they haven’t educated their hands and forearms properly to release the club at impact.
Even if you seldomly play tennis, you probably understand how to hit a top spin forehand or a cut spin lob. You use your hands and arms a certain way when you swing the racket to manipulate spin. When it comes to hitting draws and fades in golf, golfers ought to apply the same principles used in tennis.
Once you feel somewhat comfortable shaping the ball both ways, get into the habit of practicing hitting draws and fades back to back. Maybe you’ll find that you’re more consistent hitting one over the other. My preference would be to hit draws because the ball goes further. Either way, it’s good to have a go-to shot if your swing isn’t working that day.
If you want to curve the ball left (draw for right-handed golfers) you need to mimic the feeling of hitting a top-spin forehand tennis shot. You must make your hands and forearms rotate counterclockwise slightly quicker than what you would normally do on a regular shot. To practice this, grab a tennis racket with your right hand and swing it like you are hitting a top spin. If you don’t have a racket, use your club and imagine it’s a racket.
- Mimic the feel for drawing a golf ball by getting into an athletic stance with your tennis racket in your right hand.
- From a slightly closed stance, rotate your body just like you would on your backswing and load your weight on your back foot.
- If you have fully rotated your shoulders, they should have turned twice the amount of your hips.
- As your weight shifts towards your front foot, allow your right forearm to rotate counterclockwise as you release the racket through the impact zone.
- At the same time, your right wrist should be unhinging and your hand should be on top of the racket handle.
- This position allows the hands and arms to fully release and mimic the feel of hitting a draw.
- At the end of the swing, your weight should have pivoted towards your left heel and your right foot should be up on its toe.
- Make sure your hips have fully rotated, and your upper body faces the target.
- Sticking the finish and staying balanced are key to hitting consistent shots.
Once you have the feel with your right forearm and hand, blend it into your golf swing’s release. Hit some balls off a tee at the practice range and vary the amount you release the club with your right hand and forearm. The less you release, the less the ball will curve; the more your release, the more the ball will curve.
To hit a fade, you must do the opposite and mimic a cut spin lob tennis shot with your left hand. With a slightly open stance, make swings with the left forearm and hand rotating clockwise at impact. This will slow the rotation of the clubface as you hit the golf ball and leave it open to its intended target line. Practice this by doing the same thing with a tennis racket. With an open stance, hold the racket in your left hand and create the feeling of rotating your left forearm clockwise.
- To create the feel of hitting fades, hold the racket in the opposite hand to the draw drill.
- With a slightly open stance, rotate the shoulders and hips as far as you would on your full swing.
- As with the draw drill, your shoulders should have rotated more than your hips.
- As you return the racket back to the impact zone, make sure that your weight shifts to your left foot before your arms and hands move.
- At the point where the racket would meet the ball, rotate your left forearm clockwise across your body and follow the path along which your feet are pointed.
- This will keep the face open to your swing path, which is key to hitting fades.
- Continue rotating your body so that your upper body faces the target and you are in a balanced finish position with most of your weight on your front foot.
- At the same time, your left forearm should have rotated completely clockwise—unlike the draw swing, which would be fully released.
Once you feel like you can simulate that consistently, switch to a golf club and hit some balls again off a tee. Vary the amount of left forearm rotation to curve the ball.
Alex Fisher, the PGA Director of Instruction at Glacier Club in Durango, has been named one of “America’s Best Young Teachers” and a “Top 40 Under 40 Instructor” by Golf Digest, as well as Top 50 Instructor by US Kids Golf. Reach him at 602-363-9800 or [email protected].
This article appeared in the 2019 August/September Issue of Colorado AvidGolfer.
Colorado AvidGolfer Magazine is the state’s leading resource for golf and the lifestyle that surrounds it, publishing eight issues annually and proudly delivering daily content via coloradoavidgolfer.com.