Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

August 11, 2013

RUGGIERO: Hitting a fade may help your golf game

By Ken Ruggiero
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Let’s begin our time together today with a great tip that will help you to keep your ball in the fairway off the tee. If you’ve been following the professional ranks, and specifically Tiger Woods over the past few months, then you know that Tiger has been working on a fade off the tee. (A fade is a ball path that gently turns from left to right during flight for right-handed players.)

Woods hits most all of his clubs with incredible precision, except for his driver. His tendency is to swing too hard with his driver, which causes his upper body to get ahead of his hands. This restricts his hands from completing the follow-through and the result is that his tee shot is blocked far to the right and into deep rough and trees.

You might suggest that Tiger should simply keep his driver in the car but, while that might work on a shorter course, Woods and his mates do not play on short layouts. If he did not use his driver, he would be giving up too much distance off the tee to his opponents, and he’d be forced to hit longer irons into greens.

What Tiger and his staff have decided to do is to purposely play a fade off the tee, thus giving him much more room for error. Here’s why. If you can hit a driver straight down the middle into a fairway that is 40 yards wide, you create a room for error of 20 yards on either side of center. 

However, if you can hit a fade a shot with consistency, then you can hit your tee ball down the left side of the fairway, knowing that your ball will be curving towards the center. You have in effect doubled the margin of error on the fairway by eliminating misses to the left.

You could do the same with a draw, but a draw is more difficult to contain because it tends to run out further. A fade generally moves from left to right and gently lands without much topspin. It’s more controllable.

Here’s how to hit a fade off the tee: Generally, you should address your ball exactly as you normally would except: (1) align your stance 10 yards to the right of where you want your ball to go and (2) square your driver face to where you want your ball to wind up. 

With this method, your clubface should impart a very slight clockwise spin on your ball, which will cause it to gently drift from left to right. Initially, you may overdo the method and hit a few slices. Stay with it. Practice opening your stance just a little and, in time, you’ll be able to hit controlled fades.

It worked for Lee Trevino, it will work for Tiger and it could work for you, so long as you take the time to carry out the procedures that I’ve explained here.

And while on the topic of hitting it down the middle, do you know what I’ve observed as the number one flaw among average players who cannot seem to reach above-average status? It’s keeping your weight between your feet throughout the swing.

With that in mind, here’s my “Tip of the Week.” 

Troubled swingers do two things incorrectly with their weight during a swing:

1. Players allow their upper body weight to get back behind their rear foot. Instead of using the rear foot as an anchor to build up torque, players “roll” their rear foot to the outside and lose all potential power.

Consider a pitcher in baseball. Hurlers use the inside front of the pitching rubber to launch their turned upper body towards the batter. The body turn, along with the thrust of the back foot off the rubber, creates a powerful motion. 

A golfer must do likewise with his/her rear foot. 

2. Don’t dive after your drive. Players must stay between their feet as they follow-through to a high finish in the forward swing. If you allow your body to move too much towards the target, you will effectively block your hands from being allowed to finish the swing. 

The result is that your ball will fly right from the get-go. As you make contact with your ball at impact, allow your upper torso to stay behind your front foot. This will promote a easy, rhythmic swing through the shot and a square impact.

Here’s a practice drill to assist you in finding that feeling of staying inside your feet while you swing. Lift your front heel at address, swing the club and hit a ball, but do not allow the front heel to touch the ground. 

Another drill that I use is to simply keep my feet close together, either touching each other or spread a few inches apart. From this position, you cannot sway too much on either side of the ball.

•••

Today is PGA Championship Sunday. Will Tiger finally capture his 15th major? Will another major winner step up to add another to his credential? Or will some young upstart surprise us all and win the last major of the year. I’m looking forward to the answers.

Here are 4 trivia questions pertaining to the PGA Championship. Let’s see what you know.

1. Some of golf’s greatest gamers never won a PGA Championship. One of them was Arnold Palmer. Which of the following was another? (a) Byron Nelson (b) Sam Snead, (c) Tom Watson, or (d) Lee Trevino

2. By winning the PGA Championship in 1968, what golfer became the oldest man ever to win a major? (a) Byron Nelson (b) Roger Maltbie (c) Gay Brewer or (d) Julius Boros

3. The last PGA Championship to be contested in match play format was won by Lionel Hebert. What was the year? (a) 1946 (b) 1949, (c) 1954, or (d) 1957

4. Who finished second to colorful winner John Daly in the 1991 PGA Championship? (a) Greg Norman (b) Bruce Lietzke (c) Mark O’Meara, (d) Sandy Lyle

The answers: (1) Tom Watson won every major except the PGA Championship. (2) Sweet-swinging Julius Boros won the PGA event at age 48. (3) Hebert won the last match play PGA in 1957. (4) Bruce Lietzke, who finished three shots back of Daly.

Until next week, keep it in the fairway.

Ken Ruggiero is a local golf instructor and has been writing this column for the past 28 years. He can be reached at radiomaniac1949@yahoo.com or 298-0967.

Ken Ruggiero is a local golf instructor and has been writing this column for the past 28 years. He can be reached at radiomaniac1949@yahoo.com or 298-0967.