Hit More Fairways Using a Controlled Fade

March 5, 2007

Phil Mickelson’s “conservatively aggressive” strategy at last year’s Masters paid big dividends. Rather than muscle the ball off the tee with a hard-running draw, Mickelson geared down to a controlled fade. He finished the week ranked No. 9 in driving accuracy and No. 1 in greens in regulation on the way to winning his first major.

A fade still carries far but has less roll, so it is more likely to stay in the fairway. Here are some keys to help you develop this reliable shot, what I call a “squeeze fade.”

Tee it low
Start by teeing the ball low so you can hit down—or “squeeze”—it against the clubface, which promotes a fade. How low should you go? Position it so the top of the ball is even with the topline of the clubface.

Center yourself
Keeping your alignment steady, shift your head closer to the target so your upper body is centered over the ball (right). Your spine should still tilt a few degrees away from the target, but no more than that. By altering your head position, you’ll swing on a steeper arc so the club descends to the ball and squeezes it off the tee.

Shift to the finish
Accelerate your body through the shot and unwind into a full finish—weight left, lower spine straight (right). If your back feels arched, you’ve made contact on the upswing and probably hit a draw. Moving your body forward delays the release and keeps the clubface slightly open, allowing you to hit the fairway with a controlled fade.