Late in 2015, Dustin Johnson traded his lifelong draw for a fade. The switch allowed him to keep his monster length off the tee while improving his accuracy—and helped him win a major. Whether you hit hooks, slices or pushes, here’s how to launch fairway-finding power fades, the DJ way.
Swing speed starts at setup, and that’s not lip service. “Your address position sets the stage for everything you do in your swing,” Johnson says. “I’ve spent countless hours perfecting this part of my game.” Dustin is 6′ 4″, so naturally he addresses the ball using a “tall” posture (above, left), but any golfer would do well to look and feel more athletic at setup. “You want a slight curve in the small of your back and to have your chin up a bit,” he advises. Try DJ’s posture-check: Have a friend take a photo of your setup, then trace an imaginary line on your phone’s screen up your driver’s shaft, through the grip and into your body. The line should hit your belt buckle.
To turn a slice into a power fade, you need to make your swing arc as wide as you can. That’s your new backswing goal. “The common tendency among weekend players is to “lift” the club up with the hands,” Johnson says. “I see it all the time.” His move to fix it? A low-starting, slow-moving takeaway. “This allows me to time my body turn so I achieve a full windup at the top,” he says. “During the final round of the U.S. Open, I averaged 327 yards off the tee when I swung driver. It’s all about width.” Here’s a cheat: Make sure your right hand is as far away from your right ear at the top as it is at address.
Dustin’s famously bowed left wrist and ultra-torqued body position at the top can be spotted from two fairways away. You’ll never match his positions, and that’s fine. Everyone’s swing is different. “My windup is mine—yours will be yours,” he says. “What’s important is that you maintain the width built in your downswing all the way to impact.” One way to keep that width? Amplify it. Exaggerate it. “Once you’re set at the top, swing your arms down so that you increase the distance between your right ear and your right hand,” he says. “Think of it as more of a downward movement, not the casting or throwing motion that turns fades into slices.”
HOT START (Photo 1 of 4 above): Assume a “taller” posture and get the grip pointing at your buckle.
NICE & WIDE (Photo 2 of 4): For a full, wide turn, get your right hand as far away from your right ear as possible.
DROP ZONE (Photo 3 of 4): Allow your arms to fall from the top, increasing the distance from your hands to your right ear. This easy move will max out speed.
PASS THE DIP (Photo 4 of 4): Keep your right hip high as you turn through impact. If it drops, you’ll risk a power-hook!
Some of DJ’s new downswing moves are subtle and may take you plenty of range reps to nail down—but they’re important, especially his hip movement. “When I was favoring the draw, my right hip would drop toward the ground as I started down,” he says. “Now that I favor the fade, my turn is flatter, or more horizontal to the ground.” This adjustment lets the club swing out in front of his body, instead of dropping too far behind him. With the club more in front, his path shifts more to the left. “The new move feels great,” he says. As he told his coach Claude Harmon III, “The harder I swing, the better my results.”
To nail Dustin’s level downswing turn, picture a dot on your right hip and try to keep that dot at the same height while moving it closer to the target as you rotate. “Not only does it help with the fade,” he adds, “it stabilizes my knees, so I don’t fall back. That’s why I’m able to maintain my forward tilt toward the ball long past impact and stay in perfect balance throughout.
“Listen, when you get down to it, driving is easy—just return the club to basically the same position it was in at address. But that’s tough to do if you don’t maintain your posture.”
One final move to promote a power fade: “Shorten” your right thumb. Notice how Johnson wraps his right thumb across the handle as though he’s gripping a baseball bat. The less of your right thumb you have on the club, the more control you give up. That sounds bad, but a “short-thumb” hold will quiet an overactive right hand and keep those rough-seeking hooks at bay.
So drive it the DJ way. With some practice, you too may find yourself saying, “The harder I swing, the better my results.”