Earlier this year, I spent considerable time in the Californian desert practising hard with my coach Colin Swatton. I do this every year, but this time we were working specifically on shaping the ball both ways with my irons.
We have both targeted my iron play as an area I could make up ground on the US PGA Tour. Actually, we’ve targeted three areas: I know that if I’m first in strokes gained putting, hit 70 per cent of greens in regulation and 60 to 65 per cent of fairways, then I can win multiple times and get back to world No.1. It’s a big challenge, but I’m confident.
Having a greater understanding of the mechanics, and feel, for shaping the ball is going to get me closer to flags on the US PGA Tour. The more birdie looks I get, the more my putting can shine.
In the desert with ‘Swatto’, we were trying to get my left-to-right path to where I like it. If it’s three to five degrees left, I’m going to hit a pretty nice, controlled fade. Along with the draw, I’m trying to exaggerate angles on both sides so it’s easier to curve the ball.
‘Old School TrackMan’
Being on the US PGA Tour, I’ve obviously got great access to technology such as TrackMan. But amateurs may not have those gadgets at their fingertips. Instead, you can do what I used to on the range as a junior.
It’s simple – insert an alignment rod in the ground vertically between you and your target. That’s the ‘old school TrackMan’. The most important aspect of shaping the ball is knowing your starting point. Obviously, right-handers don’t want to see a fade start right of the vertical rod, or have a draw start left of it.
Set Your Cannon
When I was growing up and Swatto was teaching me how to shape the ball, he would always talk about aiming the cannon and aiming the face.
Your cannon is the combination of your feet, shoulders and arms. For a draw, the cannon needs to point to the right of the target, and the face needs to be closed (pointing at the target). It’s the opposite for a fade.
If you’re a capable ball-striker, you should develop varying degrees of fade and draw shots. It is actually simpler than it sounds, because it’s nothing more than adjustments in the set-up position. Want a big fade for those tricky dogleg-rights? Practise aiming further left, open the clubface more and swing along your feet line. For a baby fade, you’re just dumbing all that down. You’re aiming a little straighter and don’t have the face as open relative to the target. Another key for better players is to practise feeling like you’re holding that face angle through the impact zone. You never will, but the feeling of it will hopefully keep the face open long enough to produce the fade you’re after.
If you are a higher handicapper, you should set the clubface open or closed at address.
A lot of amateurs I see just get on the range and hit balls mindlessly for 20 minutes before a round. I think the biggest gift you can give yourself when you warm up pre-round is to put an alignment rod at your feet and work on a few shots. What does a draw feel like today? What does a fade feel like today? Once you’re on the course and the situation calls on you to hit these shots, you’ll know exactly what you need to do to shape the ball either way. It will be recreating a recent feeling, not one from a week or so ago.
– Jason Day spoke with Evin Priest