JACK NICKLAUS: My basic shot through most of my career had a tendency to fade with power. And that is a great shot to have -- you can hit the ball long enough yet keep it in the fairway because it rolls less. But I don't think you should ever try to hit fades unless you can first draw the ball.
What I mean by that is, if you cannot hit your shots with a swing path that comes from inside the target line, and release the club so it turns over with the toe passing the heel through impact, you're never going to apply maximum power to the ball.
To play a draw, start the downswing from the ground up (see our tip from last month), with the feet and legs leading. This sets up an inside swing path into the ball, the face closing through impact. Then __all you do to play a fade is aim your body slightly left (as Jim is making sure I'm doing above), open the clubface, and make the exact same swing. __
Unfortunately, when average golfers try to play a power fade, they often come over the top (out to in), resulting in a weak pull-slice. Instead, you might think of the classic image of Ben Hogan setting himself up so he couldn't hook the ball (aligning left, weaker grip), and hitting it as hard as he could from the inside, trying to hook it by rotating the clubface almost back to square. That resulted in a powerfully hit ball that had a tendency to drop to the right.
JIM FLICK: The great teacher Harvey Penick would concur with Jack. Mr. Penick said first you need to draw the ball. That was one of his principles. He believed that to be a good player, you must learn to release the club with your right arm crossing over your left through impact.
Jack Grout taught Nicklaus the same thing. That's why he had a young Jack swing the club for the first year without letting his heels leave the ground. This gave Jack a strong support system with the feet and legs that matched how Grout wanted him to release the club -- the toe passing the heel through impact to draw his ball.
The most powerful fade is a push-fade because the club travels into the ball on a shallower, inside-out path, which research shows generates more clubhead speed. Players who cut across the ball with the club coming from out to in hit with a more glancing blow. The clubhead doesn't compress the ball as efficiently, and they lose distance. So if you want to hit a power fade, do yourself a favor and first learn to draw the ball.
NICKLAUS writes articles only for Golf Digest.
FLICK, a longtime Golf Digest Teaching Professional and PGA Golf Professional Hall of Famer, worked with hundreds of amateurs and tour players including Jack Nicklaus.