When I played on the Asian Tour at the start of my career, the low draws I hit stayed under the wind and stopped on receptive greens just fine. But to compete on the PGA Tour and contend for majors, I needed to hit the ball higher and have it land softer—even with the longer clubs. So starting four years ago, I worked with my coach, Mike Walker, to make a high fade my stock shot. The first year was rough. I went from aiming 10 yards right to five yards left, and it took time for my eyes to adjust. But now I do it without thinking. My misses are much closer to the fairway, and the steeper landing angle of my shots allows the ball to stop near tucked flags. It definitely helped me finish in the top 10 in three of the four World Golf Championship events in 2019. Even if you already move the ball left to right, let me teach you my technique to improve your ball-striking. No more weak slices.
TRICK NO. 1 : BETTER STABILITY
Spinning out is a swing issue that a lot of players have, mostly because it feels like all that body rotation toward the target adds power to the shot. But letting the upper body rotate toward the target at the start of the downswing makes the path of the club severely out to in, and that usually causes you to hit a big slice or a pull. When I spin out, I actually hit it thin and too far to the right because I subconsciously know the sequence of my downswing is off, and I’m trying to save the shot.
To get the lower and upper body working in better sequence, set up on the range so you’re square to the target with your shoulders, hips and feet, but then pull your trail foot back from that square position about six inches before you begin hitting shots (above). This will get your hips turning to start the downswing—not your upper body— and you’ll have more room for your right shoulder to move toward the ground (below) instead of out toward the ball.
Once you’re swinging down into the ball like this, what you do with the clubface determines how much the ball fades. If the face is slightly open to my swing path, the ball will curve a little left to right. The open face also adds loft to the shot, so you’ll hit it higher as long as you stay down through impact. If you were to shut the face at impact in relation to the path, the ball would curve in the opposite direction and fly lower.
I set up with my trail foot pulled back when I’m practicing, and then let the feel of good sequencing carry over to my regular setup. But I bet if you actually played with this pulled-back setup, you’d hit much better shots.
TRICK NO. 2 : MORE CONTROL
If you slice, I bet you and I hit a lot of our bad shots for the same reason. They happen when you try to drag the handle toward the target through impact. What you should do is let the clubhead pass the handle as you release it through the impact zone. Dragging the handle is a classic slicer’s move.
To switch to my high cut, practice hitting shots with your hands split on the grip (above). My left hand grips the club like normal, but my right is down by the shaft. This grip forces you to actively release the club with your right hand in the downswing. If you drag the handle too much with the left, you won’t get down to the ball. When I use this drill, it produces a slight cut shot. You might even start hitting draws. But we’ll save that for another story. —WITH MATTHEW RUDY