If you are someone who watches quite a lot of golf on the TV you’ll often hear the commentators say that a player is trying to ‘take the left/right side of the course out of play’. What this essentially means is that someone who curves the ball is trying to hit the ball with the same curve to remove the risk of missing it left and right, therefore a one-way miss. It seems like an amazing idea and you’d wonder why we all aren’t doing that!
A player that this gets highlighted with a lot is Dustin Johnson, who used to be a drawer of the ball but has developed a fade shape to give him more consistency over the past 8 or 9 years. Commentators will harp on about him never hitting the ball left anymore because he always curves it away from the left towards the right side of the fairway. Here’s some news though, a one-way miss doesn’t exist. It’s actually just another completely unachievable ideology that we’re led to believe is possible in golf!
See the diagram below of all of Dustin Johnson’s competitive drives in a 5 year period (courtesy of Golf Stats Pro):
What becomes evident is that there is a very equal spread. Therefore, by hitting his fade shape he has become no less likely to hit it left. He may not ‘hook’ it or curve it to the left but he could still ‘pull’ it left. This is the nature of golf and it’s very important to understand this fact.
If you draw the ball you can also hit a push shot, meaning you can still hit it both ways. If you fade the ball you can also hit it left with a pull, again meaning you have a two-way miss. The real challenge is knowing how to stop it going left or right when you really need it, for example, if there is a lake to the right and you can’t risk hitting a slice into it.
Now think about your own game. Which way do you tend to curve the ball? Do you ALWAYS hit it that way or does it vary? In a round of golf do you ever hit every drive the same into the middle of the fairway? Do you hit some random shots where the ball spins the complete opposite way to normal?
One final observation of the shot diagram above ….. Look how dense the map still is 20-25 yards off the middle of the fairway!
Tour players are really good, but not perfect!
My tip for club golfers is as follows. Monitor every drive you hit over the course of 5-10 rounds and keep note of whether the ball had draw, fade or straight spin on it and if it finished left, right or straight. By the end of 5 rounds you’ll have 70 (ish) shots that will show a dominant ball flight. You’ll see how consistent you are with that flight and then either work to improve it (if you feel it’s necessary) or play with that flight.
Lee Wilson, June 2021