I Play A Fade Jack Nicklaus-Style – What Does The GC Quad Show?

When it comes to shot-shaping, you all know I’ve always been highly critical of the concept of “swinging left,” for several reasons.

First, because it’s hard on the lower back – all of your force is going out and to the right (for a right-hander) and you’re trying to yank the club left through impact.

The poster-boy for “swinging left” is of course Tiger Woods, who never had any back issues until he began to swinging in this manner (and also setting up with a “leaning left” stance at address), and I’ve pointed out how many times he’s double-crossed himself swinging that way and blown drives way left and right.

Another golfer with an otherwise fine swing (even getting in the heel separation at times with the leading foot on the back swing pivot) is Justin Rose, who looks great practicing his down swing to the “3 O’Clock” position then ends it with a yank-left move – and guess who also has back issues?

Golfers claim to do this to avoid hitting it left (and how many times has TW blown it left trying not to do that exact thing?), but Jack Nicklaus, one of the longest-hitting golfers in Tour history, played a power fade the proper way, which is why he was still so long fading the ball.

It has to do with club path and face, the only two things that matter when shaping a shot.

Instead of setting up square to the target and then trying to manipulate the path through impact, all you have to do is pick a starting line and a secondary target.

That is, what line do you want to start your ball on, and what is the eventual target?

If I want to hit a 20 yard fade, wouldn’t it be far easier to do it the way Jack Nicklaus did, which would be to set up as if swinging at a target 20 yards left of the actual target (thereby setting your ball’s starting line) and then open the face to produce a fading ball to your actual target?

Or set up as if hitting a ball at a target 20 yards right and then closing the face, to produce a draw to the actual target?

Jack Nicklaus Setting Up To Fade It

That way, you’re swinging exactly the way you would normally swing, with the club path starting the ball on a certain line, then having the face produce the spin to move the ball either left or right, depending on the shape you want.

I drew the below graphic years ago, showing this concept:

Trying to manipulate the path and the face during the swing may work with a lot of practice, but you see the guys on Tour constantly double-crossing themselves under pressure or when their focus lapses for just a second… it’s a hard way to do an easy thing.

Now, Trackman has shown that a ball will move twice the difference of the path and face – meaning, if you set up aiming ten yards left of your target and then open the face to halfway between your line and the target, the ball will fade to the target.

That is a 2-1 formula – set up ten yards left, aim the club face 5 yards left of the target, and the ball should start on the initial line and fade 10 yards, twice the difference of the face/path.

Let’s take a look at the numbers were on certain drives analyzed by the Foresight GC Quad Launch Monitor at TXG Golf back on May 25th:

My 5 Drives


I’ll show you 3 driver stats for the 5 drives I recorded for use that day at TXG, and you can see that the studies are correct.

Example #1

In the first, take my drive which was the most accurate – I hit a 334 yard drive which started left and faded back to nearly perfect dead-center, missing by only 2.9 yards Left (top right of the graphic).

I like to hit a fade, so how does one hit a 334 yard fade?!?!  Well, you can see that my path at impact was 4.8 degrees out-in, or going left, and the face was closed 3 degrees to the target, or “open” to the club’s path by 1.8 degrees.

A perfect 2-1 ratio would have been a face closed 2.4 degrees to the target, making it 2.4 degrees open to the path, and the ball would likely have hit a flagpole from 334 yards away, if that were the case.

The drive I hit that was closest to to the 2.1 ratio was a nearly dead perfect accurate fade.

Let’s now look at my biggest miss to the left:

Example 2

With a path that was 4.5 out-in (going left), my club face turned over and at impact, it was 5.9 closed to the target, or 1.9 closed to my club path.

That should mean a pull-hook – the ball starts left due to the path, and the face that is closed to the path means the ball draws left… and as you can see, that was a big miss left of 47 yards – the dreaded double-cross (hello, TW).

That was likely a grip issue, as I don’t ever try to manipulate the face, and I probably got careless with my grip (a little strong), which closed the face coming back to impact with my neutral hand position.

So, two shots where a prediction based on the path-face would have been exactly what happened, now let’s look at my biggest miss to the right:

Example 3

On this drive, I started the ball left but missed the center target line by nearly 25 yards right!

That would still be in play for me, most likely, because when you play a fade, you always start your ball as far left as is safe (don’t aim at trouble, because if the ball goes straight, you hit it into trouble exactly where you were aiming), to move the ball back to the right.

Here’s the club path was 5.1 out-in (going left) but only 2.1 closed to the target – which means it was 3 degrees open to the path.

With a path 5.1 left of the target, I would want my face 2.6 closed to the target or the amount open to the club path for a perfect fade, and because it was more open than that, there’s your over-cooked fade with the ball going more right than I would intend it to… if you saw me do that on the course, I’d be leaning left after the swing and yelling, “Oh boy… hang on!” because I would know I over-faded it.

So there you have it – three shots with three different results that you would be able to predict if you know how to move a ball – and I can hit 330 yard fades with a driver because I don’t try to manipulate the club face or the path on my swing – everything is pre-set so I’m going to hit or miss based on what I did in my setup.

When I swing, I swing…

And that, my friends, is the way you want to do it – trust me.  I have actually hit flag sticks on the range with my stock fade swing, as far away as 200 yards when I hit balls regularly.

That’s because when you swing the same way every time, you’ll get the same result every time provided you’ve set up properly, and when I hit balls regularly, the setup becomes almost second-nature (and you get a feel for it as well).

Doing it trying to manipulate your path and face during the actual swing will lead to a load of bad misses when under pressure or when you have a lapse in focus!

Back Pain or Back Injury Swinging a Golf Club?

Lacking Power, Speed, Distance and or Consistency? 

Need A Swing That Is More Easily Maintained?

If You Answered “Yes” To Any Of The Above Questions, The Answer Is In The Formula For The Golf Swing:

“E = MCS” The Swing Video


10 thoughts on “I Play A Fade Jack Nicklaus-Style – What Does The GC Quad Show?

  1. Jeff

    Good stuff DJ. I guess I am surprised that you start the ball left of target. With my grip work to stop my hook I am now moving the ball left to right (very soft), but the ball also starts left of my target line – in to out which I thought to be almost mandatory with MCS. Clearly I am am wrong about that but it seems all I can do to not blast it way right. Something somewhere wrong in my setup I think but having trouble getting it fixed I guess. Keep the updates coming! Love it!

    1. D Watts Post author

      Hi Jeff! Thanks for the kind words, and in answer to your comment at the start:

      I guess I am surprised that you start the ball left of target…

      There is no other way to shape a fade to a target (for a right-hander) except to start the ball left of it.

      If I fade a ball starting it at the target or right of it, then the ball will end up further right. Of course, if I don’t want to get into any trouble that is left of the target (like a flag that is tucked severely left with trouble off the green), then I’ll start the ball at the flag or right of it for a fade.

      Of course, if you can’t afford to be anywhere left of the target, I might just hit a draw starting the ball from the right of the target, but I was swinging freely at the testing facility, and my natural free swing is a fade shot.

      Hope that helps! 🙂

  2. lupz27

    Hey DJ amazing looking swing, so effortless. So happy all your hard work is paying off, you really deserve it, how golf professionals can get wind of this, and not come flocking is beyond me.

    Couple quick questions/thoughts on what’s going on with me right now.

    What’s your thoughts on using the MCS model with an open stance?

    Also I’ve made it known that I have back issues, and the spine tilt specifically on the down swing right before impact is uncomfortable on my back right in the area where my disc is bulged, mostly happens because of the leverage, and the ability to go after it with the back foot still planted, that transfer with that spine tilt is the cause for the pain, now is there any chance this is muscular?

    As my lower back muscles are extremely weak, and just tilting the spine can cause discomfort, when done I don’t feel like I injured my back, but it hurts, and lingers, but doesn’t feel like the same pain that I can get when doing something stupid like bending to lift wrong, that pain will drop me to the floor this pain I’m describing doesn’t drop my to the floor even when I over due it just discomfort.

    The reason I ask about the open stance above is because I don’t get the discomfort, the main difference is the open stance really just introduces a steeper down swing, and I guess an elongated swing overall, I try to keep the shoulders square to the target.

    So like you explain in your model your hips are open at address, but shoulders square I take it one step farther opening the stance with the hips, but again trying to keep the shoulders square to the target this for some reason takes the discomfort away from the spine tilt, no idea why.

    Anyways hope all else is going as well as your golf swing looks for you!

    1. D Watts Post author

      Hi Lupz! Good to hear from you, and thanks for the compliments!

      I will answer your question very shortly, because it is the only issue that matters:

      The reason I ask about the open stance above is because I don’t get the discomfort…

      I am not a doctor and would never give medical advice, but it’s pretty likely (if you feel discomfort setting up the standard way but you don’t feel the same discomfort with an open stance) that you have some physical deviation from the standard (as I have with my scoliosis) that makes it better for you to swing the alternate way.

      The golden rule in swinging soundly is that you do it in a manner that won’t cause injury or raise your risk of injury. In that regard therefore, your stance adjustment seems to be the proper one for you! 🙂


  3. JS

    Hey DJ, I have for some time respectfully disagreed with your 45 degree takeaway. I find it closer to 30 or less. That being said, I’ve now noticed your hand path which is low and on your 45 degree on the back swing but well higher and coming over the top on the down swing. These numbers prove it. I’ve thought for years that you must play a draw with that takeaway. Now we have a 45 degree inside backswing, square shoulders at impact and an over the top through the ball. This is just not what I thought I was building. I can swing out to in and hit a fade but I never thought that was optimum in this swing model. So I’ll ask have you always hit a fade or is this something new and do these numbers kind of surprise you as well JS

    1. D Watts Post author

      Hi JS!

      A couple of points:

      1. The “45 Degree” concept is just that – I have never measured the exact angle of the hand path as that would require an overhead camera shot, and I’ve said in the past that it’s a concept where the hands appear to one to be moving away from the address at a 45 degree angle. So, whatever the degree is, I’m not concerned with it – only that one does not try to swing away from the ball “up the line,” as that would require manipulation.

      When I swing back, I do so without any attempt to guide the club head back on any path except that which the hands take it naturally as I pivot using the hips & legs.

      2. While it is true that my down swing plane is very likely steeper than my takeaway, I would hesitate to call it an “over the top” descent as it would be very difficult to create a 4-5 degree upward Attack Angle as I have in these drives… just because my down swing plane is steeper than my back swing plane does not make it necessarily “over the top,” as when I swing straight down the line, you can see the plane is fairly neutral:

      “Over the top” planes have the club head going down and to the left for a right-hander. I swing down with what you’d call a neutral plane if you look straight down the line when I hit balls on video to demonstrate neutral-ish swinging and again, pretty difficult to create 5 degree up angle with an OTT swing move.

      When I’m hitting balls for video to post on the blog, I actually produce a baby draw a lot of the times, because I’m swinging “standard.”

      But I prefer to fade the ball, and at the testing facility, I swung the way I would swing naturally – setting up left and opening the face to fade the ball.

      I create the out-in path of the club by setting up as if aiming left of the target for a straight shot, then I open the face slightly from square so that the ball will fade to the actual target in question. That is borne out by the monitor data.

      Example: If you look at the Nicklaus picture above, I have drawn a red line to illustrate what the target line would be if you were hitting fades to an actual target in the distance and set your launch monitor up with its target line fixed on that target – the numbers would read that Nicklaus was coming through impact going left of the target line, as it would have to if he were set up left of the target and fading the ball to it – that’s what he did, and that’s what the data would read on the machine.

      If you set the target line to the line on which JN was set up (the white line), the data would read a square path through impact and Nicklaus missing everything right – so you have to always factor in whether or not someone is set up square to the target, or whether they are aligned to the left or right because they’re shaping the ball.

      The path compared to my setup is not the same as the path in reference to the target on the virtual monitor, so if I’m set up left of that target to fade the ball to it from the left (and the only way to fade a ball to a target is to start the ball left of that target), the monitor will of course read the path as going left, because that’s the way I’m set up. Again, I would say that is borne out by the monitor data.

      At one point during my warm-up, I even remarked “I think I’m set up a little too left,” and when I adjusted my setup alignment, I knew on the next swing that I had been.

      That said – being a left-handed person swinging rightie (which brings the left arm into more dominant a role than a right-dominant swinger), and having the spinal deformity that causes my shoulders to open coming into impact, I have a natural action that would create a slightly left path even if I stood square to my intended target and so I just go with that – there is no law that says one must absolutely swing in any particular way except mechanically-correctly!

      We are all human, and to make sure I can play my misses, I will always go for that standard fade because it suits my eye and my physical make-up creates a natural fade- before I knew what path and plane were, back in the 90’s, I used to set up and swing squarely at the target. Back then, I had a steep “over the top” move and left path, but the ball would simply start left of my target and then fade back (or slice) to the right.

      I got so I could knock down flag sticks with that action, but the bad misses (yank-hooks and screaming slices) made it impossible to play good golf that way.

      I would caution anyone from trying to swing exactly the way I swing naturally, unless one is built exactly the way I am and is also left-handed – there are so many variations that you can only look at the standard model and go from there.

      As I’ve said, there is no such thing as a “perfect” golf swing, as we are not robots built to exact specifications – you can only try to get as close to the theoretical model as possible, and the closer you get to it, the better you will strike the ball.

      Hope that helps!


    1. D Watts Post author

      You’re welcome and no worries, JS – you gave me the opportunity to really get into the nitty-gritty of it.

      The reason, to answer a question no one has yet asked, that I swung that way is that it’s the way I swing naturally – I can swing square and down the line, but that’s not a natural and unconscious motion for me, and I’m not going to hit 300 yard carries and 325+ yard drives unless I swing my way, which is the power fade, MCS-style.

      I could switch it up and hit draws, but I’ll miss more than I hit, because it’s not something I practice regularly, being a swing researcher and not an everyday player. Left to my own devices, it’s the fade for me. Worked for Nicklaus and Hogan!

      I’m never afraid of challenging questions – provided I can answer them! 😉 cheers


  4. Ralph Hagelbarger

    Definitely concur about Your and Jacks methods of hitting draws and fades. I noticed that you are not moving your rear(right) foot forward on downswings or was that move just part of the drill
    to encourage moving weight to the left side?

    1. D Watts Post author

      Hello RH! Good to see you. In answer to that question:

      I noticed that you are not moving your rear(right) foot forward on downswings or was that move just part of the drill to encourage moving weight to the left side?

      Believe it or not, that was not as hard as I can swing, and I was swinging “playing golf” swing there, which means I ease off the throttle quite a bit. If I were to swing harder, then the trailing foot would release due to more hip turn and more momentum of the lower body. As it was, swinging under control and a good deal less than 100%, I wasn’t generating enough turning force to make that trailing foot release.

      If I were to really go after it, then you’d see that release – trust me, I can drive it longer than I did that day, but it was a data mining session and not a “how long can I drive it” session 😉


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