What Is a Fade (or 'Fade Shot') in Golf?

When the golf ball is curving to the right in flight

Illustration of a fade ball flight
A golf shot that causes the ball to curve gently to the right (for a right-handed golfer) is called a fade.

A "fade" or "fade shot" in golf is a shot in which the golf ball curves gently to the right (for a right-handed golfer) during its flight.

A fade that is intentionally played usually starts out a little to the left of the target line before "fading" (gently curving) back to the right to reach the intended target. An unintentional fade - the result of a mishit - often, instead, results in the ball falling short and to the right (for a right-hander) of the intended target.

Just to reiterate what "fade" means depending on the handedness of the golfer:

  • For a right-handed golfer, a fade curves to the right.
  • For a left-handed golfer, a fade curves to the left.

(We'll use a right-handed golfer for all further directional elements in this article.)

A fade curves in the same direction as a slice, but in a more gentle fashion; a slice is a more extreme version of a fade, in other words. A fade is the opposite of a draw shot.

A fade shot that is intentionally played is also called a cut shot.

Golfers often talk about "fading the ball" or in other usages, say, for example, "I'm going to play a fade" or "I faded the ball into the green to avoid that bunker on the right."

What Causes a Fade?

A fade shot - the ball curving to the right for a righty - is caused by a clockwise spin (or "fade spin") on the golf ball. And what puts that kind of spin on the ball? If the face of your club is slightly open at impact, a fade may result.

Or, if your swing path has your club moving slightly from outside-to-inside ("wiping" or "swiping" across the ball at impact), the fade shot can result.

How to Hit a Fade Shot

There are times when being able to hit a fade on command will come in very handy for a golfer. For example, if the green is well-guarded on the right side by a tree, bunker or pond, a fade allows you to aim out to the left and curve the ball into the green on its left side, avoiding that potential trouble.

Being able to curve the ball intentionally has all kinds of uses in golf, including going around overhanging branches, for example.

The two most basic ways of playing a fade are these:

  • Take your normal stance and aim, but open the clubface at address;
  • Or, set up with the clubface square, as usual, but open your stance.

But what if you are hitting fades without meaning to and without wanting to? Especially weak fades that typically leave your ball short and to the right of the target? That's a problem!

Check your clubface to make sure it is square at address; check to make sure your stance is not open and that your shoulders, hips and feet are in alignment with each other and square to the target line; and check to make sure your grip is neutral and you are not using a weak grip.

Remember that the fade mishit is essentially a less-severe slice.

Pros Like the Fade

Note that many pro golfers and low-handicappers play the fade as their preferred ball flight. Those very good golfers find the fade predictable and easy to control. Most of us aren't that good! But for the pros, as Lee Trevino once said, "You can talk to a fade but a hook won't listen." (Better to curve the ball to the right than to curve it left, to the hook side, in other words.)

Trevino, not surprisingly, preferred playing the fade, as did Bobby Jones and Jack Nicklaus.