Day 9: How to Use Tiger's Drill to Master the 9 Ball Flights

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Published: February 15, 2014

Here we are on Day 9. Today you'll do the actual 9 Days to Amazing Ball Striking Drill, practicing all nine ball flights and learning which ones need more work.

You will also get an overall score so you can track your improvement over time.

Choose a Target

Clay BallardClay explains the drill

To do this drill you need to pick out a target on the driving range.

If you're lucky enough to have a green or a large bunker out on the range, that's ideal. You can just count how many shots it takes to land on the green or in the bunker, or whatever you're aiming for.

If you don't have a ready-made target area you'll have to pick out something like some flags or trees in the distance to define your target.

It's a good idea to keep the same target over a period of time so you can track your progress and see how your ball striking improves.

How to Use the Scorecard

Once you've picked out a target area you can start working through the nine different ball flights.

Your scorecard is simply a sheet of paper divided into nine blocks like a tic-tac-toe board.

The columns correspond to the curve of the ball. The left column are fades, center is for straight shots, and right are the draws. The rows correspond to trajectory; obviously the bottom is low, the middle is medium, and the top is high.

Scorecard showing all nine ball flightsScorecard showing all nine ball flights

Start on the bottom right with the low draw. As soon as you hit a low draw that lands in your target area, move on to the medium draw, then the high draw. Then do the low straight, medium straight, high straight, and finally low fade, medium fade, and high fade.

Write down how many attempts it took to hit the target with each specified shot in the corresponding square on your scorecard. If you're a beginning golfer you can pick a larger target, and as you get better and better you can shoot for a smaller and smaller area.

The scorecard will allow you to analyze your ball striking and see where you need the most work.

You May Be Surprised

From the very beginning, when he started playing golf in high school, Rotary Swing Instructor Clay Ballard always played a draw. All the way through college, after college, on the mini tours, he always believed that was his best shot.

When he started using this drill a few years ago, he was surprised to find that his fade was actually much more consistent than his draw.

The fade didn't feel as good. He didn't think it looked as good, and it generally went about 10 yards shorter than his draw, but when he compared the three draws in the right column with the three fades in the left, he found that the numbers on the left were always lower.

Clay's fade was more effective and more consistent than his draw, and when he started playing a fade he started hitting a lot more greens.

Try it Yourself

Choose a target area in the distance and put an alignment rod down on the ground on the target line for reference. Each of the nine shots will require a different combination of the skills you have learned over the course of this series.

Start with the low draw. Remember how to hit a draw, and how to lower your trajectory?

  • Adjust your stance a little to the right and swing down your feet line or a little to the right to start the ball to the right
  • Roll the club face closed to hit a draw
  • Bow your left wrist forward to deloft the club face and hit a low shot

If you're not comfortable with these things yet, go back and work on the individual lessons from Days 1-8 some more.

Roll the face for a drawRoll the face closed for a draw

When you land a low draw in your target area, write down your score and move on to the medium draw.

You'll do everything the same to hit a draw, but now instead of bowing the left wrist forward to deloft the club you're just going to allow it to bow slightly to get a normal, neutral trajectory.

Work on that shot until you land a medium draw in the target area, write down your score, and then move on to the high draw. Again, the technique for the draw is exactly the same, but now you're going to keep the left wrist completely flat.

Now Try the Left Column

After you've hit your draws successfully, turn your attention to the three boxes in the left column: low fade, medium fade, and high fade. We'll do the straight shots last.

Hold the face open for a fadeHold the face open for a fade

You'll start with the low fade:

  • Adjust your stance a little to the left and swing down your feet line or a little to the left to start the ball to the left
  • Hold the club face open a little bit to get some left-to-right spin for a fade
  • Bow your left wrist forward to deloft the club face for a low shot

Again, the fade technique will remain the same for all three shots. The only thing you will change is the amount of bowing in your left wrist, to control the loft.

Work through the three fades, and then you can move on to the center column.

"Straight" Shots

We left the straight shots for last because, if you think about it, there's really no such thing.

Every shot curves to some extent, so you'll have to give yourself a margin of error for counting these, based on how good a player you are.

Hitting a straight shotHitting a straight shot

If you're a scratch golfer, your margin for error may be a yard or two, meaning that if you hit the ball within one or two yards to either side you'll count it as a straight shot.

If you're a beginning golfer, you may decide that five yards to the left or right counts as a straight shot. Then as you improve you can start to fine tune your definition.

Let's say you're on the center box of the scorecard, "Medium Straight." When you hit the shot, maybe you're a little low and you get a bit of a draw.

By now you know exactly how to straighten that out. Instead of letting your hands roll on over, you'll focus on keeping the face a little more open, straightening the left wrist out so the face stays more vertical instead of turning to the left.

Then to raise the ball flight a bit, you would again check your left wrist position, making sure to hold it flatter through impact to keep from delofting the club.

Look at the Ball for Feedback

Throughout this drill you're going to be looking at the ball itself for your feedback. Watch the ball flight on each shot. Do you want it to go higher? Lower? More to the left? More to the right? You control all of that with your left wrist.

As we discussed on Day 8, you can also move the ball a little bit farther back or forward in your stance as you change your trajectory, and adjust your stance more to the right or left depending on how much you want the ball to curve.

The ball flight itself will tell you what you need to manipulate to correct for the next shot.

Don't rely on what you think you're doing. You may feel like you're really bowing your left wrist down toward the ground, but if you get a big, high ball flight you'll know it wasn't enough. Take what you see in the actual ball flight and adjust your body accordingly.

The more you practice these drills, the better and better you're going to get, guaranteed. No longer will you start to block shots to the right or hook them to the left and have no idea what to do about it.

You'll be able to fix those issues on the fly after one bad shot instead of going weeks or months doing the same thing over and over again.

Interpreting the Scorecard

Let's take a look at one of Clay's scorecards for this game and see what it all means and how you can use the information.

As you know, the three boxes in the right column are the low, medium, and high draws. The middle column are the straight shots, and the left column are the fades. Similarly, each row corresponds to one of the three trajectories.

  • Add up the total score in each row to compare your low, medium, and high ball flights.
  • Add up the total score in each column to see how your draw compares with your fade.

Looking at Clay's scores by row, we see that he totaled 6 on the low shots, 5 on the normal ones, and 9 on high ball flight shots.

Examining it by columns, we find that his total score for draw shots was 8, his straight shots also totaled 8, and his fades were a 4. This shows us that, at least in this particular practice session, Clay was more proficient at hitting a fade than he was a draw.

Adding up all nine boxes gives him an overall score of 20 for this round.

Where Are Your Strengths?

You can't rely on a single scorecard to draw general conclusions, but as you do the drill again and again over time you'll definitely be able to see patterns.

Adding the columnsAdding the columns

You may learn that you're better at a fade or a draw and, as Clay discovered when he started using this drill, your favorite shot may not turn out to be your strongest one.

In Clay's case, his fade is stronger but he likes the draw more. His draw has more compression, it goes farther, and it just feels better than the fade.

However, statistics show him that he's going to hit the target more often with the fade, so that's what he needs to play in a scoring situation, while working on the range to improve his draw.

What Does it Mean?

This scorecard shows that Clay's highest scores are on his draw and in his high shots.

Adding the rowsAdding the rows

Now that he knows his weak spots, Clay can go back and review the appropriate lessons from Days 1-8 and work through the drills again to improve those specific techniques, then come back and play the game again.

The one thing that won't show you as much is the straight column. The straight category really just shows how well you're controlling to minimize your fade or your draw.

If your highest score is in the straight column, the best thing to do is just keep on playing the whole game, rather than going back and trying to work on one particular type of ball flight.

Straight shots show how well you can control the curvature of the ball, and the best way to improve that is to play the whole game.

Keep Track Over Time

In addition to watching trends and working on problem areas, you'll want to look at your overall score.

Clay's overall score for this round was 20 - of course, he's a Rotary Swing instructor! If you're a high handicapper or a beginning golfer, don't be surprised if your score is closer to 100.

Overall scoreAdd up all the boxes

It's a difficult game. You're not only trying to hit all nine ball flights correctly, you're also getting them to land in a specified target area.

The size of the target you choose will make the game easier or more difficult, but it's going to be tough at first no matter what. As you start to practice and play, you're going to see these scores drop off pretty fast and pretty significantly.

The more you practice this game on the range, the lower you'll see your overall score drop. Once you get back on the course, you'll see a dramatic difference in your ability to control your ball flight.

Keep working on this drill. Keep track of your scores and go back and review your weak spots.

If you start seeing some scores in the teens - even a 9 or two - you'll know you're becoming a great ball striker. You'll be hitting a lot of greens with a lot of solid shots.

Checkpoints for Practice

  • Choose a target on the range, ideally a green or a bunker
  • Use a tic-tac-toe style scorecard: rows are trajectory (bottom=low, middle=medium, top=high) & columns are curve (left=fade, center=straight, right=draw)
  • Practice until you land the specified shot in the target area, then write down how many tries it took & move on to the next box
  • Adding up each column on a completed scorecard allows you to compare your fade with your draw
  • Adding up each row allows you to compare the different trajectories
  • Work on problem areas (higher scores) and track your progress over time

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