Jack Nicklaus reveals how to play his favorite shot with ease

Jack Nicklaus watches a shot closely during the 1985 Masters.

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For most golfers, the highest attainable level of success is to hit the ball predictably and consistently straight. That’s the reason we go to lessons, why we read instruction articles, and what makes us so inclined to spend time and money trying to “get good” at golf.

In theory, it seems simple enough — the clubs have straight faces, the ball isn’t moving between our feet and we are in control of the movements we make. It shouldn’t be that hard to hit straight shots with consistency. But in practice, golfers are plagued by funny words with ugly connotations: slices, snap hooks, chunks, skulls, and even chili dips. To fix these problems, they spend thousands of dollars (and years of their lives) on lessons, training aids, new clubs and the like.

In this week’s Flashback Jack, Nicklaus wonders if it’s possible that we’re looking at the problem through the wrong prism.

“First of all, the straight shot is not only the hardest shot in the game of golf, but the only time it will go at the target is when you hit it,” Nicklaus says. “Otherwise, it’s going to be moving away from the target with a hook or a slice.”

Instead, the Golden Bear recommends golfers lean into their natural, comfortable shot shape. For Nicklaus, that shape is his favorite shot: the fade.

“The most frequently hit shot in golf is the slice or fade,” Nicklaus said. “It might surprise you to know that for the greatest part of my professional career, my favorite shot was the fade.”

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For Nicklaus, the key to hitting a perfect power fade happens before the swing begins.

“To play a fade, you aim the ball to the left of the target, you’re going to be moving the ball to the target, just as you would with a hook,” Nicklaus says. “To hit a fade, all that I do is instead of having the clubface square at address, I open the clubface straight at address and then I aim slightly to the left of the target.”

It might take some time to find the proper degree of openness to your club, but once you’ve found a grip that feels comfortable, you should simply take a normal swing. If you’re doing it properly, you should see the fix almost immediately.

“It should produce a nice little, left-to-right fade,” Nicklaus says.

James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is an assistant editor at GOLF, contributing stories for the website and magazine. He writes the Hot Mic, GOLF’s weekly media column, and utilizes his broadcast experience across the brand’s social media and video platforms. A 2019 graduate of Syracuse University, James — and evidently, his golf game — is still defrosting from four years in the snow. Prior to joining GOLF, James was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at james.colgan@golf.com.