Working the Ball

I recently posted these swings on SITD to demonstrate how we work the ball in ABS:


Then I found this discussion on Gotham Golf about working the ball (ABS protocols are mentioned…as well as many others). I apologize for the length but I thought it was some good stuff:

I believe most great golfers that learn to work the ball develop a variety of techniques for doing so. This may be because golfers that work the ball with their imagination and athleticism simple do so reactively instead of mechanically. For some, they also express that it is easier to work the ball if they think of the different shots as a totally different technique, at least in their minds, so that they can easily differentiate what needs to be done. And that approach tends to be easier for more accomplished players than for the average golfer.

There are some very standard ways to work the ball and to use your standard stroke pattern while simply changing alignments. You can simply change your exit. For example, toe-release the exit for draws and heel-though exists for fades, exit the shaft more vertical for higher shots and exit out with lower extended arms and club for lower shots. You can learn the exiting technique by simply setting up in a constant alignment on the range and then practice exiting and see how the ball reacts to your primary target line. The exiting technique allows you to make the same backsttroke and downstroke, while simply changing your exit with will change your actual delivery action. Fred Shoemaker would have me aim at a target and swing to the top and when the stroke reached the top he would say something like “Draw” and I would react and play a draw. On the next swing I would aim at the same target, and at the top he might say, “fade” and I would react and play a fade. Thorughuot the training he might say, “high” or “low” or anything that would come to mind as far a working the ball. He alwasy wanted the ball flight to begin on the primary aim line.

The exiting method tends to be great for working the ball in all directions. Its limitations come when needed to either hook or slice a shot on purpose. It is great for the more subtle and moderate draws and fades, and is great for working it higher and lower.

When working the ball it is often good to have a primary aim line, so that you know how the ball will work off the line. Once you have a command over how the ball reacts, you can adjust your primary aim line to play draws and fades to the same target.

Some golfers, like Jack Nicklaus simply change the clubface alignment in relations to the grip, and will make the standard swing and see how the ball flight changes, then the aligment is adjusted to play that shot to the target. This tends to be better for slight draws and fades, because the more you open or close the clubface in relations to your grip the more out of balance it becomes and the more strange it seems to feel for many golfers. It is also limited in its effect on trajectory. Though the draws will tend to be slightly lower, and the fades slightly higher, the trajectories will be closer to the standard trajectory when compared to other working the ball methods.

Other golfers change the angle of the wrist set action, setting it more closed for draws and more open for fades. Besides the set angle they can make their standard swings and simply adjust alignment to play the shots to the target. This method is most successful with moderate draws and fades for golfers that have generous range of motion in their wrists. It creates subtle draws and fades for golfers that less range of motion in their wrists. It is limited in the ability to Hook and Slice when needed, and it also has trajectory limitations with the fades being higher and draws lower, more so than with the Nicklaus method.

As far as those that change their swings, some golfers use more forearm roll to work the ball for draws and fades. Nick Faldo had a version of this technique. The forearm rollers will use a little extra, or earlier forearm roll-over, during delivery to play draws, and either holding off the roll, or reverse roll for fades. This in essence seems like you can make your same standard stroke and just adjust the roll, however because of the dynamics of the action many golfers need a slower pivot action to manage the draws and a more accelerating pivot action to play the fades. This technique, in practice, renders a varying technique. This technique makes it easier to work the ball to greater degrees, however seems to be more limited in the more subtle draws and fades. Historically it also has more timing issues which can be viewed as a limitation. It also seems to have limited trajectory control, with lower draws and higher fades.

Some golfers will change the angle of body rotation to work the ball for draws and fades. For draws they will rotate more flatter like a Merry-go-round and for fades more vertical like a Ferris wheel. Of course the Merry-go-round and Ferris wheel images are exaggerations, so they just trend their angles of rotation in those directions. This techniqe tends to render lower draws and higher fades.

One might think that, “Of course draws will be lower and fades higer!” However, with the exiting method you can exit with a toe-release and a more vertical shaft, or earlier rehinge of the wrists and you can play very high draws. You can also exit-out with lower extended arms and club and heel-through the exit for low fades. The exiting method tends to be the most versatile method. However, even it has limitations.
In practice, golfers that seem to be able to work the ball in all directions with all trajectories and all degrees of workability will generally have at least a couple of methods under their belt. Sometimes they will even combine methods.

In my view, the key is to first understand your standard technique and to own it along with its inherent limitations. Once you have a command over your standard stroke pattern, your next goal becomes finding one of the basic methods of working the ball. Find a method that is comfortable for athleticism and mind-set.

Once you have a basic way of working the ball and understand its limitations you can learn another method that will allow you to eliminate the remaining limitations in your arsenal.

For example, Nicklaus’ method always felt funny to me. I always wanted the club perfectly balanced in my grip. Changing the exit was the most comfortable way for me. Changing the set action was the next most comfortable. And changing the body rotation was the next most comfortable. However, for all of those it was harder to work the ball for hooks and slices, so for those I would use more forearm roll.

Keep in mind, as I say comfortable I mean what felt manageable or controlled in an athletic manner for myself.

You will also find that some of the methods tend to play the shots hotter, some softer, some land and spin more, some will roll out more, some will work better on harder and faster greens and some will work better on slower and softer greens, as far as receptability is concerned.

So, keep in mind that all stroke patterns have limitations. For example, even once Trevino developed a command over working the ball, he still had limited power applications compared to his contemporaries, and he struggled in the harder, faster, and hilly conditions of Augusta. He won 2 US Opens because his fade and high level of accuracy worked to his advantage in US Open conditions. He won 2 British opens where his lower trajectories while working the ball worked well for him. And he won 2 PGA championships where the softer conditions and the easiest set-up of the majors allowed his abilities to excel. However, at Augusta he felt he was at a disadvantage because at least something about his arsenal was limited to the needs of winning there. And Trevino himself said that Augusta never fit his method of play.


Are you working the ball using Mod 9?

If so, congrats on your ABS work


I have not made it to mod 9, but John taught me how to work the ball when I visited him on the deck. I suspect what he told me was what is covered in mod 9, but don’t know for sure.


I showed Grady the Mod 9 stuff when he was here. There is a strong correlation between Mod 9 and Mod 4.

In this video at 42:50 Faldo describes his drive on 17 in the 92 open as being the best of his career, he says he was trying to hit a draw even though that wasn’t his shot, and you can see how level his post impact shoulder rotation is.


Here is a view of Faldo on the last in 92. I love these swings. One because the camera angle is spot on, and two because the swings are spot on. What is there to be critical of here? You can see the post impact work on the drive to hit a draw, and the 3 iron right at the pin is as good a swing as I have ever seen (sorry Ben Hogan).


I really like Faldo’s swing from that era. Ive spent a lot of time looking at that 3 iron swing, the range of motion of his torso from p3 to p4 is very impressive. Im always amazed when I watch it it looks like he’s barely swinging at it.


Flatten the shaft through transition. (check)
Lower the center of gravity on the downswing (check)
Hit the 4:30 line (check)
Hold wrist cock through impact (check)
Accelerate and rotate the torso level through and beyond impact. (check)
Work the shaft more vertical from P4 to finish. (check)

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This topic intrigues me. I’ve never bought any of the modules but I’ve been looking through this forum for almost a year now ( although I did stop for 4 months when I stopped golfing ) and some of the concepts are becoming clear to me kinesthetically.

Right now I am hitting the ball much straighter but that’s all I can really do. I suppose as I continue to drill the footwork, laying off of the club, holding lag low and left through, and then finishing high (using the norwood climbing the wall drill) the swing will become second nature and I can begin to play with ball flight but at this point I don’t really know where to begin.

Grady I honestly can’t tell much difference between your two videos, I don’t really know what to look for. I seem to only hit draws on accident when I either chunk the ball, or come a little too steeply into P3 and then it becomes more of a pull draw which I do not want :unamused: . In fact, at this point the more I try to draw the ball the straighter it goes :laughing:

I want to become a scratch golfer this year and I know I’m going to need to learn how to work the ball to do that.


It’s strange, the only things I can notice is that when you’re feeling the different shots, from p3 you look a smidge more laid off in the draw with your hands possibly a bit farther away from your body.

and post impact your hands stay away from your body a little longer and raise up a little higher through.

The changes are practically miniscule. Am I perhaps onto something?

Nick you are on the right track.

Since we are admiring Faldo I wanted to post a video of the beautiful low fade he hit into the 15th on Sunday in 92. If you recall he had lead most of the way, but had stumbled a bit at the turn on Sunday and I believe he was two back when he came to 15. This was the point when he turned it back around, and he has said it was the best four holes he played. You can see that swing at 1.07, and it is a good angle to view things from. Lots to learn here.



Faldo post impact on 15

I think it is interesting to compare that 92’ swing with this, which was Faldo’s last great showing at a major, 5th at Bethpage. He was working with Mitchell Spearman at the time. I don’t know much about Spearman, other than he was billed at the time as the most expensive golf instructor. I don’t know if he was teaching Nick this release, but you can see how different it is than that swing in 92. Arms are extended down the line and the club shaft exits much higher. He flushed this one, but I remember seeing a lot of his shots go left late in his career.


One more Faldo swing…his approach into the last in the 2003 Austrailian Open trailing by one…his last real opportunity to win. He was trying to hit a fade and pulled this shot left. Notice how upright he exits…how could he expect to fade it with this release?



I have become a big fan of Faldo over the years.

He was to me probably the last guy to dominate The Masters and The Open Championship before Eldrick hit the seen. Not saying there were not other great golfers in his era, Greg Norman, Payne Stewart, a Young Ernie El’s, Hale Irwn and a host of others come to mind. It just seems that Faldo, once he hit his stride seemed to dominate the Masters and The Open from the late 80’s until 1996 or so. Even if he didn’t finish first he was at least in the top 10 for many of those years. During that time his swing was a thing of beauty.

I know there has been much discussion about Faldo and his swing. As has been pointed out Faldo’s swing is popular as his swing tends to incorporate many ABS principles/concepts. Especially post impact work and what appears to be his intentions.

Was it the metal wood and the length that some of the younger players were beginning to hit the ball that made Faldo think he should change his swing again in the mid to late 90’s? Or am I totally confused?

I think this is entirely consistent with how John teaches us to work the ball with post impact intentions rather than stance and clubface setup modifications.

OK, so reading that article, let me see if I can explain my mis-hits under this paradigm. My misses take two directions, they are either pushes right or pull-hooks. For the push right according to the article, means basically my face is open at impact (more Mod 1). If it slices some as well, then I am over the top with my swing path. For the pull-hooks, my face is closed causing the pull (too much Mod 1) and the hook is coming from an inside-out path.

Now, for an intentional fade around a dog leg, what the article seems to be saying is that we should have our club face square at impact but with an outside-in swing path. Or, in other words, if I set up so I swing towards the left side of the fairway but with a club face aligned with the center (at impact) I should get a nice fade around the dog-leg.

Here’s some stills from a video where i hit a draw and then a fade. I’m working the ball solely through focusing on different releases (or post impact intentions). Both shots curved about 10 yards. - draw then fade