When I’m working with my various students, I often find that for them hitting fairway shots is the source of both stress and fear, and rarely do I find a student who’s completely confident in that aspect of his or her game.
Some of the anxiety related to hitting fairway woods is understandable, as those are shots we don’t hit very often during a round of golf. And we all know that a poorly executed fairway shot usually ends up being pretty ugly!
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Fairway wood shots, especially with all of the latest technology available, can be fairly easy to play, but only if you understand how to play them and what’s causing your current issues.
Setup mistakes, bad decisions in terms of shot choice, and the wrong equipment for your game can all be contributing factors to poor fairway wood shots, as well as a lack of practice.
If you’re someone who is looking for some advice to fare better with your fairway woods, here are five tips that I think will help you achieve that goal.
1. PICK THE CLUBS THAT FIT YOUR GAME
All too often, golfers buy the latest equipment without evaluating their existing clubs and understanding their style of play. It is crucial that you pick fairway woods that compliment the lofts of your driver and your hybrids and/or long irons. The goal is to maintain distance gaps that are spaced 10-15 yards apart. Also, take advantage of today’s technology and look for clubs that will help fix your typical miss, whether that involves trajectory or directional issues. For example, if you tend to slice your shots, pick a fairway wood that is adjustable or a head design that is offset.
2. TEE BOX STRATEGY
A trusty fairway wood is a huge scoring advantage off the tee. Not only is a fairway wood shorter in length, which makes it easier to hit than a driver, but it literally goes shorter distances. The ability to lay back to certain yardages and avoid trouble spots makes the fairway wood tee shot crucial when the time is right. The next time you are on the range, practice teeing up your 3-wood or 5-wood and selecting a “field goal target” to hit between and start building confidence so that you can rely on that shot on the course.
3. SET UP FOR SUCCESS
Whether off the tee or from the fairway, a proper setup is crucial for successful fairway wood shots. Make sure to pay especially close attention to your ball position, as this is the best way to ensure proper contact and to control your trajectory. When using a driver, the ball is being played off your front foot’s instep. With fairway woods, the ball should be played 1-2 inches closer to the middle of your stance. In terms of trajectory control, the more centered the ball position, the lower the ball will fly.
4. LOFT UP
With today’s technology, not only are fairway woods more forgiving, they also provide more loft options than ever before. Rather than settling for traditional lofts (unless they fit your yardage gaps properly), try a higher lofted fairway wood for more forgiveness on your fairway shots. The added loft gives you more carry distance, the ability to land more softly on fairways and greens, and more versatility to play from fairway bunkers and rough. I would also recommend looking for adjustable fairway woods, which will allow you the flexibility to change the loft of your club as needed.
5. UNEVEN LIES
Fairway woods are often not the choice from uneven lies in favor of irons for control. If you know what club to select and how to play the shot, however, you can use these great clubs to your advantage and maximize distance. On uphill lies, use your least lofted fairway wood because the slope adds lofts to your club, which for example will turn a 3-wood into a 5-wood. Conversely, on downhill lies, use a more lofted fairway wood because the slope delofts your club. On sidehill lies, no loft adjustments are necessary, but make sure to play for a directional miss. And finally, play your ball position more centered on all uneven lies for better contact.
About the Author Tasha Browner Bohlig is a Class A PGA Teaching Professional and the Director of Instruction at El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana, California, where she has more than 300 students under her tutelage and oversees all instructional programs. A collegiate standout at Washington State University, she competed in three consecutive NCAA Championships and earned All-Pac 10 and Academic All-America honors. She is TPI Certified and a Certified Fitness Instructor, and was also a competitor on Golf Channel’s Big Break III.