For many golfers who do not drive the golf ball as far as the tour players do, being successful with their fairway woods can make or break a round of golf.
For seniors and women in particular, being able to hit consistent fairway woods can be the backbone of your golf success. And while you could argue that most golf swings are the same, here are the top concepts you need to master to hit beautiful, launching fairway woods — and have more fun in the process.
1. Posture is key
Being in good posture, where you bend forward from your hips so that your arms can hang, is key to good contact. If your setup is great, hitting a golf ball becomes a lot easier. Hand eye coordination is nice, but it cannot override a bad setup.
Justin Thomas’ setup always comes to mind as a model. Bend from your hips so that your chest is over your toes. This will allow your arms to hang straight down. Your arms will naturally return to where they hang as you swing. Once you bow and allow your arms to hang, relax your legs, and get ready to hit a good shot.
2. Better ball position
While all golfers and golf swings are not the same, ball position is certainly a key to great fairway woods.
I like to see the ball position slightly forward, but relatively centered in your body for most golfers for fairway woods, similar to a long iron or a hybrid.
Why? Because the fairways of today are typically very short grass, so in order to hit a truly solid fairway wood, you need to hit the ground and maybe even make a divot.
If your ball position is too far forward, like a driver, you may hit the ground before the ball, costing you good contact and distance.
It can be helpful to take a practice swing that hit the ground and see where the club makes contact with the ground relative to your stance. Most golfers will see the club make contact relatively centered and if that is the case, the ball position should be relatively centered at address.
3. Hit the ground
Watching the best players in the world hit fairway woods is so interesting, because it’s quite common to see slight divots.
I like to hear the club “thump” the ground slightly as it lightly brushes the top of the grass. If it’s not doing that, the club is not getting the club low enough to generate a higher launch many golfers need.
4. A good practice swing is key
If you understand that you need to hit the ground, it can be a very smart and effective reminder to do this in your practice swing.
I am sometimes surprised how nonchalant many golfers can be with their practice swings. Your body will remember the motion for a short window, so practice swings that hit the ground absolutely transfer into a higher percentage of solid fairway woods.
Think about it this way: If your practice swing does not hit the ground, you are practicing topping it!
5. Straighten trail arm
Now that you are in good posture and know you need to hit the ground, I want to give you a very specific method to get the club down to the ground.
When you make your backswing, your trail elbow should, and does, fold. So, in order to get your club all the way back to the ground, this elbow needs to straighten down toward the ground, much like a throwing motion. When this trail arm straightens, it helps create full extension in your arms.
You can actually practice this without the club. Place a ball in your trail hand and bow forward into your golf posture. From there, straighten the arm and throw the ball down to the ground so it hits the ground in line with the middle of your stance. This straightening will train your arm to release properly.
6. Work your way up to a 3-wood
A 3-wood may be the fairway wood which goes the longest, but that doesn’t always make it the right choice.
3-woods can be hard to hit, so I like to see my students work their way up to them. If you hit your 7- or 5-wood solid and you are confident with them, then consider hitting more of those, rather than trying to force a club you may not be comfortable with.
7. Embrace loft
Having a fairway wood with enough loft to help increase launch can improve consistency and confidence.
I am a huge fan of a 7-wood for most golfers, other than golfers with really high club head speed. Loft helps give your fairway woods beautiful launch, which can make them great clubs to approach the green.
I also think that because fairway woods are physically longer than most clubs in your bag, they can intimidate many players. Remember that loft is your friend. Use it to your advantage.
8. Turn around your body
While your posture should stay the same from club to club, you will be naturally farther from the ball with your fairway woods due to the increased length of the shaft.
Because of this your backswing with your fairway woods will feel like it comes more around your body.
This curving arc will allow you to keep your lead underarm close to your chest on your backswing and this will help you with stability and center face contact.
9. Relax your hands to feel the clubhead
Control your setup and swing your swing.
This starts with the grip. If you are holding your club loosely in your fingers, you should have security without tension. If you can avoid too much tension in your hands you should be able to feel the weight of the club head throughout your swing. That will help with tempo, and create wrist hinge you can use for power later in your swing.
10. Finish with balance
Being off balance can ruin many a good setup and swing.
With fairway woods this is particularly important. If you are off balance during your swing, that makes it nearly impossible to make great contact.
Try to hold your finish in balance until your golf ball lands. If you do not typically do this, it will feel like a long time. Watch good players and see how impeccable their balance is throughout.
If you want help with your fairway woods, or any other part of your game, you can get a digital lesson with me on Skillest right here.