Storm The Fairway

Make solid contact with your fairway woods

Do you hit a fairway wood like a driver? Read on to find out.


The latest crop of new fairway woods
that are primed for more powerful shots are all the rage this year. Call them "mini-drivers" if you will, since they're made to hit higher,longer shots from both off the tee and from the fairway. Knowing how to harness the power of a fairway wood is key, since no matter how great a club is, if you don't use it properly, you won't see the kinds of results you want. The following pages outline some simple tips to help you make the most of your powerful new fairway wood.

SET UP THE RIGHT WAY

Getting into the right setup, not only with a fairway wood, but with any club for the matter, is the easiest thing to do right. You don't have to make a swing, so getting the basics right should be priority one. With a fairway wood, the goal is to make a more level swing into the ball. (With a driver, you're more inclined to hit up on it.) If you're going to err on one side or the other, hitting down on the ball is a lot better than trying to hit up on it, which will likely cause a lot of fat and thin shots.


FAIRWAY WOOD

DRIVER

So, position the ball with your fairway wood off the inside of your logo on your shirt–in other words, about an inch closer to your center than where you normally play your driver. Second, position the hands so the shaft is pointing vertically, as opposed to with a driver where some negative shaft lean can help you hit the ball on the incline of your downswing.

Position your weight evenly over both feet and get ready to make a smooth swing. A lot of amateurs feel as though they need to muscle their fairway woods, since they're smaller and shorter than their drivers.

That's wrong. If anything, think of your fairway woods as you do a short iron. Swing them in a smooth, rhythmic fashion and let the club do the work. There's no need to force anything!


AVOID STAYING BACK!

What usually happens when you try to hit at the ball? In this photo, I'm trying to muscle the ball using my upper body (especially my shoulders), which is a big no-no. This holdsme back on my right foot and from here, I'll hit nothing but fat and thin misses. Not good!

Instead, the key is to stay relaxed and balanced. The better impact position is one where the hips have opened, my weight has shifted and my hands are either directly above or ahead of the ball at impact. To get here, you need tomake a smooth swing, let the club do the work and don't try to force the ball up into the air. It'll happen on it's own.

DON'T FEAR THE BUNKER

Just because you're in a fairway bunker, you don't have to hit an iron.With a fairway wood, the goal is to catch the ball cleanly and with a more level to-the-ground swing, so it's actually a pretty useful tool in the sand. And the wide sole helps prevent digging. Just be sure of two things. You need a perfect lie and no bunker lips in your way.


Don't be afraid to make a full backswing.

Keep the feet quiet through the downswing.

Notice how I barely made a divot?

Finish in balance on the left side.

GET WIDE! GET FLAT!


If you really want to crush it...

One trick I like to use to add extra oomph to my fairway-wood shots is to hit a draw. It can be done, and the solution is pretty simple. First, set up with the ball a little farther away from your body. This will add a lot more width to your swing. Second, at the top of your swing, try to keep your hands lower. This will flatten your backswing, making it easier to swing from inside-out. Give it a try the next time you need to nuke one from the fairway. Draws almost always go farther than fades.


GET FLAT!
GET WIDE!


Try your putting grip to help quiet your hands as you chip it close.

CHIP IT CLOSE!

When it comes to chipping with something other than a wedge or an iron, most people think hybrids are the next choice. And while that's doable, I actually prefer the fairwaywoodchip. It gets the ball rolling quicker, the wide sole prevents fat/thin shots, and it's a pretty easy shot to control.

To do so is simple. Just address the ball using whatever putting grip you prefer and choke down on the shaft. Then, after you get your grip, set up exactly as you would a puttand rock the shoulders. There's no need to get flippy with the hands or try to lift the ball. In fact, you'll see the ball rolls almost right away, and after a few tries, the ball will noticeably jump off the face pretty easily.

Try this shot next time you're left with an uphill shot from around the green. You'll find it's a lot easier than either hitting it in the air or trying to pass a narrow putter through the thicker grass.


Set up as you would a putter, but don't stand as close.

Keep the clubhead low on the backswing.

Stay low through the downswing.

SWING WITH CONFIDENCE

Again, as you would with any shot, you have to swing your fairway woods with a confident mind. Be confident that the ball will rise on its own–there's no need to try to lift it.And remember to keep the body rotating through the shot. There's no need to try to muscle with your arms. Instead, as you can see in my sequence, the downswing is a continuous rotation and shift (simultaneously) toward my left side and the club swings around my body. Think of your fairway wood as you would a wedge and swing in balance, with a nice tempo and let the club do all the work. You'll start seeing better hits in no time.

Jeff Yurkiewicz, PGA, teaches at the Grayhawk Learning Center at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale,Ariz.Visit grayhawkgolf.com

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