I’ve always been a fan of fairway woods (now “metals”?). I guess that came from the fact that I was always smaller than the other players growing up. As my game matured into my 20s and 30s, I played a wonderful golf course that was 7,000 yards, so good fairway wood play was important for me to score the longer par 4s and to reach some of the par fives in two shots. I found early on that the mostly overlooked 4-wood was a powerful weapon for my kind of golf. And to this day, that’s the only fairway wood that’s in my bag. I’ve written about that little gem before.
Today’s post is in response to a question from Austen, who asked:
“How important to course management is a fairway wood? It is my least reliable club by far. I am very confident in my driver and hybrid. I hit my driver 250-260 and my hybrid just over 200. Would it be better to switch to a 4 wood from my 3 wood in an attempt at consistency or just practice and get better with it?”Well, Austen, if you are a regular reader, you’ll remember the article I wrote just a few weeks ago about building your set around a chart of desired full-swing distances. I am a firm believer that is the only way to get the precision you need to navigate your way around any golf course. But your specific question seemed to have two parts to me – one on hitting the fairway wood consistently, the other on whether to switch to a 4-wood. Let me address those two separately.
There could be multiple reasons you are not consistent with your current 3-wood. I’d start by analyzing the club itself. How does it compare to your hybrid in length, swingweight and shaft? Don’t forget grip size. At fairway wood speeds, a slight variation in shaft can make a world of difference. My bet is that if you put the clubs on a frequency analyzer, you’ll find the 3-wood shaft to be quite different than that in your driver and hybrid.
Another part of the formula is the loft of your 3-wood. Is it strong – 13-15 degrees? That might not give you the higher ball flight you’d like to have for long approaches to the green or positioning shots on longer par fives. As to your idea of the 4-wood, I’m all for it. Like you, I hit my hybrid just over 200, so the 4-wood gives me an effective approach club for shots of 215-225. I don’t find myself hitting at greens from longer than that too often, and a 3-wood is much more difficult to hit high enough to land softly if I did. I strongly suggest you try out a few 4-woods, though they are hard to find. Look for a loft of 17-18 degrees.
The other side of the formula is fairway wood technique, and yes, it does take some practice time to get it right. I like a fairway wood of not more than 42-1/2” in length, and many 3s are pushing past 43. That’s just too hard to control off the deck in my opinion. You’ll want to play the ball just about 1-2” inside your left instep at address, and your posture should have your arms comfortably hanging from your shoulders – not too stretched out toward the ball. The swing should be long and relaxed, and you want to make sure you keep the left side moving through impact. Most golfers feel the tendency to try to help the ball into the air, but resist that urge. Trust your swing and let the club do the work . . . it will!
It’s kind of fun to spend a little time on the range perfecting your fairway wood technique, and it will pay off huge dividends when you play. Good approaches on long par 3s and par 4s, and occasionally hitting a par 5 in two shots, does wonders for the ego, not to mention the scorecard.
I hope that helps, Austen, and I’m sure that new EIDOLON V-SOLE wedge will help you save strokes while you’re working on it!
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I have never been able to consistently hit fairway woods. I do play a 2 hybrid between my driver and 3 iron, but I have about 30-50 yards between driver and hybrid. Not sure I want to give up a wedge or an iron to plug that gap, though.
I play a 3, 5, 7 & 9 woods. I replaced the 3, 4 & 5 irons to get a setup for my home course. Five par 3 holes of 158 to 203 yds. All have elevation to go along with the distance. My 9 wood filled the gap after the 6 iron, which gave me the use of pw, aw, sw & lw on the other end. I am a 7 handicapper, so be flexible with your setup.
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