High-lofted fairway woods have long been a staple of the senior golfer's arsenal. The 7-wood and 9-wood are commonly found in his bag, with companies like Thomas Golf supplying clubs all the way up to a 25-wood with 55° of loft.
In other words, it's possible to build a set made almost entirely of fairway woods (assuming you carry a driver and putter, that is).
The question is, what's the correct way to hit a high-lofted fairway wood? With a sweeping swing, like a 3-wood? Or with a downward strike, like an iron?
A basic answer: The more lofted the club, the more you should hit down on the ball. That means playing the ball slightly farther back (right) in your stance with each successively shorter club.
For instance, a typical 3-wood should be played with the ball just inside your left (lead) heel to promote a sweeping swing with a very slightly descending angle of attack. The 5-wood is played a little farther right. By the time you reach the 13-wood, the ball will be just left of the center of your stance; with the “wedge” woods (21 through 25), it's right in the middle.
At address, your hand position remains constant no matter where the ball is played. The farther back the ball goes in your stance, the farther ahead your hands will be. This creates shaft lean and helps you make the necessary downward strike.
There's no need to alter your swing to hit high-lofted fairway woods. Simply think of them as irons and take a rip.
Ball Position Key to Hitting High Lofted Fairway Woods
Adding high lofted fairway woods to your bag can be beneficial for a number of reasons. These types of clubs are great at getting the ball airborne with ease – meaning they are a good alternative if you struggle to get the ball up into the air with your traditional long irons. While most golfers carry a three wood and even a five wood, few players go beyond that point with their lofted fairway woods. However, if you are willing to add a seven wood, and maybe a nine wood to your collection, you just might be surprised to find how many more shots you will be capable of playing. Of course, having more shots at your disposal is almost certain to mean lower scores, so going down this road is something that is at least worth careful consideration.
It should go without saying that you are going to need to learn how to hit your high lofted fairway woods properly if they are going to, in fact, deliver on the potential that they possess. After all, if you aren't able to produce a reliable, predictable ball flight with these clubs, they will be of no use to you. Fortunately, you shouldn't have to change much from your usual swing in order to hit a high lofted wood. The same swing technique that you use throughout the rest of your bag will work just fine with high lofted woods. In your setup, however, you are going to have to make a couple of specific tweaks in order to get the best possible performance from this type of club. Specifically, you need to make sure you are using a ball position that allows the fairway wood to perform at an optimal level.
As the title of this article indicates, we are going to explore the topic of ball position for high lofted fairway woods in the content below. When you play the ball from the correct position in your stance, you will be making the shot at hand as easy as possible – and that is always a good thing in golf. Of course, there is still more work to be done, as ball position alone isn't going to automatically lead to a positive outcome for your shot. Only when you can successfully pair proper ball position with solid swing technique are you really going to be satisfied with the outcome.
In addition to ball position, we are also going to check up on a few other pre-swing points related to hitting quality high lofted fairway wood shots. As mentioned above, there really isn't going to be anything different about your actual swinging technique with these clubs compared to the others in your bag. Rather, the changes you make in order to get the most from these clubs are going to take place before the swing actually begins. With ball position and other pre-swing checkpoints handled successfully, you can turn your mind toward making a quality swing time after time.
All of the instruction contained below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
Advantages of High Lofted Woods
Before getting into the instructional portion of this article, it is first important to touch on exactly why you would want to add this type of club to your bag in the first place. After all, the 'traditional' set of golf clubs doesn't include any high lofted fairway woods. A traditional set moves from the driver and three wood right into the irons, with a set of irons making up the bulk of the 14 clubs that are allowed under the rules of the game. So, in order to break from that tradition, you should have a good reason in mind. Fortunately, there are actually several good reasons to consider swapping out some of your traditional irons for at least a couple lofted fairway woods
The list below highlights some of the biggest advantages to this class of golf clubs.
- Get the ball off the ground with ease. The biggest complaint from the average golfer regarding long irons is the fact that they are difficult to get off the ground. If you have average swing speed in your game, you might find that it is hard to get the ball up in the air sufficiently when hitting a long iron. Specifically, you will notice that you have to catch the ball just perfectly in order to achieve height on the shot. Any degree of miss-hit will cause the ball to fly low and land short of the target. While professional golfers are able to launch their long irons with relative ease, that is not a skill that is within the realm of the typical amateur. So, to make your life on the course easier, consider using lofted fairway woods, which are far more forgiving and will make it dramatically easier for you to get the ball airborne time after time.
- Bring the ball in soft. Another challenge that is faced by the average amateur when it comes to long irons is the way the ball typically comes into the green. Even if you do manage to hit the green on the fly with your long or mid-iron shot, you may find that the ball lands hard and bounces over the back. Obviously, this is not a good outcome, as hitting your ball over the back of the green usually leads to big trouble. To bring the ball in higher, and softer, you may wish to try a lofted fairway wood. These clubs, as mentioned above, make it easy to hit the ball high in the sky. With a higher trajectory, the ball will land softer and will be less likely to bounce or roll over the back. It is a great feeling to stand in the fairway knowing that you can bring the ball in softly to the target, and that is not a feeling that you are likely to experience when holding a long iron.
- Deal with the rough. Yet again, we find a point where the lofted fairway wood will usually outperform a long iron. If you have ever tried to hit a long iron from the rough – even the light rough – you know what a challenge it can be. The hosel of your iron is likely to become twisted up in the grass, and you may not be able to hit the ball cleanly at all. Even if you do make decent contact, the ball is going to come out low and with nearly no backspin. In the end, you will be left with a shot that is hard to control and is only useful in a very limited number of circumstances. On the other hand, playing a lofted fairway wood from this kind of lie can be far more effective. The design of the club will help it to cut through the grass, and the ball should jump up into the air on most occasions. You would you always prefer to play from the fairway, of course, but hitting in from the rough with a lofted fairway metal is a challenge that you should be able to handle.
As you can see, you don't have to look far to find benefits of playing lofted woods instead of long or mid-irons. In reality, there are likely even more benefits to be enjoyed than just the three listed above. For example, did you know that you can even use a lofted fairway wood to chip the ball from around the green? You certainly can – just use a putting-style motion to pop the ball up into the air and watch it roll out toward the hole. With so many different shots available from this one type of club, it is easy to understand why so many golfers are choosing to put them in the bag.
Ideal Ball Position
Now that we have highlighted some of the benefits of choosing this type of club, we can get on to the main focus on the article – the ideal ball position that you will want to use when playing a shot with a lofted fairway wood. While ball position is something that will vary a bit from player to player depending on technique and personal preference, you will still want to remain within a general range as far as your positioning goes on these shots. If you stray too far away from 'standard' ball position with a lofted wood, you are only going to be making things harder on yourself – and you certainly don't need to make this game any harder than it is.
When playing from the fairway, the ideal ball position with a lofted fairway wood is approximately halfway between the center of your stance and the inside of your left foot. Put another way, you want to have the ball positioned at least a couple inches forward of center, but you don't want it so far forward that you are having to reach for the ball at impact. Assuming you play your driver off of your left foot for a standard shot, and you play your wedges right from the middle of your stance, the perfect spot for your lofted fairway clubs is exactly in between those two points.
Why play the ball from this spot? Mainly, it has to do with the angle of attack that you are going to use to send the ball into the distance. When hitting a lofted fairway club, you want the clubhead to be moving roughly parallel to the ground at impact. To make that happen, you need to have the ball forward of center, but not too far. A driver is played off of your left foot because you want the club head to be moving upward slightly at impact. That is not the goal here, since you aren't playing the ball from a tee. Instead, you want to catch the ball at the flat point of your swing, which is going to be just a few inches in front of center. The perfect point will vary slightly from player to player, so feel free to experiment until you are able to get the ball exactly where you need it for solid, repeatable contact.
The key to selecting the right ball position for your shots is making sure that you feel comfortable at impact. Do you feel currently like you have to reach out for the ball in order to strike is solidly? If so, the ball is likely too far forward in your stance. On the other hand, do you feel 'cramped' and 'crowded' when you make the strike? In that case, the ball is likely too far back. Rely on your feelings at impact to tell you what minor adjustments need to be made to your setup at address.
You are going to need to alter your ball position slightly when hitting this kind of club from the rough. If you are playing from some light rough off to the side of the fairway, move the ball back to approximately the middle of your stance. You need to hit slightly down on the ball at impact in order to avoid most of the grass that is waiting to grab your club. By moving your ball position and leaving everything else the same, you should be able to achieve a relatively clean strike in order to move the ball out of the rough and toward your target successfully.
Other Key Address Points
In addition to using good ball position, you also need to hit on a few other key points at address in order to give yourself a good chance to hit a solid shot. Some of these points apply to plenty of other shots around the course as well, but they need to be highlighted here because of their specific importance when swinging a lofted fairway club. Review the list below to make sure your stance is in good condition.
- Right shoulder below left. It is important that you are able to move the club flat along the ground through the hitting area when swinging this type of club – and ensuring that your right shoulder is lower than your left at address is a key piece of that puzzle. Some golfers get into the habit of setting up with a high right shoulder which can lead to a number of problems, including a steep downswing and even a slice. You don't need to have your right shoulder dramatically lower than your left, but there definitely should be a slight angle up toward the target when you look at the plane created by your shoulders at address.
- Chin up. You want to make a good shoulder turn on all of your golf swings, and the story is no different when you are hitting lofted fairway woods. By keeping your chin up at address – and then keeping it in that position through the rest of the swing – you will have an easier time finishing off your shoulder turn on the way back and through. If, on the other hand, you keep your chin down in an effort to 'keep your head down', you will impede the progress of your shoulder turn and the swing will lose power. At address, you should feel like you are looking down your nose at the ball. In other words, your eyes are down on the ball as you stand and prepare to hit, but your chin is comfortably up and away from your chest.
- Plenty of margin in your aim. Every golf shot needs to be aimed accurately if it is going to be successful. When it comes to hitting lofted fairway woods, you want to be sure to give yourself plenty of margin for error in terms of the target you select. While these clubs are usually more accurate for the average player than a long iron would be, you still shouldn't expect to hit your target precisely time after time. You are going to be making a big swing and the ball is going to be launched well up into the air – meaning you won't have total control over where it comes down. Make sure to pick smart targets that provide you with a little bit of space to work with if the ball should drift off line slightly as it flies.
It isn't terribly difficult to set up correctly over the ball when hitting a lofted fairway wood. As long as you can check off each of the three points above – along with having good ball position – you should be able to create reliable shots throughout the day. Once all of the pre-swing work is taken care of, you can then shift your mind into thinking only about the swing that you are going to make.
Building Your Set
Once you understand how to use these types of clubs effectively, you will like want to add more and more of them to your bag. They are simply more user-friendly than long irons, meaning you will be able to produce more good shots and have more fun on the course. You are welcome to add as many lofted fairway woods to your bag as you like (while not exceeding 14 total clubs, of course), but you will want to do so wisely in order to build a useful set overall. A good set of clubs has the least amount of 'overlap' possible in terms of clubs that hit the ball the same distance or create the same ball flight. You only get 14 of them in your bag, so you want to make each club count.
The most important thing you can do when picking out fairway woods is to space them evenly so that you have a nice range of distances covered in your set. For this reason, it wouldn't make any sense to carry both an 18-degree and 19-degree fairway wood, as those two clubs would do nearly the same thing. If you do have an 18-degree wood in your bag, the next stop in your set should likely fall at 21 degrees, if not a bit more. It is important to test out the various clubs you are considering to make sure they form a nice yardage range with the rest of your set.
It is also important to think about the connection between the fairway woods in your bag and the irons you choose to carry. Too often, there is an overlap between these two parts of the set, where the shortest fairway wood and the longest iron travel exactly the same distance. It is pointless to have two clubs which go the same distance, so make sure your set works out to nice intervals from the longest club down to the shortest. When you take the time to build a smart set of clubs that leaves no holes in the distances you are capable of targeting, you will find that it suddenly becomes much easier to work your way around the course.
Don't be afraid to add as many lofted fairway clubs as is necessary to build a set that works for you – even if the set you wind up with is something a little bit 'out of the ordinary'. There are no guidelines in golf for which clubs need to make up your total of 14, so be creative and play to your strengths (and guard against your weaknesses). There is no sense in carrying clubs that you can't hit or won't trust under pressure, so work hard to iron out any weak spots in your bag.
Playing your lofted fairway woods from the right spot in your stance shouldn't be much of a challenge, but it is an important point nonetheless. If you pay attention to this important detail on the practice range, you should find that it becomes easy to use the correct ball position out on the course. Good luck!