Traditional fairway woods are designed to hit the ball long distances thanks to their low lofts, between 13-19°. But fairway woods don't end with the #5. In fact, some are made with lofts as high as that of a sand wedge.
More golfers are using high-lofted fairway woods because their larger head size and longer shaft length provide greater forgiveness and confidence than standard irons or hybrid irons. Also, the center of gravity is farther from the face on a fairway wood, which helps produce a higher trajectory.
High-lofted fairway woods are a good choice if you have a problem with shanking. Since the hosel is positioned above the clubface, the ball is much less likely to strike the hosel and fly off course.
These clubs perform well out of tall grass because the head slides through easily without snagging, as irons often do. Fairway woods also provide a much larger sweet spot than most irons.
Fairway woods should definitely be included in your golf club set. Most golfers should carry a 3-, 5- and 7-wood; those who struggle with the irons should consider the 9, 11, 13 and 15 as well.
Top 3 Tips on High-Lofted Fairway Woods
For many golfers, high-lofted fairway woods are the easiest clubs in the bag to hit. With plenty of loft to get the ball up in the air, and plenty of forgiveness thanks to the size of the club head, high-lofted fairway woods are able to help even average golfers create beautiful shots. No club is fool-proof, of course, but this category of clubs has a long list of devoted followers. If you already have one or two of these kinds of clubs in your bag currently, you know just how forgiving and helpful they can be.
With that said, you need to know how to use these clubs properly if you want to get the best possible performance from them out on the course. Every club in your bag is meant to play a specific role, and all clubs are going to work better in some situations than others. For instance, your driver is the perfect club for blasting long shots from the tee, but it would be practically useless if you tried to use it in a greenside bunker. Knowing when to use which club is a big part of playing your best golf, and that certainly applies to lofted fairway woods. When employed at just the right time, they can easily be your best friend. Use them at the wrong time, however, and they will be more trouble than they are worth.
In addition to knowing exactly when you should be using a lofted fairway wood, you also need to know how to swing these clubs to get the best possible results. The ideal swing is somewhere between the swing that you use for a driver and the swing that you use for your irons. Many golfers never manage to quite blend that combination quite right, and the result is poor performance from clubs that they think should be easy to hit. Once you understand the proper setup and technique to use with a lofted fairway wood in your hands, the results that you expect will begin to arrive.
The content below is going to highlight three of the most-important tips that you can receive with regard to using your high-lofted fairway woods successfully. Take the time to read through all three of these tips and think carefully about how they would apply to your current game. Most likely, you will already be following one or two of these tips without even knowing it, so you shouldn't have to work on putting all three into action. However, if even just one of the tips is something that you aren't doing at the moment, that tip could potentially help you make a dramatic improvement with these clubs. Review all of the tips, think about how they apply to your game, and use the ones that you feel have the potential to help you reach a new level of performance.
All of the instruction 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.
Picking the Right Lie
This is a tip that can actually apply to any club you use throughout the course of a round, as you always need to keep your lie in mind when making a club selection. However, this point is of specific importance when hitting lofted fairway woods, as trying to use one of these clubs in the wrong situation is a recipe for disaster. Basically, you need to understand the limitations of lofted fairway woods to know when you can use them safely, and when they should be left in the bag.
Fortunately, there are plenty of lies and situations that you will encounter on the course that are perfect for the use of a lofted fairway wood. A partial list of the situations that should be considered a 'green-light' for a lofted fairway wood includes the following –
- Off the tee
- From a clean fairway lie
- From the light rough
- Out of a fairway bunker (as long as the sand is firm and the lip is low)
- From around the edge of the green as a chipping option
As you can see, you shouldn't be hurting for opportunities to deploy your lofted fairway woods. The list above contains lies that you are going to see frequently on the course, so you are almost certain to use your fairway woods at least a few times per round – if not more.
There are a few things to keep in mind, however, even when playing from these ideal types of lies. For one thing, you need to tee the ball low when playing a lofted fairway wood off of the tee. The sweet spot on a fairway wood is going to be much lower to the ground than it is on your driver, so teeing the ball up high would be a big mistake. There is plenty of loft on the club to get the ball nicely up into the air, so you shouldn't need to worry about teeing the ball high to help you get elevation on the shot. Tee the ball up with just a little bit of air between the bottom of the ball and the top of the grass and you will be good to go.
When playing from a good lie in the fairway, there is really nothing else to think about other than executing a great swing. If anything, the risk on this shot is allowing yourself to get complacent, thinking that the shot at hand is an 'easy' one. There is no such thing as an easy shot in golf – all shots can give you trouble if you make a mistake, so all shots should be approached with the same level of focus and determination. Even when you have the best possible lie right in the middle of the fairway, focus in on the target you have picked out and make a great swing.
You will notice that the light rough is included in our list above of favorable lies for your fairway woods. As long as the rough is light – meaning not too thick – and relatively short, you should be able to launch the ball without much of a problem. In fact, the light rough will help to take a little bit of the spin off the ball, so you will likely find that your shots travel a bit straighter. However, that loss of spin is going to affect your trajectory as well, so plan on the ball flying lower and having a bit more bounce and roll after it lands. Your high-lofted fairway woods are very much a good option from the light rough, but be sure to anticipate a lower, straighter flight overall.
It might seem a little bit crazy to think about reaching for a lofted fairway wood when in a fairway bunker, but these clubs are actually well-designed for just such a challenge. As mentioned in our list, you do need to have a lie with relatively firm sand under the ball to make this work, and you can't have a high lip in front of you. However, when those conditions are met, it is very much possible to hit a quality shot from the sand with your fairway wood. During the swing, be sure to stay as stable as possible with your lower body, and don't allow yourself to sway at all from side to side. With good balance and a controlled move through the ball, you should be able to make solid contact and the ball should come up and out with plenty of speed.
The last point on our list – chipping with your lofted fairway clubs – is an idea that has become more and more popular in recent years. As amateur golfers continue to struggle with trying to chip the ball with wedges, reaching for a fairway wood is an option that makes a lot of sense. As long as you have a good lie, and you only need to carry the ball a couple of feet onto the putting surface, there is no reason why you can't use a lofted fairway wood instead of a wedge. The fairway wood will make it easy to create solid contact, and you will run almost no risk of 'chunking' the shot. With a little practice, this is a shot that can add versatility and consistency to your short game.
Bad Lie Choice?
So, we have outlined some of the best lies that you can look for when hoping to use a lofted fairway wood. But what about the other side of the coin? What kinds of lies should you avoid? The list below has the answers –
- Fairway bunkers with soft sand
- Fairway lies on a steep slope
- Lies where the ball is sitting down in the deep rough
- Lies where the ball is sitting on top of the medium rough
It is the last point on this list that needs to be addressed specifically, because that is a situation that tricks many amateur golfers. The first three points on the list are pretty much self-explanatory – you can't hit these clubs well from soft sand, you will struggle with them from steep slopes, and these clubs are not good at digging the ball out of a lie down in the deep rough. When you find yourself in any of those three situations, pick a different club and move on.
With regard to the lie where the ball is sitting on top of the medium rough, you might find yourself thinking that the lofted fairway club is the perfect choice. After all, you can see the entire ball, you have a clean path to strike it, and the fairway wood will let you cover plenty of distance. There is one major problem with this theory, however – the air under the ball. When the ball sits up on top of the rough, you are basically hitting off of a tall tee. There is a ton of space under the ball, and that is likely where the club is going to slide. In almost every case, the club will go under the ball, you will hit the shot near the top of the face, and your shot will come up short of the target. Don't be fooled by this lie – you are better off playing a conservative shot with a short iron than trying to go for the green with a long club like a lofted fairway wood.
Mastering Ball Position
One of the biggest keys to experiencing success with your lofted fairway woods is playing them from precisely the right position in your stance. Ball position is something that you should always pay attention to during practice and on the course, because the ball position that use will greatly affect the kinds of shots you can hit. Many golfers get too caught up in swing technique to pay attention to a subtle point like ball position, but it would be a mistake to overlook this key ingredient. Spend some dedicated practice time working on your ball position and you will be happy with the progress you can make with your fairway woods.
Ball position is a challenging point to work on because there are so many variables involved. There is not one single ball position that you can say will work for every golfer – because every golfer is unique. So, rather telling you exactly where to position the ball, we are going to tell you that you will have to figure it out for yourself on the range. That might not seem very helpful, but it is the only way to go. By testing out various ball positions until you settle on one that is perfect for your swing, you will know in the end that your ball position is just right.
While we can't tell you exactly where to place the ball, we can provide help in the way of some general guidelines. Those guidelines are as follows –
- Forward of center. Regardless of any unique elements that may be present in your swing, you are going to need to make sure the ball is at least forward of the midpoint in your stance. Playing the ball too far back in the stance is a common amateur mistake, and it is one that makes it very difficult to get the ball up in the air cleanly. No matter where the ball ends up in your stance after some testing on the range, make sure it is at least forward of center.
- Don't reach. You don't not want to feel like you are reaching at impact in order to hit the ball. A good ball position will allow you to swing through the hitting area naturally without straining to make contact. If you have to reach, you are going to wind up slowing down your rotation in the process – and that is never a good thing. As you try out various ball positions to see which one works best, pay attention to the feeling that you are getting through the hitting area, and make adjustments as needed to take out any kind of reaching sensation.
- Slightly more forward from the tee. When playing a lofted fairway wood off of the tee, you should move the ball just slightly farther forward in your stance than when playing off of the turf. Why? You want to be hitting down on the ball when playing from the turf, so having the ball a bit farther back makes sense. However, with the ball on a tee, it is a 'sweeping' action that you are looking to achieve, and that means moving the ball just an inch or two closer to your lead foot.
When swinging a lofted fairway wood, you don't want to change much about your technique from the other swings you make with the rest of the clubs in your bag. The best way to think about your swing with these clubs is to tailor your swing to the lie you are facing. When you play a fairway wood from the tee, swing the club more like a driver, with a flat approach through impact. On the other hand, if you are hitting the ball from the fairway, you will swing a little more like you would when using an iron, with a downward hit through the ball. As long as you keep those general guidelines in mind, and you play your shots from a ball position that suits your swing, you should be happy with your performance.
Crafting a Plan
You should have a plan for every shot that you hit on the golf course. It is common for amateur golfers to get over the ball without much of a plan in place, and the results speak for themselves. Before making any swing, you want to picture exactly how the ball is going to travel through the air, where it is going to land, and how much it is going to bounce and roll. Of course, you aren't going to actually be able to pull off the shot as pictured each and every time, but you will be surprised at your consistency when you take the time to plan out each shot.
With regard to high-lofted fairway woods, there are some specific planning keys to keep in mind. First, you should remember that these clubs are likely to fly high in the air – and they are going to get up into the air quickly. When you hit an iron, the ball is going to usually launch relatively low, even if it does wind up climbing higher into the sky as it travels. So, as you visualize and plan out your fairway wood shots, remember to keep the high trajectory in mind.
Obviously, this trajectory is an issue mainly on windy days. When the wind blows, you can expect it to affect your lofted fairway wood shots perhaps more than any other shot with any other club. The combination of a high trajectory and a relatively low spin rate make these kinds of shots susceptible to influence by the winds. That doesn't mean that you can't use your high-lofted fairway woods on windy days, but it does mean that you need to give the wind plenty of respect and consideration as you plan your shots.
Selecting a landing spot for your fairway wood shots is going to depend largely on what kind of shot you are facing. For a tee shot, you will simply want to pick the part of the fairway that is going to give you the best angle into the green. You should be relatively accurate off the tee with your fairway woods, so you can afford to be a little aggressive in terms of aiming near hazards and other obstacles. On approach shots, however, you are going to need to think more about setting up your birdie putt than anything else. Where do you want to putt from, and where would you like to chip from if you do happen to miss the green? It is almost always a good idea to play to the low side of the hole to make the short game easier, but this is a decision you can make from hole to hole as the round goes on. No matter what you decide, make sure you weigh the pros and cons of your selected target and only pull the trigger when you are convinced in your plan.
You should be able to get great performance out of your high-lofted fairway woods by picking the right lie, playing the ball from the correct position in your stance, and having a plan for each shot. That might sound like a relatively long list, but it is actually quite manageable when you start to break it down. With a little bit of practice both on the driving range and out on the course, high-lofted fairway woods can easily become some of your favorite clubs in the bag.