Choosing the correct clubs to put in a senior golfer's bag can be difficult as each senior has their own specific needs; this is very evident with fairway woods.
Many senior golfers don't realise that they are playing with fairway woods which don't have enough loft. Loft is essential for senior golfers as it helps send the ball skyward and gives a shot greater distance.
Some modern day 3 woods are cranked by the supplier with 'strong' lofts; these can be as low as 13 degrees. Most senior golfers will struggle to hit such a club from the fairway and would be better leaving these clubs alone. In general terms, seniors need extra loft to help get the ball airborne and flying to the target.
There is also a need for many senior golfers to include more than one fairway wood in their bag. Because fairway woods are longer, have a larger club head and more forgiveness than long irons, some seniors, including professionals, have four or five fairway woods in their bag. The most common fairway woods are 3, 5, 7, and 9 with respective lofts of 15, 18, 21, and 24 degrees. Having this spread of fairway woods in the bag would cover a senior golfer from a 3 wood to a 5 iron. Because lofted fairway woods have a wide smooth sole with perimeter weighting, they are often easier to lift out of poor lies such as light and heavy rough than long irons.
How to hit lofted fairway woods
1. Stand at the ball with feet shoulder width apart and the ball positioned inside the left heel for the 3 wood (the senior golfer can put the ball further back in their stance for a 5, 7, and 9 wood).
2. When swinging the club away, seniors should think 'long and slow'. Because fairway woods are longer than other clubs they will produce more speed, the senior doesn't need to force the issue.
3. The ball should be struck with a descending blow similar to a hybrid or long iron.
4. It's a different technique when hitting a driver or 3 wood off a tee. In this situation, the senior golfer wants to meet the ball with an ascending blow.
5. If the high, lofted fairway wood is struck correctly, the club should make a mark on the ground just after impact imparting some backspin on to the ball.
6. With the higher lofted fairway woods like the 9 wood it should be perfectly possible to achieve enough back spin to stop the ball on a green.
High Lofted Fairway Woods Are a Good Choice for Senior Golfers
Having the opportunity to play golf into your 'senior' years is one of the great selling points for the game. Many recreational activities become rather difficult to enjoy as you get older - games like tennis and basketball, for example - but golf is a game that you should be able to play well into your retirement years. Sure, you could have a few injuries come up here and there that may give you trouble on the course, but the game as a whole is far less damaging than those which require jumping, running, and more. Even if you reach the point where you can no longer walk the course, riding in a cart will help you maintain access to the sport you love.
Another way in which the game can adapt along with you as you age is through the customization of your set of clubs. As a golfer, you have the freedom to pick any clubs you want to fill out your bag, as long as those clubs are considered legal under the rules of golf (and you don't carry more than 14). That means that you can pick and choose just the right combination of clubs to make your set as helpful to you as possible while trying to get around the course.
For a senior golfer, a set that is made up of plenty of fairway woods makes a lot of sense. Most players lose swing speed as they age, meaning they will need a little extra 'help' in getting the ball up in the air time after time. High lofted fairway woods are relatively easy to hit, they don't require tremendous swing speed to get airborne, and they are even a little easier on your joints than a traditional iron. Swapping out some of your irons for additional fairway woods as you age is a smart strategy that could help you to maintain your enjoyment of the game for as long as possible.
On this point, it is important to remember that there are no pictures on the scorecard, and the only thing that matters is how many strokes it takes to put the ball in the hole 18 times. Some older golfers are resistant to adding extra fairway woods because of ego or vanity, and that is a mistake. If others want to judge you for your set composition, let them go ahead and do it - your vindication will come at the end of the round when you post the best score thanks to a set of clubs that matches your current skills and abilities perfectly. Once you learn how to employ these high lofted fairway woods properly in your game, you will see that they open up many possibilities for you that simply might not have existed when using traditional irons.
Any instruction that is 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.
There are plenty of advantages to using additional fairway woods in your set as you age. Without the same swing speed you once had, you will enjoy several improvements to your game as a whole when you swap out some of your irons for fairway woods. It should be noted that this method can actually apply to anyone who is lacking swing speed - not just senior players. Any golfer who doesn't have the necessary swing speed to get the ball up in the air easily with a traditional iron will want to consider swapping out part of their set in favor of high lofted fairway woods.
The list below contains three advantages of using more fairway woods in your set.
- Higher trajectory. There is a lot to like about being able to hit the ball higher. When your shots fly higher, they will come down softer, meaning the ball is easier to control when it is back on the ground. This makes it easier to access hole locations that are cut close to the edge of the green, and you can also get over obstacles such as trees that you might not have cleared with a lower trajectory. Of course, there are some occasions - such as a windy day - when you will want to hit the ball lower, but a higher flight is going to be beneficial most of the time. As proof, simply look to the PGA Tour. Most of the top players in the world are those who can blast the ball way up into the sky. While you might not ever be able to match their impressive trajectories, even adding a few yards of height to your standard flight will make a big difference.
- Sweep instead of dig. Taking divots out of the ground shot after shot can quickly wear on your joints. There is a dramatic collision between your club head and the ground when you take a divot, and that energy is transferred directly up into your hands and arms. A younger player will normally be able to absorb this impact with little issue, but it can become a problem for an older golfer. Specifically, those with arthritis in their hands or wrists might find it painful to take divots throughout the day. With that in mind, using high lofted fairway woods will allow you to sweep the ball off of the turf rather than digging in for a divot. Your joints will likely appreciate the switch to a divot-free style of golf, and you should still be able to produce quality approach shots when you execute a good swing.
- Consistency through the set. As you age, you might not choose to play as much golf as you did in your younger days. You may develop other hobbies, or your body just might not feel up to the task more than once a week or so, for example. If that is the case, you will find that it is harder to maintain your level of play without the repetitions that you used to get by playing as frequently as possible. When you add extra fairway woods to your set, you will build a new level of consistency by hitting the same type of club for many of your shots. Since you can pretty much make the same swing regardless of which lofted fairway wood you are hitting, it should be relatively easy to go from one or another. More importantly, the transition from one fairway wood to another is almost certainly going to be more successful than moving from a fairway wood to a mid or long iron.
The three points above are really items that any senior golfer would enjoy. It is always nice to have the ability to hit the ball higher, it is nice to avoid taking too many divots, and consistency is something that is always welcome on a golf course. There are likely even more benefits that you will enjoy if you decide to go with more high lofted fairway woods in your set, but you will be happy with the transition even if these are the only three improvements that you notice.
Nothing comes free in golf, and you will have to make a 'trade' if you want to enjoy the advantages listed above. By swapping out some of your irons in favor of fairway woods, you are going to lose some of the things that those irons can do for you. Many senior golfers will find that this is a trade that is still worth making, but it is important that you are aware of the potential downsides right up front.
- Ball flight control. In the previous section, the ability to hit the ball high was listed as an advantage - and it certainly is that, in most cases. However, with fairway woods, you are going to mostly give up your ability to hit the ball low when necessary. While a highly skilled player may be able to keep the ball down even with a fairway wood, most amateurs don't have the technique necessary to alter their trajectory with these lofted clubs. Therefore, every shot you hit with your fairway woods is likely to climb well into the sky. Most of the time there will be no issue with this fact, but it can cause problems from time to time.
- Limited versatility. Irons are able to hit the ball from the tee, from the fairway, from the rough, from bunkers, and more. You won't enjoy that same flexibility if you carry a long list of fairway woods in your bag. While fairway woods certainly work well from the tee and from the fairway, they can struggle when you get off track - especially if you find your ball in some deeper rough. The leading edge of an iron does a great job of cutting through the rough to get to the ball, but that usually won't happen when swinging a fairway wood. As you construct your set, it is important to keep this fact in mind, as you may want to keep at least one of your irons in order to deal with lies that a fairway wood will not be able to handle.
- Loss of backspin. Generally speaking, you are not going to get the same kind of backspin on a fairway wood shot as you will a shot that is struck cleanly with an iron. This has to do with the design of the club and the angle of attack used to hit the shot. While you will enjoy being able to hit your fairway woods nice and high, you may get frustrated from time to time if you can't get enough backspin to stop the ball in certain spots. This isn't a big factor if you usually play on soft course conditions, but it may give you trouble if you golf mostly in a dry part of the world.
In all, most senior golfers are going to find that the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to adding high lofted fairway woods to their set in the place of some irons. However, you should think carefully about the drawbacks listed above before making the move. In the end, the best solution may be to create a 'blended' set which includes both options - this way, you can reach for a fairway wood most of the time, but you will still have the option of using an iron when necessary.
Once you have assembled your set, you then need to learn how to best use your new assortment of fairway woods in order to position your ball properly throughout the round. At the end of the day, that is really the goal - to position your ball both in the fairway and on the green to set up as many good par and birdie chances as possible. You don't need to hit incredible shots in order to play good golf. Instead, you simply need to hit smart shots that leave you in good position to score. Hopefully, with practice and smart thinking, your fairway woods can help you do just that.
Using your collection of fairway woods from the tee is relatively straightforward from a strategy perspective. The main consideration when hitting any tee shot is deciding how far you want to hit the ball. Most amateurs make the mistake of thinking they want to hit the ball as far as they can on every tee shot, but that simply shouldn't be the case. Instead, you should evaluate the hole and decide on a distance that will give you the most margin for error while still setting up a reasonable approach shot. Sometimes that will mean blasting away with your driver - other times, however, it will mean using one of your fairway woods to play for position. Once you learn how far you are able to hit each of your fairway woods, you can then pull the right one from the bag with confidence each time you want to play a smart tee shot.
It is when you use your fairway woods to hit approach shots that things get a bit more complicated. Every green that you encounter will be unique in some way, so you have to come up with a specific strategy for every approach shot if you wish to be consistently successful. Again, this is another point where the average amateur golfer misses the right idea by a wide margin. Instead of thinking the shot through and considering all factors, most players simply aim right at the flag and hope for the best. That strategy might lead to a few birdies, but it will likely lead to far more bogeys (and worse). To reach your potential as a senior golfer, you need to have a smart game plan that helps you position your ball on the green nicely.
One good way to think about your approach shots with fairway woods is to start out with the assumption that you are going to aim at the exact middle of the green. As you walk up to your ball, picture an approach shot that flies right to the middle of the green and lands softly. Would that shot set you up with a reasonable putt, based on the location of the hole? If so, then your choice is made - aim for the middle of the green and take advantage of the margin for error that you gain from picking that target.
However, if aiming at the center of the green is going to leave you with an extremely long putt (or a putt that would be difficult due to slope), you will want to adjust your aim point slightly. Move your target out closer and closer to the edge of the green until you reach a spot where you feel like you would have a good chance to make your putt if you hit the target with your approach. The ultimate goal of the process is this - to pick the most-conservative target possible that will also allow you a chance to make your birdie. You want to play it safe, but you also want to give yourself a chance. When hitting a fairway wood approach, it is best to favor the center of the green, but go ahead and drift out toward the edges when the time is right.
There is one last point that needs to be made in terms of the strategic choices you have to make on approach shots. Not all greens are created equally, and you shouldn't treat them as equal when planning your target. For example, a green that is guarded by a water hazard is one that should be approached with caution, while a green with no hazards anywhere in sight can be attacked aggressively. It all comes down to risk and reward - you want to minimize your risk while maximizing your potential reward. There is too much risk involved to aim near the edge of a green that is guarded by water, but the reward is worth it if the green is only guarded by some light rough.
As you gain experience with your high lofted fairway woods, you will get better and better at picking out smart targets for your approach shots. You don't have to play extra-conservative to score well, but playing with reckless abandon is not a good idea either. Take a smart, consistent approach to planning each of your shots and you should be able to make good decisions more often than not.
Around the Greens
For a golf club to be as useful as possible, you want to be able to use it in as many situations as possible. After all, you only get 14 slots in the bag, so you need to make them all count. Fortunately, your lofted fairway woods can do more than just hit high approach shots - they are also adept at playing simple chip shots from around the green. Once you learn how to use these clubs to chip, you might not want to go back to chipping with a traditional iron anytime soon.
To chip with a fairway wood, you need to employ your putting stroke from off the green. Put one of your fairway woods in your hand - you want to use more loft the farther away from the green you are - and mimic the motion that you make when standing on the green with putter in hand. That means that you should be using your shoulders to rock the club back and through the hitting area. Keep your hands quiet and relaxed as you make the stroke, and allow the loft of the fairway wood to pop the ball up into the air and onto the green. These kinds of chip shots will roll out more than chip shots hit with a lofted iron, so you will want to practice this method in order to master your distance control.
There are plenty of advantages to chipping with a lofted fairway wood, but none is as important as being able to avoid hitting fat chips. Chunking chip shots and leaving the ball short of the green is a common problem for amateur players, but that is very unlikely to occur when chipping with a fairway wood. The club should glide nicely along the top of the grass, meaning there will be no divot and no opportunity to hit the shot fat.
Switching out more and more of your irons for fairway woods as you age is a smart decision that could lead to improved performance on the course for years to come. Yes, there are a couple of downsides to this choice that you will have to deal with, but those are more than made up for by the benefits that you will enjoy. Once you have assembled your set and spent some time practicing with these new high lofted fairway woods, you should be able to use them to make your way around the course as efficiently as ever before.