While your fairway woods require slightly different technique from your driver, you want the clubs themselves to be as similar as possible. Try to match the shafts in your fairway woods to that in your driver so that you can have a consistent feel and ball flight from club to club. If you can generate a similar flight pattern with your fairway woods as you can with your driver, it will be easier to go back and forth between them. For example, if you are standing on a tee trying to decide whether you should hit driver or three wood, you don't want to have to picture two different ball flights while making your choice. When both clubs tend to follow the same path, you can simply pick based on what distance will be most appropriate for the hole in front of you.

Fairway Woods Lesson Chart

Once you learn how to hit your fairway woods correctly, you just might be surprised to learn how many different situations they can handle for you on the course. These aren't clubs that are just limited to tee shots on short par fours and approach shots on long par fives – rather, they can come in handy all over the course – even around the greens. Since the rules of golf allow just 14 clubs to be carried in your bag during a round, you should make sure that you are getting the maximum possible benefit from every club that you include in your set. By spending some quality practice time getting to know your fairway woods, you can increase the return that you get from this portion of your bag.

Fairway woods are some of the most versatile clubs in the game. You probably have at least one fairway wood in your set – a three wood – and you may also have a 5 wood, and maybe even a 7 wood. No matter how many of these kinds of clubs you choose to carry, it’s important to know how to use them to their full potential.

In this article, we are going to discuss how you can use your fairway woods more effectively on the course. We’ll talk about the kinds of shots you can play with fairway woods, some basic technique points to keep in mind, and offer some troubleshooting for when your fairway woods start to misbehave. To wrap up, we will talk about how you can actually use your fairway woods in the short game to save strokes and deal with some tricky situations.

All of the content 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.

— What Can You Do with a Fairway Wood?

In the right hands, a fairway wood can be used to produce a wide array of shots. You may currently think of your fairway woods as rather one-dimensional – maybe you use them only for tee shots or for second shots on par fives – but they can be put to work in many different situations to help you navigate a golf course successfully. The list below highlights the main possible uses for these kinds of clubs.

Fairway Woods Lesson Chart

  • Tee shots. Do you automatically reach for your driver every time you walk up to the tee on a par four or par five? If so, you may be costing yourself several strokes per round based on nothing more than poor course management. Sure, it’s fun to hit the driver, but it simply isn’t the right club for the job in every situation. Sometimes, it’s better to club down and use a fairway wood to play for position. Most golfers will find fairway woods easier to control than the driver, and thanks to modern technology, fairway woods can still send the ball a significant distance down the fairway. During an upcoming round, try playing several of your tee shots with fairway woods, specifically on the shorter par fours where you don’t really need a driver to set up a comfortable approach. You may be surprised to find that this style of golf is actually quite enjoyable, as it is more strategic and sets you up for more birdie opportunities. There will still be plenty of chances to hit your driver on the longer and wider holes but lean on your fairway woods for trusty tee shots when the course gets tight.
  • Approach shots. Often, it is par five holes where your fairway woods will be called on to hit second shots, whether you are trying to reach the green in two or just set up an easy approach for your third. However, these clubs can also be useful on long par fours to help you reach the green in regulation. It’s not easy to hit long irons cleanly, so many players have swapped out one or two of their longest irons in favor of additional fairway woods. With their easy-to-hit nature and the height they can achieve even when hit off the ground, fairway woods are friendly to the player and often lead to nice results. Tired of seeing your long iron shots veer off track or bounce and roll too far after they land? Try adding more fairway woods to your set so they can be used for approach shot situations.
  • Long shots from the light rough. Although fairway woods don’t tend to fare very well in deep grass, they do a nice job of cutting through light rough and getting the ball up into the air with ease. This is another situation where you may struggle greatly with long irons – it’s hard to get the ball off the ground with a long iron when hitting from the short rough. Most golf courses today don’t keep their rough at a very long height, so facing light rough is a common situation for most players. With at least a couple of fairway woods in your set to pick from when this situation comes up, you may be able to push the ball up toward the green more effectively than ever before.
  • Play short game shots. We are going to dedicate a section of this article later on to discuss the short game shots you can play with your fairway woods, but for now, it’s enough to note that you actually can use these long clubs around the greens. That might be surprising to some, but fairway woods make for effective bump-and-run clubs in some situations. For those who struggle to chip consistently with a wedge, turning to a fairway wood for help might be a nice solution.

As you can see, there is a lot you can do with a fairway wood. By keeping an open mind and practicing with your fairway woods in a variety of ways, you can make more use than ever before out of this club category.

— Key Technical Elements for Fairway Wood Shots

In this section, we’d like to present the basics of hitting standard fairway wood shots. The technique described below applies to a typical fairway wood shot where you have a good lie and are trying to hit the ball a significant distance. As we highlighted above, these clubs can be used in a variety of situations, but here we are just talking about the stock shot that you will want to have in your bag for tee shots or long approaches.

Of course, as with anything related to golf technique, there is plenty of room here for personal style and preference. The points below outline a template for how to hit your fairway woods, but feel free to deviate slightly if you can get better results another way. This game is all about finding a way to get it done – even if that method isn’t the same as what other golfers employ.

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Fairway Woods Lesson
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Fairway Woods Lesson Chart

  • Sweep through the hitting area. Generally speaking, for most golfers, fairway wood shots will be most successful when the player hits through the ball on a shallow plane. Unlike your short irons, where you will want to hit down aggressively, fairway woods are easier to strike solid if you sweep them off the top of the turf. This is a method that works nicely from the tee and out of the fairway, assuming you have a good lie. To make it easier to sweep the ball off the ground, be sure to give yourself plenty of room by not standing too close to the ball at address. Also, the ball should be forward in your stance, roughly lined up with the inside of your left foot.
  • Wide backswing. Making a wide backswing is generally a positive attribute for hitting any kind of shot, but it is particularly helpful when trying to produce the sweeping action needed for a solid fairway wood strike. The key to a wide backswing is to use your shoulders properly, especially in the takeaway phase of the swing. If you turn your shoulders nicely early in the backswing, you will be setting yourself up for a wide swing and a powerful strike. If, on the other hand, you let your hands get too involved in the takeaway and fail to turn your shoulders fully away from the target, it’s going to be tough to generate the kind of speed needed to hit a long fairway wood shot.
  • Stay balanced. Of course, this is a tip that can be applied all across the golf course to virtually every shot you will ever hit. Balance is one of the key fundamentals in this game, and players with good balance are almost always going to strike the ball better than players with poor balance. This topic is important with fairway woods because you need to make sure the bottom of your swing arc occurs at precisely the right point. If you are off-balance during the swing, you may bottom out your swing too early or too late – and you won’t strike the ball cleanly as a result. By working on balance during practice, you will not only improve your level of play with your fairway woods, but you should elevate your performance throughout the bag.
  • Turn it loose. You don’t want to be holding back when swinging a fairway wood, as you are likely to miss your target if you take it too easy through the hitting area. Since a fairway wood, much like a driver, is swung with a rounded swing shape, the face will be in an open position as it approaches impact. If you don’t turn the club loose and allow the face to rotate into a square position, it will hang open and the shot will miss the target to the right. Where you can sometimes get away with ‘hanging on’ a bit to your iron shots, that same mistake will be costlier when swinging a fairway wood. It’s important to note, however, that you don’t need to be swinging as hard as you possibly can – in fact, that can lead to negative results, as well. Rather, you should be trying to strike a nice balance, providing plenty of effort to build speed and release the club through impact without swinging so hard that you lose your balance and struggle to find a clean hit.

You don’t have to do anything special with your fairway woods to produce good shots. As long as you use the same basic swing that you use with the rest of your clubs, you should be in good shape. Remember, the key for most people with fairway woods is to sweep the ball off the turf rather than hitting down and taking a divot. If you can keep that in mind, and design your address position accordingly, plenty of great shots should be in your future.

— Fairway Woods Troubleshooting

Things go wrong in golf. That’s just how this game works, and you shouldn’t feel too bad about it when your swing goes sideways. Instead of letting yourself get too frustrated, just take a deep breath and get down to work on solving the problem. The sooner you can correct whatever mistakes you are making in your swing, the sooner you can get back to aiming for new personal records on the course.

As it relates to fairway woods, there are a few specific mistakes that are commonly seen in the amateur game. Let’s take a look at a few troubleshooting points.

Fairway Woods Lesson Chart

  • Hitting the ball fat from the fairway. Some golfers just can’t seem to manage to make clean contact when trying to hit a fairway wood off the turf. No matter what these players do, it seems they wind up hitting the ball fat more often than not. If that sounds like you, the issue may be between your ears rather than in your arms or legs. Specifically, you may be trying to help the ball up off the ground by ‘scooping’ it at impact. This is an unnecessary compensation that will only lead you to trouble. Your fairway wood already has loft built into the design of the club head – likely 15* or so on a three wood, and more for a five wood – so you don’t need to help the ball into the air. Just swing through impact on the shallow path we talked about earlier and let the club do the rest of the work. Also, it may help to move the ball forward in your stance just slightly. The natural reaction to hitting the ball fat is to move it back in your stance, thinking that you need to match the ball position to the bottom of the swing arc. However, this can lead to trouble, as moving the ball back may make your swing steeper, and you may end up hitting down even more aggressively (and hitting the ball even fatter). Don’t put yourself in this predicament – instead, line the ball up with the inside of your left foot and give yourself plenty of room to swing through on a shallow plane.
  • Hitting the ball too low. Your fairway wood shots aren’t going to be particularly useful if the trajectory is too low to reach your targets safely. Sure, the occasional low shot with a three wood on a windy day might be needed, but that is a specialty shot you’d rather hit on demand – not every time you swing the club. If you can’t seem to get your fairway woods high enough into the air to make them useful, there are a couple of issues you can check. First, make sure you aren’t hitting down too aggressively through impact. Hitting down too much on these clubs will rob you of loft, and you might hit low line drives as a result. This is especially true for players who lack the swing speed to generate a high spin rate that will cause the ball to climb. If you aren’t hitting down too much, you may want to check on your equipment. With a shaft that is too stiff for your swing dynamics, it will be hard to get the ball up into the air at a useful height. Consider going through a club fitting session to check on your shaft flexes and make any adjustments that are necessary.
  • Hitting the ball too high off the tee. Are your fairway wood tee shots soaring way too high into the air? So high that they only travel a short distance down the fairway before falling from the sky? If this is the case in your game, the solution may be as simple as teeing the ball up lower. Remember, when playing from the fairway, you hit these clubs right off the turf – so you don’t need a high tee to play good shots. With a driver, you will usually want to tee the ball well up off the turf to find the sweet spot, but that’s just not the case with fairway woods. Instead, try using your tee to move the ball just barely up off the grass. Basically, you’ll use the tee to give yourself a perfect lie, but don’t use it to put much air between the ground and the ball – doing so would just be asking for trouble.

Most of the time, the issues you are having with your fairway woods will have a reasonable solution. Of course, nothing will get better if you just ignore these problems and hope they will go away on their own. That’s not going to happen in most cases, so get down to work at the range to fix your fairway wood problems and your confidence in this category of clubs should soon grow.

— Using Your Fairway Woods in the Short Game

Believe it or not, your fairway woods can be a major ally when trying to master the short game. Sure, you won’t be able to use your fairway woods for a lot of short game shots – there are some things only a wedge can do – but a three or five wood can get you out of a tight spot from time to time. As long as you are aware of what you can and can’t do with a fairway wood in the short game, you should be able to pick your spots successfully.

The big key here is that these clubs are only going to hit short shots that stay very low to the ground. This makes sense, of course, since they have such little loft. The wedges you normally use to chip will often have more than 50* of loft, and maybe as much as 60*. A fairway wood, on the other hand, will probably come in somewhere between 13* and 21*. That means when you play a short shot with a fairway wood, the ball is going to stay close to the ground and it is going to roll out significantly.

Fairway Woods Lesson Chart

So, what kind of shot can you play with that profile? A bump and run, of course. If you have a path of nothing but short grass between your ball and the hole (either fairway-length grass or the green itself), you can bump the ball with your fairway wood and let it run on up to the target. To play this shot, choke down on the handle of the club and use a technique that is very similar to your putting stroke. In other words, you’ll want to keep your hands out of the action and just use your shoulders to rock the club back and through. This shot is particularly useful when the ground is firm and you are worried about getting your wedge under it cleanly without hitting the shot thin or fat. The fairway wood will provide you with some margin for error, so this is also a good choice when you are a bit nervous.

Although this shot is fairly user-friendly, that doesn’t mean you can try it on the course without some practice. You may find that the ball comes off the face of your fairway wood a bit quicker than you expect, so practice is important to learn how to control your distance properly. Each time you work on your short game, take a couple of minutes to hit a few of these fairway wood chip shots. Pretty soon, you’ll have a good feel for the shot and will have the confidence you need to use it on the course.

There is a good chance that you are not currently using your fairway woods to the best of your ability. With the information in this article providing a boost, we hope you’ll soon be able to hit better shots with these valuable and versatile clubs. Thanks for reading and good luck!