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Pro Tip of the Week: Don’t Sweep Your Fairway Woods

Once winter is over we will all be playing the ball as it lies on the fairways. This time of year the grass tends to be a bit thin, and when the ball sits a bit down in a “tight” lie, striking a fairway wood solidly may seem like an impossible thing to do. I think that a lot of problems players have with making solid contact with a 3 wood (the hardest club to hit off the ground) or even a 5 or 7 wood is that there is a perception that you are supposed to “sweep” the ball off the ground with these clubs. When the ball is on a tee as it is for all drives and for tee shots hit with a fairway wood then certainly it is fine to keep the clubhead off the ground and swing into impact with the club striking even with or upward on the ball. However, when the ball is on the ground it does not sit “up” on top of the grass: rather, the weight of the ball sinks it down into the grass so that the bottom of the ball is below what appears to be the surface. In this case (which is just about every shot that does not luckily come to rest in a “perfect” lie where it is actually perched up) a sweeping blow will produce a strike where the ball hits the bottom of the clubface, resulting in a “thin” or even a topped shot. When players tire of their fairway wood shots coming off feeling clunky and not getting any height they often try to fix the problem by trying to lift the ball up into the air, resulting in a shot where the club hits the ground before the ball, the dreaded “fat” shot. The remedy for this situation is simple: think of striking your fairway woods more like an iron than a driver, which means you should be trying to deliver a descending blow to the ball, hitting the ball first and at least brushing the grass after you hit the ball. If you watch the players on the PGA Tour you will find that almost all of their 3 wood and hybrid shots take ground (a divot) after impact. You should still play the more forward in your stance than you do an iron, but make sure the ball is a few inches inside the left heel at address. Just the simple thought of hitting slightly downward on your fairway woods can make all the difference low flying clunker and a solid shot with decent trajectory.

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