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How To Rip Your 3-Wood

My keys to getting the most out of the most important club

January 2014

I like hitting driver off tees where the more prudent play is a 3-wood. At tour courses, the setup is often such that I hit my 3-wood from the turf only once a round, or maybe even not at all, depending on how the par 5s are playing. So how can I say that the 3-wood is the most important club in my bag—or yours?

The reason is, it sets the tone for the day. Whereas you hit driver on the upswing and catch irons and wedges with a downward blow, a 3-wood demands a neutral strike: You can't be steep or shallow. Some guys out here—Hunter Mahan is one—stand on the range and hit nothing but 3-woods off the deck until they start flushing it. That's when they know they're ready to head to the first tee.

I recently got a new 3-wood. It has more loft and a smaller head, so it feels like a 4-wood. I still rip it just as far off a tee peg, but the more playable design gives me more shots from the fairway.

Let The Arms Drop

MY KEY MOVE

LET THE ARMS DROP

Here's the thought that ties my whole swing together: When I start the downswing, I let my arms drop halfway down as my shoulders stay closed to the target. I often rehearse this move as part of my pre-shot routine. It counteracts a tendency I've had of unwinding my shoulders too early, which forces me to slow down so the club can catch up at impact. The harder I try to rip a shot, the more this problem shows up.

By dropping my arms to start down, my wrists naturally hold their angle with the shaft, and it's easier to approach the ball from the inside. As you can see here, my back is still facing the target. From this point, my hips will whip through in unison with my arms. It's an incredibly powerful and stable feeling.

Chase The Shoulder

SOFT DRAW

CHASE THE SHOULDERS

When I'm swinging my best, I hit a high draw that feels like a cut. I say this because I sense the clubhead exiting left after impact. I know this sounds odd if you've always been told to "swing out to first base," but hear me out.

To hit my draw, I move the ball back so it's closer to the middle of my stance. I still swing down from the inside, but my main thought is to chase the ball with my right shoulder after impact. This keeps my torso rotating aggressively through the shot.

Contrary to popular opinion, I think the shot that lands softest is a high draw. Most golfers who fade a fairway wood do so by hitting down on the ball, which produces a hard, running shot.
Quads 'N Scaps

SOLID SETUP

QUADS 'N SCAPS

Thanks to my teacher, Sean Foley, this is the phrase in my head every time I address the ball. As I settle into position, I bend my knees until I feel the tops of my thighs, or quadriceps, engage. Once I feel this strong connection to the ground, I lightly pinch my shoulder blades, or scapulae, together, then relax. This makes my shoulders feel wide and strong, not rounded and weak.

Focusing on good posture really helps my consistency day to day. In the gym I do a lot of deadlifts, and I'm feeling the difference when I get over the ball. My legs are heavy and sturdy, which gives me confidence that I can put some speed in the swing without losing my balance.
Stay Down On The Ball

HARD CUT

STAY DOWN ON THE BALL

When a ball is sitting down in the grass, it's easier to make solid contact using a swing that cuts across from out to in. This is the natural swing shape of most golfers anyway.

Because my preferred flight is a draw, producing a left-to-right trajectory is a slightly mechanical process for me. I set the club first, aiming the face 25 to 30 yards left of the target. Then I aim my feet even farther left. Ball position is off my front foot. I want to swing along my stance line, truly committing to starting the ball left.

The tendency is to lose your nerve, and stand up and lift the handle in a last-second attempt to start the ball straight. Here, I've stayed down. The clubface hasn't rotated closed—my right forearm hasn't rolled over my left—which tells me this ball is going to cut.

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