*Editor's Note: Every Monday Kevin Hinton, Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, N.Y. and one of Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers, tells you how a tour player hits a key shot. Last week Kevin focused on the immaculate bunker play of Rory McIlroy, who won the Honda Classic while withstanding a tremendous final-round 62 by Tiger Woods. This week he critiques the massive 5-wood shots McIlroy hits, usually to par 5s, setting up eagle putts. Here, Keven explains how he does it, and how you can benefit as well.
*Here's Kevin:As we look back and take stock of all the drama and amazing shots from the week that was at Doral, Tiger's achilles tendon may very well end up being the biggest story line. As for what the average player can best apply to his game, we thought taking a look at Rory McIlroy's fantastic fairway wood game could be most helpful.
Rory hit a number of great shots with his 5-wood, including a towering bomb on the 10th hole of Saturday's third round that led to an eagle. The ability to hit consistent fairway wood shots is a very important skill for the average player, even moreso than for a tour player. While as good as Rory hits them, he likely only hits a fairway wood a couple of times per round; a middle handicapper will use a fairway wood or hybrid much more often.
Here are some ideas that can help improve your fairway game:
1. Consider losing the 3-wood
For most players, the 3-wood off the turf is the most difficult full shot in golf. If you compare it to a driver, a standard 3-wood doesn't have that much more loft (13-15 degrees is about normal), and the head is much smaller. Hitting a big-headed driver off a tee is considerably easier. With that in mind, think about putting a 5-wood in your bag instead. The slightly shorter shaft and the extra few degrees of loft make it much easier to hit. Unless you are less than a 10-handicapper, I typically advise avoiding the 3-wood.
2. Fairway woods vs. Hybrids
Doing a fairway wood versus hybrid test is a smart move. Most clubs or pro shops have ample demos to try these days. There's no real rhyme or reason to which one you'll like better, but most people end up having a preference. For example, standard 5-woods are about 19 degrees. Comparing that to an 18-degree hybrid would be a fair test. While the 5-wood has one more degree of loft, it should also be slightly longer, making the distance potential of the two clubs about the same. I'd base my decision on a few things: Which design are you more comfortable with, which club seems easier to hit from the rough, which club performs better from the fairway, which club produces the trajectory you are seeking? Try to answer as many of these questions as you can prior to your purchase.
3. Hit them all more like an iron
Whether it's a fairway wood or hybrid, you'll benefit from thinking of them as more like an iron and less like a driver. I often see golfers struggle because they are in a driver setup attempting to hit a fairway shot. While a wide stance, a forward ball position and a touch of weight on your right side at address can be great for your driver, it makes for difficult contact from the fairway. This stance encourages swinging up at the ball, again, something that is great for a driver. Hybrids and fairways wood, however, still require a descending blow like an iron does. If you watch Rory or Tiger for example, they often take small divots with their fairway clubs. Avoid an excessively wide stance, and play the ball only slightly in front of middle. Try to setup up 50/50 at address, and be sure to hit the ground on every swing. Trying to lift the ball into the air is the most common mistake I see with these clubs.