Of all the shots my higher-handicap students try to hit, a fairway wood off the ground is among the ones they seem to struggle with the most. Part of the problem is that they swing these clubs like a driver. They try to hit up on the ball to launch it high and far. Instead, the club bottoms out too soon, and they top the shot low and short. The secret to hitting great fairway woods off the deck, especially from tight lies, is to treat them like long-iron shots. If you can pinch the ball off the turf with a slight downward blow, you're going to pick up some distance and turn par 5s into scoring holes. Scroll down, and I'll walk you through the correct technique.
SHIFT LEFT, THEN BRUSH IT OFF THE TURF
Address the ball with your feet a little wider than your shoulders and the left shoulder slightly higher than the right. The ball should be played a little farther back in your stance than a driver, roughly in line with the left side of your chest. Also, check that your weight feels directly under the shoelaces in both feet and not in the toes.
As you swing back, your body, arms, hands and club should turn in unison until your back is to the target and your weight has shifted into the inside of your right leg. When you swing down, press into the ground with your left foot and let the club swing down, striking the ball before brushing along the turf.
Use this drill to get a feel for a downward strike: Make a swing, hit a tee and try to slide it forward (below). — With Keely Levins
Alana Swain teaches at Atlantic Golf Club in Bridgehampton, N.Y.