It's fairly common for golfers to limit their use of fairway woods to second shots on par 5s and tee shots on long par 3s. They might use them only a few times a round. That's a shame, because fairway woods are useful in many situations. They're designed to be forgiving on mis-hits; they make it easier to get the ball off the ground or out of the rough; they provide more distance than irons and better accuracy than drivers—and they're a pretty reliable chipping club. Here are four ways to get more out of your fairway woods to help you score. — With Keely Levins
AROUND THE GREEN: ADD POP TO THE SHOT
If you don't need to loft the shot to carry an obstacle and stop it quick, your fairway wood is going to make chipping easy.
I grip down and get in my normal chipping setup—weight and hands forward (above)—then I swing like I'm making a putting stroke. It's just a rock of the shoulders back and through. The club's loft will help the ball up initially but get it rolling with plenty of power to scoot onto the green and track toward the hole.
IN A FAIRWAY BUNKER: PICK IT CLEAN
Dig your feet in for stability, but grip down on the club because your feet are now lower than the ball. Also, play the ball slightly forward in your stance to help get it over the lip.
My swing thought is to pick the ball—like I'm catching no sand (below). I also let my wrists release through impact to add loft. The worst thing is to sway. Stay centered over the ball, and you should hit it solid.
FROM THE ROUGH: AIM RIGHT, SWING RIGHT
Rough often shuts the face before impact, causing you to hit it low and left. To prepare for that, try to minimize the grass your club strikes by favoring your front foot and making a steeper swing that catches more ball (below).
I also aim right of my target. If the face shuts and the ball goes left, it will still fly where I wanted it to. And if it goes where I aim, hopefully it will draw back to the target. That's why I swing out to the right. If the face shuts, my swing path will cause the ball to draw.
“YOU NEED TO APPROACH TIGHT LIES LIKE AN IRON AND TAKE A LITTLE DIVOT.”
FROM A TIGHT LIE: GO DOWN AND GET IT
You need to approach these lies like an iron and take a little divot. I have my weight a little forward at address and my body centered over the ball (below).
When it comes to shot shape, I like playing a little fade because it's more predictable. I try to keep the clubface square with my target line as long as possible as I come through impact. I'm holding off the clubface from closing, which lets me hit a nice, little squeeze fade.
A good way to get comfortable off tight lies is hitting half shots. It can feel strange to trap a fairway wood with a full swing, so it's easier to develop a feel for it with a smaller swing.
Sandra Gal is in her 11th season on the LPGA Tour.