At this week’s Masters, players will be faced with a number of lengthy shots into firm, undulating greens. Think of the tee shot from the back tee on the 240-yard, par-3 fourth. Or the second shots for some competitors into any of Augusta National’s four par 5s. These shots require two things that are seemingly at odds with each other: They need to be hit long and with sufficient height to quickly stop on the green. Enter high-lofted fairway woods and hybrids.
At last year’s Masters there were 44 5-woods, 7-woods or hybrids with 22 degrees of loft or more in a field of 87 players. That’s slightly higher than 50 percent of the field on average. Compare that to this year’s Players Championship (chosen because it has a full field of players that regularly play the PGA Tour) where on average it was just over 40 percent and you get the idea. Masters competitors look to these high-lofted clubs as a viable option for Masters week.
Not that all these players put high-lofted clubs in play that week. Matthew Fitzpatrick’s Ping G400 7-wood is a fixture in his bag. Same with Rickie Fowler and his Cobra King F9 5-wood. For others, it’s mostly a one-week, course-specific change. Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel and Tyrrell Hatton, for instance, were among the players adding 5-woods at last year’s Masters.
The takeaway for everyday players is they should seriously consider such clubs. Average golfers might have difficulty getting a 3-wood in the air, and a long iron is almost a non-starter for most. Putting a high-lofted fairway wood or a hybrid in the bag can prove to be a valuable asset not just to move the ball down the fairway, but to land—and hold—it on the green.
Who knows, perhaps you’ll even duplicate that little shot Gene Sarazen hit at the 1935 Masters for a double eagle. Yes, it was struck with a 4-wood, but the loft on that club was 18.75 degrees—that would be a weak 5-wood today.
Nearly 85 years ago even The Squire knew the value of high loft at the Masters.