Approach Shots

Stop Hitting Long Irons In The Wrong Places

August 25, 2016

Welcome to Golf Digest Instruction Throwback Thursday, where we take a trip into the Golf Digest archive, pull out a random issue, laugh at some of the outfits, and find the best, most relevant, instruction piece. Who knows -- a look into the past could be the key to fixing your game now.

This week’s instruction Throwback Thursday comes from the October 1983 issue. In it, Tom Kite has a piece about the versatility of fairway woods. This is a good topic to revisit now, because too often fairway woods go un-hit. A lot of people only use their fairway woods off the tee or off pristine lies in the fairway. Tom Kite is here to tell you to be a little more brave: Your fairway wood will work from a lot of different lies. Had there been hybrids in 1983, Kite would be saying the same thing about them.

Too often, players take long irons from places where a fairway wood (or hybrid) would work better. Kite says to think about the places you’ve had failure with long irons. Instead of continuing to hit squirrely long irons out of tough lies, take advantage of the forgiveness in a fairway wood or hybrid.

kite fairway woods.jpg

Rough Kite says since there’s more mass in the head of a fairway wood than a long iron, it’s going to be harder for the grass to grab the head and twist it. If you’re dealing with high rough, Kite suggests gripping down a little. This will give you a more upright swing that’ll help pop the ball out.

Fairway Bunkers: You don’t always have to relegate yourself to hitting a wedge back out into the middle of the fairway – though that sometimes is the best play. Kite says to only hit fairway woods out of bunkers when you’ve got a great lie and low lip. “To hit it, anchor your feet firmly in the sand to guard against slipping, then grip down to compensate for the fact that your feet are lower than the ball and to let you make a more upright swing,” says Kite. “Set your weight slightly left and perhaps play the ball a little farther back in your stance, because you absolutely must hit the ball first or it will go nowhere.” Hybrids are also a good option for fairway bunker shots.

Hardpan This is a lesson in not topping fairway woods. “From a bare spot of hardpan, you have to make sure the center of the club gets down to the center of the ball, which means you must emphasize striking down on it. Don’t try to pick the ball cleanly, a common tendency,” says Kite. That’s still a tendency today. Just because fairway woods and hybrids have bigger heads than irons doesn’t mean that you should be sweeping them like a driver. Sweeping and hitting up on a driver works because you’re hitting off a tee. Out on the course, you’ve got to hit down on your fairway woods and hybrids to get max distance – and to avoid topping it.

Divot Ok, this probably doesn’t happen to you a ton, but when you do end up in divots in the fairway, it stinks. “The fairway wood is better than a long iron, but in this case it’s best to go to a more-lofted wood.” (Insert, hybrid.) “Again, make every effort to hit the ball first,” says Kite. “If the ball is really down, position it slightly – half an inch or so – back in your stance.”