I’ve always been a fan of fairway woods (now “metals”?). I guess that came from the fact that I was always smaller than the other players growing up. As my game matured into my 20s and 30s, I played a wonderful golf course that was 7,000 yards, so good fairway wood play was important for me to score the longer par 4s and to reach some of the par fives in two shots. I found early on that the mostly overlooked 4-wood was a powerful weapon for my kind of golf. And to this day, that’s the only fairway wood that’s in my bag. I’ve written about that little gem before.
Today’s post is in response to a question from Austen, who asked:
“How important to course management is a fairway wood? It is my least reliable club by far. I am very confident in my driver and hybrid. I hit my driver 250-260 and my hybrid just over 200. Would it be better to switch to a 4 wood from my 3 wood in an attempt at consistency or just practice and get better with it?”Well, Austen, if you are a regular reader, you’ll remember the article I wrote just a few weeks ago about building your set around a chart of desired full-swing distances. I am a firm believer that is the only way to get the precision you need to navigate your way around any golf course. But your specific question seemed to have two parts to me – one on hitting the fairway wood consistently, the other on whether to switch to a 4-wood. Let me address those two separately.
There could be multiple reasons you are not consistent with your current 3-wood. I’d start by analyzing the club itself. How does it compare to your hybrid in length, swingweight and shaft? Don’t forget grip size. At fairway wood speeds, a slight variation in shaft can make a world of difference. My bet is that if you put the clubs on a frequency analyzer, you’ll find the 3-wood shaft to be quite different than that in your driver and hybrid.
Another part of the formula is the loft of your 3-wood. Is it strong – 13-15 degrees? That might not give you the higher ball flight you’d like to have for long approaches to the green or positioning shots on longer par fives. As to your idea of the 4-wood, I’m all for it. Like you, I hit my hybrid just over 200, so the 4-wood gives me an effective approach club for shots of 215-225. I don’t find myself hitting at greens from longer than that too often, and a 3-wood is much more difficult to hit high enough to land softly if I did. I strongly suggest you try out a few 4-woods, though they are hard to find. Look for a loft of 17-18 degrees.
The other side of the formula is fairway wood technique, and yes, it does take some practice time to get it right. I like a fairway wood of not more than 42-1/2” in length, and many 3s are pushing past 43. That’s just too hard to control off the deck in my opinion. You’ll want to play the ball just about 1-2” inside your left instep at address, and your posture should have your arms comfortably hanging from your shoulders – not too stretched out toward the ball. The swing should be long and relaxed, and you want to make sure you keep the left side moving through impact. Most golfers feel the tendency to try to help the ball into the air, but resist that urge. Trust your swing and let the club do the work . . . it will!
It’s kind of fun to spend a little time on the range perfecting your fairway wood technique, and it will pay off huge dividends when you play. Good approaches on long par 3s and par 4s, and occasionally hitting a par 5 in two shots, does wonders for the ego, not to mention the scorecard.
I hope that helps, Austen, and I’m sure that new EIDOLON V-SOLE wedge will help you save strokes while you’re working on it!
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great article terry...i've been trying to settle on a good wood/hybrid configuration since last year, and actually began this year with a 4 and 7 instead of the standard 3 and 5 i had been playing...i missed my r9 3 wood too much off the tee, so i'm now playing with a 3 and 7...
i find that the 7 wood is a perfect club for that 195-205 distance...and if i really want to go at a par 5 in two...i don't have too much trouble with the 3 off the deck...i would say that the 4 wood was a bit easier from the fairway, but i just wasn't in that position enough...so i put the club in the bag i would hit more often...
i may look into the 17 degree r11...
Grates on the ears when the TV guys call it a metal... makes me want to beat them with my 7 wood...
I prefer fairway composite.
Great write up Terry,
I've seen very similar articles in golf magazines over the past few years, both about people migrasting back to fairway woods, and the use of a 4 wood vs. 3 wood.
My current set, on the upper end goes Driver (10.5*), 4 Wood (16.5*), 5 Wood (19*), hybrid (22*). Carrying a 4 and 5 wood may seem strange, but there is a good loft gap, and the 4 wood is more "modern" with a decent siz head, while the 5 wood is more of a classic pear shaped smallish head. Everything listed is stiff shaft, except the hybrid which is R flex. I like that because I can choke down on the hybrid and use it as a 4 iron distance club, without the shaft getting too stiff.
The rest of my bag goes 5i-PW, and 50/55/60 wedges. That puts me pretty much 10-15 yard gaps between all my club, except the gap betweenm y 5i and hybrid. But I get around that by practicing a lot on that choked down quasi-4 iron shot. Now if I only could hit them straighter...
Ahh, I have a driver, a 4 wood and a hybrid. No other woods in the bag.Love the 4 wood
17 degree hybrid that matches the 20 and 23. They work great from 220 down to about 180.
11° driver, 17° wood, then a 21° hybrid. Love my 4 wood also!
12* driver, 17* wood 23* hybrid. Easy woods and accurate wedges.
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