Groove the perfect fairway wood swing. . .
Hitting a fairway wood is very similar to hitting a driver in regard to the setup, although you'll discover the best results if you play the ball a bit farther back in your stance than where you'd play it with a driver. As for the swing, Tour players harmoniously agree that the word “sweep" is a good word to think of when envisioning the perfect fairway wood motion. Sweep indicates that you must catch the ball on the upswing. It also instills the notion that it's a slow, controlled movement, not an abrupt, steep lurch. The key to all this is the generation of a wide swing arc, especially on the takeaway. That's why the advice “low and slow" is so often used to describe the takeaway with the fairway woods.
Sole search. . .
More and more, fairway woods are designed with the intent to be used as trouble clubs. These “versatility" woods typically feature special sole designs and rails that allow them to cut through rough or glide easily over sand and hard pan.
Opt for the long three. . .
If your driver gives you fits, you're in luck. Many manufacturers offer “long" 3-woods, designed with 13 degrees of loft and a shaft length more typical of a fairway wood. The stronger loft should provide you with ample distance to set up a reasonable approach, while the shorter shaft length should make the club easier to control.
Beat the fairway bunker. . .
Don't always lay up from a fairway bunker. The sole design of most fairway woods will help it glide easily over the sand, whereas the leading edge of a long iron will tend to dig. Set up with a shoulder-wide stance and favor your weight toward your back foot. Aim left of your target with an open stance and open the face a little. Also, choke down on the club after you firmly dig your feet into the sand. As for the swing, don't be afraid to take a little sand. You'll still be able to get a lot of club face on the ball. Expect the ball to fade, so choose your target carefully.
Make it a low cg (center of gravity). . .
Most amateurs agree that woods are easier to hit than long irons, which has fueled the recent trend toward replacing long irons with fairway woods. Nevertheless, fairway woods still require sound mechanics in order to produce the results you need to post a good score. For many, getting the ball airborne off the turf is difficult. That's why manufacturers have developed fairway woods with lower centers of gravity and shallower faces. These design elements effectively make it easier to get the ball airborne, help the ball fly higher and allow it to land softly at the target.
Know what replaces what. . .
By now, golfers know that fairway woods can be viable alternatives for the long irons. If you've thought about making the switch, it's important to know which fairway wood replaces which iron. Otherwise, you'll leave gaps in your bag that will make club selection a real nightmare. Use the chart below to dial in your fairway wood set in accordance with the clubs you'd like to leave in your closet.
-2-wood (13 degrees). . Replaces . . . 1 - Iron
-3-wood (15 degrees). . Replaces . . .1 or 2 Iron
-4-wood (17 degrees). . Replaces . . 2 Iron
-5-wood (18 degrees). . Replaces 2 or 3 Iron
-6-wood (20 degrees). . Replaces 3 or 4 Iron
-7-wood (22 degrees) . . Replaces 4 or 5 Iron
-9-wood (25 degrees) . . Replaces . . 5 or 6 Iron
-11-wood (27 degrees) . . Replaces . .6 Iron
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