Using fairway woods during the winter to get to the greens

As the winter months approach, as the ground conditions soften, and as the carry reduces you are going to find that over these cold winter months that your irons might not be able to get you to the greens and you might have to resort to your good old friend the fairway wood.

I wanted to just give you a few tips on how to execute these shots correctly and deliver the club as the manufacturer designed it.

Now there is a myth that with a fairway wood you sweep it off the deck, now the impact is a lot more sweepy (let’s say for want of a better term) than an iron however track man data, launch monitor data and all of the assessments of tour professionals with show you that there is actually a slight downward blow with these clubs.

What you must do is get that 14, 15, 16, 17 degrees of loft to the underside of that golf ball and if you’re sweeping that golf club through impact you’re going to find it very difficult to deliver the loft to the back edge of the ball correctly.

So there has to be a little bit of a squeeze on the ball, a little bit of a downward blow and I’m just going to highlight a few things that allow that to happen.

So if we just take Els for example; look at where the back edge of the ball is aligned. I’ve drawn a line up vertically here and you can see this sits below the logo on his polo shirt. Just to his sternum side of his body of his armpit.

So it’s slightly back of where a driver would be but nonetheless you can see that it’s not quite as far forward as I’m sure you thought it was.

If you look at Tiger’s shaft here you can see the shaft is coming out of the ground vertically, there is no reward lean of the shaft and no forward lean.

So the shaft is set as the manufacturers designed it and if you were to just let the club sit on the ground naturally and open your hand out while you just support the club you’ll see that when you square the club face the shaft on a driver and a fairway wood wants to come out of the club very vertically. As you can even see with Ernie Els here, so let that happen don’t get any lean forward on the shaft as you’ll promote too much of a dig and don’t get any lean away from the target as you’ll promote too sharp a rise angle through impact.

So really you can see from simple terms that the ball is below the logo and the shaft is just leaning or coming out of the ground very vertically and you’ll see in both these instances the hands just directly on top of the back edge of the golf ball.

So very simple set up here. You can see in both cases as well there is the most subtle of spine angled away from the target.

Ball below the little logo on the polo shirt, hands on top of the back edge of the ball and then just a slight tilt away with the spine from the target.

That’s the set up taken care of, I just now want to show you impact. Now if I just take away all these lines and just get you to highlight or just concentrate on this little area just past the golf ball here just watch what happens when Els strikes the ball.

So he doesn’t just clip the ball off the turf, you can see there; the hands get back over the ball quite early. Now watch here; shaft re-aligns in a nice vertical line, watch the dust come out of the ground in the most subtle of divots.

So divots aren’t absolutely paramount but they do tell us a lot and we do want to promote people to take divots but not big gauges out of the turf.

You can see here imagining the golf ball is sat on a pound coin the club has struck the ball and taken the pound coin as well and then that in turn has also left the slight dust that you can see coming out of the ground.

Let’s have a little look at Woods doing and you’ll see here as the club gets up to the top of the backswing he just winds up on top of the golf ball. As he moves down he shifts into his left side, look how the left hip moves over the left foot. So he moving his body weight into his lead side very early, so that now allows him to get on top of the ball, his body weight set and now he can (you can see there a little bit of a downward blow), now he can squeeze the golf ball of the turf.

So it’s not a huge chunk of divot, it is as though the club is just brushing the grass and creating a disturbance there but in both cases (if I just put Els and Woods both side by side) you’ll notice there is a bunt into the left leg to start the downswing.

So there’s a shift of body weight over that lead leg that then allows the right contact point with the ground and if your hanging your weight back you’re going to find it very easy to hit the ground before the ball. If you’re shifting on top of the golf ball you’ll find it easier to get this strike that we’re discussing.

So from that there’s a lateral bunt over the left side as the club comes down, makes that nice smooth contact with the turf, not that big deep divot and the body continues to rotate to face the target.

You can see how early his chest and his tummy turn to face where that ball is going and even with Tiger here (riddled with injuries at this point) you can see belt buckle and chest turning through and his weight finishes nicely in that left leg.

Now watch this image as we bring this up, camera angle is not quite as square on as it was with Tiger in the other images but just watch the shift into the left side and the divot. Now he’s playing out the semi here but still nonetheless there is a little squeeze on the ground.

And that is exactly what I want you to think of through these winter months in order to get these additional carries that you need, those extra yards. Just try and feel that you take a little bit of care at set up, making sure you get the most subtle of spine angle away from the target, then as you move into impact you shift your weight into your front leg and you allow the club to take a divot.

I hope this makes sense, hope this helps you through these cold wet winter months and even into the summer next year when you’ve got that fairway wood and you need to get the carry remember there is the most subtle of divots imagine that ball sat on top of a pound coin and you’re taking the ball and the pound coin which will then in turn give a little bit of bruising of the ground.

That’s a great bit of technique for you to take away and think about on the golf course

Pitch perfect with Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington

In this video we cover some pitching similarities at the top level. What we can see in both of these cases is some similarities in how the blade is set that looks already before you even watch their action, that they are playing a high softer shot.

So, that in itself is quite a difficult shot to teach the average golfer anyway, just due to their general swing tendencies, but what we can see is how similar their actions are at the top of the game, but with two distinctively different golf swings.

What you have here is Harrington on the right and Els on the left, two very different golf swings, but lots of things that look identical here.
First things first, what you can see with both of them is that they load up a little bit of weight in to their left side just ever so-slightly at address. Stance is pinched in a little bit, so in each case their feet are around about one-club heads length apart.

You can see that the weight is loaded just ever so slightly under the left foot. If they were standing on a set of scales under each foot, the left scale or the scale on the left hand-side of their stance would just be reading a little bit more of load underneath that foot than the right.
So, you can see already then that I’ve drawn a line here from the shirt buttons, the shirt buttons are over the back-edge of the golf ball as a minimum requirement. I quite like to see those shirt buttons in line with the front-edge of the ball, but nonetheless they are playing a higher shot, so you would like to see that back just a touch. But generally speaking, they’re playing off a tight lie and blade is already set to an open position.

Now, if you watch Els here on the left, the most distinct thing about his action is how early he turns his chest through to the target. If you look at the peak on his cap and the shirt buttons on his polo shirt, you can see that they are moving out in front of the golf ball early, so you can see here that the rotation is coming from the chest, the legs are very quiet and the chest and eyes are looking out in front of the golf ball very early.

Now I often think this is a great way to get people to keep turning through the shot, and what we tend to find is the old adage; ‘keep the head down’, is an absolute nightmare when it comes to chipping and pitching, because what happens is the spine and the sternum start to pinch or lean away. The low-point moves before the golf ball and the low-point is governed by where we align the sternum.

So you can see here that he has kept his sternum on top of the golf ball and now look at the clubs interaction with the turf. Look where the club bites the ground, it’s right underneath the golf ball, because he’s kept his sternum over it.

Now of course there are ways in which you can mess around with that. If you start moving the handle back and forward you will then mess around with where the club bottoms out. But generally speaking here, he has returned his hands back to where they were at address. So there’s his address position, kept his sternum on top of the ball, kept his weight very static and his hands have returned back to that position he pre-set at address.

If you watch Harrington chokes down on the club a little bit more than Els, but nonetheless, keeps his weight in the left-side, turns the chest through, keeps the peak of his cap a little bit more stable, but you can still see here he’s turned his chest through to that target very early. And for me, I see huge similarities here in that the legs are incredibly quiet, set-up his pre-setting impact, so no real differences there, all they’ve done is bring that blade back in, and then look at how as he hits this golf ball it’s as though he’s hitting it with the back-edge of the club on the ground, so he slams the back-edge of the wedge on to the turf and there’s no divot.

And that’s a very good way of getting somebody to understand how to use the bounce and not the leading-edge. So, in both of these cases, the back-edge of the club, the back-edge of the wedge, the bounce of the club is striking the turf not the leading-edge, and what that is going to do is the rounded sole will stop the club going underground and allow you to maintain the loft on the golf club.

So, a nice little exercise would be to stand with your feet close together, keep your sternum on top of the golf ball, feel that there is very little lateral movement and make a swing where you get the back-edge of the club to bottom out on the turf and just turn the chest through to the target early.

And that in itself will just help you to understand the importance of rotating and not trying to squeeze the club down in to the golf ball. You just rotate and collect the golf ball, and just allow the back-edge of the club to bottom out nicely.

So, in both of these cases, very similar techniques, sternum on top of the ball, a little bit of weight in the left side, nice early rotation of the chest and you can then see from that back-edge of the club hits the ground and there’s a nice little turn early-on in to the finish position.
Nice similarities there, something in which I’m sure in which if you looked at just one asset, one of those, focused on one of those little areas, I think that would help you just improve your pitching and chipping through these winter months. No-end.

I hope you enjoyed these technical pointers, if you need any more information or would like any clarification, or any help with your own game, send me an email at and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Unlock your power potential

unlock-power-potentialUsing the ground beneath your feet to increase the power in your swing is the key to hitting great drives.

The optimal movement pattern used in order to create the most power has been identified by sports science and involves speeding and then slowing sections of the body and transferring the force to the next one.

Learn how to add yards to your drives by clicking the picture and downloading this article.

The Impact Code

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Get your swing centre and weight moving towards the target in the right manner. Start by clicking on the image to download the full article…

Putting Shoulders

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Click the image to the left to download the article…

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Click the image to the left to download the article…

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Thankfully this is one fault that be easily fixed with this instructional guide, just click the image to download it.

Pitch Arms

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To avoid this and reduce arm action simply follow the drill laid out in this article (click the image to download it).

Perfect your setup

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Take the first steps to fixing the faults with your setup by clicking on the image to read this article.