I have no doubt that at some point this shot has plagued your game. Topping the fairway wood was the bane of my golf game for a while when I first began the sport. No matter what I did, it was my consistent bad shot, to the point that I would never hit my woods.
Many people these days seem to favour your hybrid/rescue club instead of the woods because they’re deemed to be easier to hit. However, not everyone likes a hybrid, and I’m going to go over some key points in this post that will help you pure your woods again and again!
I know it can be incredibly frustrating. Setting yourself up at the ball, ready to launch it towards the green, when all of a sudden, you top the ball and it ends up rolling 10 yards from where you are standing.
The key mental error that people have with a wood is that due to the low amount of loft, you should help it get in the air by hitting up on the ball like your driver. However, this just isn’t the case, and causes a mental block where you’re naturally trying to hit up on the ball, despite it not being on a tee. The reason we can get away with hitting up on the ball with a driver is because the ball is well above the ground level. This isn’t the case when you’re trying to launch the ball with your wood off the fairway.
Comparatively when we’re hitting an iron, we try and hit down on the ball, and often take a little bit of the ground with it. While this isn’t the goal with a woods, it is a better approach than trying to hit up on the ball. In a perfect world, the fairway wood will just brush the ground upon impact and connect with the ball at the bottom of the swing path.
Setup of a Fairway Wood Shot
Your setup is going to be somewhat between a driver and iron setup. You don’t want the ball too far forward, but not central either. A good rule of thumb is to place the ball about an inch behind your lead foot. An alignment stick would definitely be helpful here! Make sure the ball isn’t too far forward, otherwise you’re making your life difficult for yourself and increasing the likelihood of you topping the golf ball.
Using the diagram below, I am going to explain the best position for your golf ball, and where to aim your swing. A good way to practice this out on the grass, is to get two tee pegs and place one in the ground where the ball should be (red line) and one on the ground where the green line is. Now, you obviously line up your shot behind the golf ball (red line). However, you want to try and brush the tee peg on the green line. This is going to promote a body shift forwards in your swing. You want the bottom of your swing to effectively be where the green line is. The key here though isn’t to hit down on the ball like you would with your irons, but create a smooth “brush” across the green line.
The other key point here is that you won’t end up leaning back in your swing, which is one of the key causes of topping your woods. For some reason, we subconsciously think we need to hit up on golf clubs which have little loft. This is the reason many people struggle with a lot of the longer clubs.
The above practice setup is great to try before you begin a game on the course. Just set up the tee pegs in the ground as I said, and take 5-10 swings before your tee time. You’ll really find that it gets your body in the motions to hit those fairway woods really cleanly. It may take some practice, and I would recommend doing this drill every day for a few weeks. Your body will eventually get used to the movement, and understand that it is the natural way to hit your wood. Make sure you start with slow practice swings, and then slowly build the speed up to your normal swing speed.
When you’re actually taking your shots on the golf course, try and visualise a line in front of your ball, and use that to remind yourself of the drill, and aim to hit that line. If you’re playing with friends, and it isn’t a serious game, you could even place the tee in front of the ball as a marker to help yourself here. During the autumn months on my golf course, there’s often leaves or residue on the ground, which is a great way to use your surroundings to help align your golf shots. That’s another top off the tee. I will often use the divots, leaves, marks etc in the ground to line up my shot with where I want the ball to go. It is far easier to aim for something 2 feet in front of you, than 140 yards away.
Give this drill a go! I would love to hear how it works out for you, and I’m sure you’ll be flushing your fairway woods in no time!