How To Hit A Fairway Wood Off The Fairway

Many amateurs hit their 3 wood just fine off the tee.  

Some might even hit the 3 wood better than the driver from the tee.

However, when it comes to a shot from a tight fairway lie, doubt and fear can creep in about a shot that barely gets off the ground.

Some golfers might prefer to hit their 3 wood from the rough vs the fairway.

As a golfer strives to get better, in order to reach their full potential, they must be able to hit a solid 3 wood from the fairway lies.  This becomes essential as a golfer is trying to take advantage of par 5s and give themselves good birdie opportunities.

How To Hit A Fairway Wood Off The Fairway

Hitting a 3 wood from a fairway lie can be difficult, but with our 5 tips below you can improve your chances of a quality shot.

  1. Play the ball an inch or two back
  2. Catch it clean – No divots
  3. Shallow the downswing
  4. Keep your head stable
  5. Have a stock shape shot

Keep in mind that as we dive into the 5 tips, you will want to practice the 5 wood frequently from fairway lies when you get the chance.  Many golfers become proficient with the driver because they hit it frequently at the driving range.  Take this same approach with the fairway wood and get used to hitting quality shots with clean contact.

Pick your spots on when to be aggressive with the 3 wood from the fairway.

Tip #1: Play the ball an inch or two back

Compared to where you play the ball in your stance from the tee with a fairway wood, you will want to move the ball back an inch or two.  When hitting from the tee, you are catching the golf ball slightly on the upswing with the 3 wood.  

However, in the fairway, this upward motion could cause you to hit the bottom of the clubface and hit a line driver or even worse a shot that doesn’t get off the ground.  While there isn’t much room for error, playing the ball in the right location of your stance is a key.

I would recommend taking several practice swings and take note of where your club is bottoming out on your practicing swings.  Get used to the feel for that day and then step up with confidence with the golf ball in a similar location in your stance.

Tip #2: Catch it clean – No divots

The opposite or the shot that doesn’t leave the ground is the 3 wood where you are too steep, take a big divot and the ball only flies half the distance from hitting it thick.  This can be caused from playing the ball too far back or getting too step in your downswing from fear or hitting the line drive shot. 

Once again, practice and take note of the low point in your swing and don’t have the intention of hitting down and taking a divot.  You want to simply nip the ground, play the ball at that low point and have success!

I would recommend the low point control drill to help you experience success.  Use your 3 wood with this drill below to build skill on controlling your low point.

Drill: The Low Point Control Drill

  • Take some yard paint and paint a 1-2 yard long line.
  • Setup with 55% of your weight on your front side.
  • Try to hit the target side of the line and see how many times out of 10 you can do this successfully!
  • Repeat this drill every day for a month, tracking your progress and your ability to do this successfully in trials of ten.
  • You may need to start with half swing and progress to full swings.

If you are struggling, put more weight forward and work on keeping your head still to help control the low point in the swing.

Set up the par 5s to have your go to wedge distance left. This might mean hitting a 3 wood as close as possible or laying back to a certain distance. Play within your comfort level!

Tip #3: Shallow the downswing

What we are trying to avoid here is the swing that is too steep.  The 3 wood isn’t a shot where you are taking a big divot.  Instead, we want to clip the ball and control the low point. 

Take a video from behind your golf swing and take note of the steepness you might be coming into the ball with if you are struggling with hitting crips and solid 3 woods.  The shallow nature of a golf swing helps you control the low point and make solid contact.

Tip #4: Keep your head stable

Too much shifting in the golf swing, especially with the 3 wood, can lead to some disastrous results.  The golfer needs to keep his or her head more stable on both the backswing and the downswing.  This stable head helps the golfer control the low point and make solid contact.  

I would recommend taking a video from the side and taking note of where your head starts, where it is at the top of the backswing and where it is at impact.  If the head is moving too far forward, chances are the golfer is getting steep or casting the club as a result of moving too far forward.

Don’t forget to practice the 3 wood off the tee to keep yourself in play on those narrow and difficult short par 4s!

Tip #5: Have a stock shape shot

Don’t try to do too much with the 3 wood from the fairway.  Instead, play your stock shot, whether that is a draw or a fade.  Play your shot!  

Some golfers might prefer to hit a stock fade with the fairway woods because it can add some loft and help you get the ball in the air from a fairway lie. However, you want to practice your go to shot with the 3 wood and then stick with that shot on the golf course when in a fairway lie.

A stock shot is a go to shot where the golfer is able to control the start line and have a predictable curve of the ball.  Whether this is a stock draw or a stock fade, it doesn’t matter.  The key is to have a consistent ball flight.  

While it might be really appealing to hit a draw or fade on demand, the greatest consistency can come from playing one shape time and time again.  I prefer to hit the draw in my game and typically hit a 1-3 yard draw up to a 5-8 yard draw and most of it depends on the shape of the shot that is most ideal, but I don’t force the fade.

Drill: Stock Shot Drill

  • At the driving range, set up an alignment stick about 6-8 yards in front of you, straight down your target line.
  • If you have a second alignment stick, set the stick 3-4 feet right of the first stick (for a draw) or left of the first stick (for a fade).
  • Complete your initial assessment to see how many times out of 10 you can start the ball to the right or left of your target.  Pick one side and measure your game at this point.
  • The goal is to eventually complete this successfully 7 out of 10 times!

Next Steps: Get To Work!

The key is to practice the 3 wood.  It can become a great tool in the bag and one that can help you reduce your score by 1-3 shots if you can take advantage of the 4 par 5s found on most golf courses.  Having a shot less than 100 yards into a par 5 increases your chances for a birdie on at least one of the holes.

Do play smart and don’t force the 3 wood until you feel more comfortable that you are going to make clean contact a high percentage of the time.  Even then, pick your spots for using the 3 wood and turn it into a go to club on key holes!

Playing year round in a golf simulator setup can really help a golfer make great strides!

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Let’s face it, in order to get really good at golf, we must practice frequently.  About three years ago, I made the leap and invested in a golf simulator build for my garage.  I went with a SkyTrak Launch Monitor and the TGC software and can now play over 100,000 courses including Augusta, Pebble Beach, Bethpage Black, Whistling Straits. St. Andrews and many other of the top 100 courses in the world.

This golf simulator setup, which is more affordable that you might imagine, has been a game changer.  I can now play golf everyday of the year regardless of rain, snow, cold weather or time of day.  I can practice or play rounds of golf.  I can stand in the 11th fairway at Augusta and with the auto-rewind feature I am able to practice my approach shots from various differences.

It is worth checking out through Rain or Shine Golf as they offer some incredible packages along with financing offers that are difficult to beat.

Some direct links to Rain or Shine Golf for pricing and financing:

Take Action – What You Can Do Today to Get Better

What does this mean for you?  I believe in the following recipe to get better:

1 – Improve your motion in the golf swing by identifying a golf instructor.  Here are some options:

Here is a list of golf instructors that we have reviewed:

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4 – Practice Frequently

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