Find the correct angle of approach with fairway woods

Stan Badz/PGA TOUR
A defining moment in Justin Rose's round Sunday was his eagle on the par-5 ninth.
July 06, 2010
Travis Fulton, PGA TOUR Academy Director of Instruction

I think we are officially starting to see just how good Justin Rose can be. Over the last three weeks we have seen some tremendous golf in all phases of his game. With two wins now in the last three weeks, one has to like his chances to win The Open Championship in a couple of weeks.

Listen to Travis Fulton

PGA TOUR Golf Academy's Travis Fulton breaks down the keys to Justin Rose's win at Aronimink on the PGA TOUR Network (XM 146, SIRIUS 209). Click to listen

On Sunday, Rose had built another big lead only to hold on by 1-stroke over charging Ryan Moore. One shot that ended up being critical was Rose's second on the par-5 9th. Trying to reach the green in two, Rose did more than just that as he striped a fairway wood to tap in range for an easy eagle three.

One of my favorite shots in golf is watching the best players in the world hit fairway woods trying to reach par 5's in two. This shot is another example of just how good they are when controlling their ball flight from long distances. Fairway woods are an important part of the game and at the TOUR Academies, we get many questions about how to hit them.

So how did Rose do it on Sunday?

The first step toward better fairway wood play is to understand the angle of approach. You will notice when TOUR players hit fairway woods, they still hit down on the ball allowing for the loft of the fairway wood to lift the shot. Although the angle of approach is not as steep as that of an iron, the club head still needs to be moving downward when striking a fairway wood. Controlling this angle of approach into impact is the key to striking solid fairway woods.

Often times, when working on fairway wood shots with students, I hear their analysis that the club head should be traveling upward or horizontal at impact. This approach can lead to poor impact conditions resulting in inconsistent ball flight.

Here are some key checkpoints at address to help manage the proper angle of approach:

1. Ball Position forward (one ball-width inside of your left heel)

Ball position is critical as it places the ball just before the swing's low point. This will promote the club head to strike the ball just before the low point promoting a descending blow through impact.

The low point of the swing's arc is located just outside the lead shoulder with the shoulder itself being the center of the circle. With the driver, ball position is played more adjacent to the lead heel which positions the ball even closer to the swing's low point. This allows the driver to meet the ball at the bottom of the arc where the fairway wood meets the ball just before.

2. Hands in-line with the club head

Positioning the hands in-line with the club head allows for a player to hit down but not to where the club head will stick in the ground. With the ball position just inside the lead heel, the butt of the club should point just left of the belt buckle resulting in a more perpendicular club shaft angle at address.

One of the most common errors at address with fairway woods is positioning the hands too far forward of the club head. This sees the butt of the club point left of the body as this is not the best place to be when hitting these long clubs. Leaning the club shaft forward at address is good thing with short to mid irons but as you enter into the long game you must be very conservative when it comes to this dynamic at address.

3. Tilt the upper body slightly away from target

With the upper body tilted slightly away from the target, this will assure your head will be behind the ball. This again helps to promote the proper angle of approach into impact. Get this angle correct and -- while I can't guarantee you'll be making eagles -- you will see more consistently solid shots and more power with the fairway woods.

Where spine tilt is recommended with an iron it almost seems to be mandatory when hitting woods for most people.

4. Square Shoulders

And finally shoulder alignment -- one of the most common errors with the fairway woods is taking the upper body and facing the forward ball position. Make sure your shoulders are square at address as this really helps swing the fairway woods on the proper angle of approach.

Some of you may feel closed a bit but generally speaking, I would rather see most amateurs slightly closed with the shoulders rather than open. When the shoulders open and aim left this will promote a more upright angle of approach which usually isn't the best thing for most people.

Just Because

Happy 4th of July everyone -- I hope you all had a great weekend. The heat is certainly on here on the east coast with temperatures reaching the mid 90's, not only here in Florida but all the way up to New York as well.

July is not only a very hot month but an extremely busy one as well. Not only is it month number-two with our Junior Camps, we also continue to see a lot of adults in our golf schools and private lesson programs. Excitingly, we are now up to ten academies across the country as we continue to grow across the United States. In addition, we are all very proud of our team in China that is currently traveling and making a big impact with the Chinese National Golf Team.

Lots of great things going on at work and oh by the way now only 87 days until my wedding... busy, busy, busy!