We have recently received quite a few requests to cover the fundamentals of hitting fairway woods and the recently popular long iron replacement clubs – the hybrid (aka the utility club, baffler, heavenwood, etc..)
We are also sure you have seen the increased popularity in these clubs (in particular the hybrids) by all players (both amateur and professional).
Reasons for the increased popularity include:
1. The ease of hitting these clubs compared to mid and long irons. The fairway woods and hybrids are built with a low center of gravity, weight in the front and base of the club, and a beveled sole with rounded edges, all making it much easier to get the ball off the ground with medium to minimal club head speed.
2. The ease of hitting these clubs high. As golf courses get longer and longer and greens get harder and harder, golfers are needing longer clubs in their bags that they can hit high and land soft on these hard greens… 2, 3, 4… irons with not do this. These clubs are built to come in relatively low and “hot” (minimal spin). The hybrids are built to create much more height on the golf shot with a soft landing on the green.
I remember a few years ago watching an old “Wonderful World of Golf” Show featuring Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. They were standing on the 17th hole (don’t remember the course) – a 200+ yard par 3. Jack pulled out a 3 iron and hit it just over head high – the ball landed on the green, one hopped and stopped about 5 feet from the hole – a GREAT golf shot… but sorry to say Jack – that shot doesn’t work anymore. If he were to hit that shot on today’s greens (even the average municipal golf course’s greens) it would have on hopped over the back and ended up in the river… this is why Jack now also carries an addition fairway wood and hybrids… because, of course, the change in his swing – little slower now, not as easy to hit long irons.., but more importantly, because of the change in the golf course – much harder and faster and the need to hit those higher/softer shots.
As you go through this practice tip – think about the golf you play, the type of shots you need – How many times do you have 170++ yards into those par 3s or 2nd shots into the par 4s, etc.. that you need to hit the green that has a hard time holding even wedge shots??
How many times do you have to hit shots into tight pin positions from over 150 yards??
How many times do you set up over a long/mid iron thinking the percentage is pretty low to hit it solid and at the target??
A lot of these issues can be solved using hybrids and fairway woods and of course knowing how to properly play these clubs.
Pic. 1 The fairway woods and hybrids are built with a low center of gravity, weight in the front and base of the club, and a beveled sole with rounded edges, all making them much easier to get the ball off the ground with medium to minimal club head speed.
Pic. 2 Hitting fairway woods and utility clubs can sometimes be the most challenging clubs in the bag due to the fact that the ball position is the farthest forward in the stance while the ball is on the ground.
Pic. 3 As you can see, the ball position with the fairway woods is inside the lead shoulder but forward of a 5 iron.
Pic. 4 The ball position of the iron replacement clubs such as the Cobra Baffler (pictured), or other hybrids is at or slightly in front of the iron that the club replaces.
Pic. 5 Because the hybrids are slightly longer, you will be slightly further from the ball than the long iron it replaces. For example, the average distance from a 5 iron is 27 inches (from toe line to ball – see Etip on same page entitled “Posture and Stability/Ideal Setup”, the average distance from a 5 utility type club (standard length) from toe line to ball is 28 inches.
Pic. 6 Most people have trouble hitting the longer clubs due to an early release. Because the ball is forward, the result is typically topping or hitting behind the ball (fat type shot).
Pic. 7 The ideal impact with a hybrid is to make sure the hands are still leading the club into impact where the hands are slightly in front of the club head at impact. You can see how the trail arm is still slightly bent, the lead arm and club are in a straight line. The club is still striking the ball at a slight downward angle (as you do with an iron). It is NOT a ‘scooping”, upward angle as many think.
Pic. 8 Believe it or not, a fairway wood is struck the same way, however, since the ball is slightly forward of a hybrid position, the strike is a little more swept. A good description is “take a small divot with a utility type club, bruise the grass with the fairway wood.”
Pic. 9 One way to learn the feeling of the strike is to place the leverage bag in a forward position (back of the bag where the ball position would be, as pictured).
Pic. 10 When you strike the leverage bag, make sure your head is still and your hands lead the club into the leverage bag until impact where you get the feeling of the hands passing the bag before and into impact.
Pic. 11 The goal is to unhinge the club where the hands are always leading the club head.
Pic. 12 Another way to understand this is using the PVC where you can feel the hands unhinging into impact.
Pic. 13 For more information about the GGA Leverage Bag and PVC drills, please review the GGA Etips at “Leverage Bag/Winter Practice Tips #1” – www.SinglePlaneAcademy.com
Good Luck! Remember – ALWAYS PRACTICE WITH A PURPOSE