You’ve probably noticed the growing use of high-lofted fairway woods among Tour players. At the 1996 U.S. Women’s Open, there were 66 7-woods and a dozen 9-woods in players’ bags. A couple of years ago you wouldn’t have even seen a handful of those clubs in the entire field. A similar trend is emerging on the Senior PGA Tour, where 18 7-woods and one 9-wood were used at the 1996 U.S. Senior Open.
Carrying a 7- and 9-wood gives me many more options than I had with the 3- and 4-irons they replaced. On approach shots, lofted woods hit the ball the same distances as the long irons, but the trajectory is higher and the ball lands softer and stops faster. The woods also are easier to draw and fade, and are easier to hit and control from both the rough and fairway bunkers.
I don’t know what makes the woods so special (see “Why Do They Work So Well?” below), but they save me strokes every round. Here’s how to play them so they can do the same for you.
My key swing thought is to make a U- rather than a V-shaped swing through impact, sweeping the clubhead along the ground and using its high degree of loft to launch the ball in the air. To promote a shallow arc, I place the ball slightly inside my left heel at address. My stance is slightly open to the target and my weight favors my right side. A relatively shallow approach creates the sweeping motion, picking the ball cleanly off the grass without taking a divot. My head remains steady and my legs are stable from address until after impact. This stability guarantees consistent contact and eliminates any body slide toward the target on the downswing. Tempo is also very important, so keep the club moving smoothly thoughout the swing.
WHY DO THEY WORK SO WELL?
Why are high-lofted woods easier to hit than long irons?
Several reasons, including:
- Lower, deeper (farther behind the clubface) center of gravity helps get the ball airborne
- Lower center of gravity and weaker loft (20-22 degrees for a 3-iron vs. 22-25 for a 7-wood) launch the ball on a higher trajectory, for softer landing with less roll and more distance control
- Soleplates often have rails for clean contact, even from nasty lies
- Bigger effective clubface
- Longer shaft generates more clubhead speed
- Larger head inspires confidence
Who benefits most from these woods?
While mid-to-slow swingers have the most to gain, they will help anyone who struggles with the long irons.
When should someone use a high-lofted wood?
Thanks to their design, these woods work from all kinds of lies. For example, from tall, thick grass, more mass behind the face keeps the clubhead from twisting, so shots have a better chance of flying straight. From fairway bunkers, the wide sole helps the club glide across the sand; long irons are more likely to dig into the sand.
Which wood replaces which iron?
Annika hits her 3-iron and 7-wood the same distance; likewise the 4-iron and the 9-wood. Although you may not swing like Annika, you’ll probably find roughly the same comparisons.Try them on the driving range and golf course to be sure.
How can a club with more loft fly the same as one with less?
The longer shaft and weaker loft work in tandem to produce similar-length shots that fly higher than the equivalent iron.
When shouldn’t these woods be used?
On windy days, it may be harder to control shots because the woods hit the ball higher than the long irons.