How to Hit it Pure from the Fairway
When we’re on the tee, nothing feels better than cracking a drive down the middle of the fairway. However, when most golfers actually get to their ball the tight fairway lie is often quite daunting, with many preferring the semi rough where there is some grass under the ball.
So why does the average golfer feel intimidated by tight lies when the pros love them? This article will explain all, and give you some excellent tips on how to achieve a great strike from the fairway.
Understanding What Happens at Impact
We hear all the time advice such as “drive your hips”, “shift your weight to your forward leg”, “hit down and take a divot”, etc., but few really understand what these things are supposed to do to the club as it hits the ball. Understanding this is the first key to great ball striking.
First, the simple part… At impact, we want the club to make contact with the ball in the centre of the face (relative heel to toe) and close to the bottom of the clubface.
More complex is how to do this without digging into the ground too much or hitting the ground before the ball. There are two things that we need to control to achieve this: the position of the low point of the swing and the amount of shaft lean towards the target.
Think of your swing as a circle around your body drawn by the clubhead. The low point of your swing is simply the point at which your club head is at its lowest. This is the first key to great ball striking from the fairway:
The low point of your swing must be after the ball!
Not exactly on the ball and certainly not before it…The reason for this is that we want the clubhead to be slightly descending at impact, allowing us to get the club between any imperfections, blades of grass, etc., before the ball and not trap any dirt or grass between the ball and the clubface.
It also mustn’t be too low or too high. Too high and you will top it or hit it thin. Too low and you will take huge divots, your swing will potentially get too steep and you also run the risk of hitting it fat.
Two exercises for controlling low point:
Low Point Height Drill
Place three tees in the ground at varying heights. Place a ball on the highest tee. Practise hitting the ball off this tee, knocking the tee over but missing the tees before it. Then do the same from the middle tee and work your way down to the lowest tee. Practice this until you are able to consistently hit the ball and knock over the tee that the ball was on without disturbing the other tees.
Low Point Position Drill
Set up with your feet shoulder width apart. Pick a spot on the ground in the middle of your stance and another opposite your forward foot (like a driver’s ball position). Practise gently, clipping the ground in those two places. One swing hits the middle; another hits the point opposite the forward foot. Alternate between touching these two points at impact. An important key to building the correct movement in this drill is to keep your head back. Don’t allow it to move forwards (towards the target) when reaching for the forward ball position.
When you get good at both of these exercises you will have developed good control of where the low point is in your swing.
Any shot hit from the fairway needs the club to be leaning towards the target a little bit, but how much depends on your clubhead speed and desired trajectory. Assuming you’re hitting from the centre of the clubface, how high your ball goes depends on how much loft is on your clubface at impact. The shorter you hit the ball, the less forward lean you need to achieve your desired ball flight.
An exercise in controlling shaft lean:
Set up a “height target” a few metres in front of you. Hit a low punch shot under the height target by feeling your hands way ahead of the club through impact, de-lofting the club. Now, without changing your set-up or ball position, hit a shot over the height target. This time you will feel that your hands are not as far forward, or de-lofting the club as much as you were on the previous shot. Keep practising this until you can change the height of your shot at will without changing your club or set-up position.
What About Divots?
Much like shaft lean, the amount of divot you need is also related to your desired trajectory and clubhead speed. Again assuming a good strike, the lower you want your ball to launch, the more you will need to hit down, which means the more after your ball your low point needs to be and therefore the deeper your divot will be. The biggest error I see with the average golfer is that they watch the pros on TV and try to copy their often huge divots. Most of the time they can’t get the ball in the air doing this and they start to make other errors to do so.
In short, if you’re a high-speed player who wants to keep the ball down, a deeper divot is okay. If you hit your seven iron 100 metres, you want to only be bruising the ground slightly after the ball.
If you can control the low point of your swing, you can hit it pure from the fairway. You also need to find a divot size to suit you, with deeper divots only suiting some higher speed players. But, however big or small that divot may be, if the low point is in the right place and your club has the right amount of forward lean, then you can rip it from the fairway.