How to Fit Your Ball into a Tight, Skinny Fairway
From the tee box, the fairway looks about as wide as those old pair of jeans from 10 years ago. It’s so narrow, the carts travel in a single file down the fairway. Just how are you going to find the short grass? Here are a few keys.
Choose a club that will allow you to keep the ball in play, and set yourself up for your second shot. That means choosing a lofted club, such as a hybrid or fairway wood, and not driver. As the loft increases, so too does the amount of backspin on the ball, which helps to keep the ball traveling on line. You should also pick a club you have a lot of confidence in—if you happen to hit your 5-iron dead straight all of the time, then by all means hit it.
When choosing a hybrid or shallow-faced utility wood, tee the ball up low, about 1/4-inch (i.e., a finger’s width) above the ground. By giving yourself a perfect lie, you’re more likely to contact the ball on the center of the clubface, ensuring a straighter, more penetrating ball flight. Tee the ball up too high and you risk contacting the ball too high on the face, which launches the ball high with less spin. You may hit it straight, but you’ll lose considerable distance and, perhaps, the chance to reach the green in two.
Use your angles to take a conservative line away from the trouble, which should allow you to make a more confident swing. Here, there are several large fairway bunkers on the left side of the fairway, which is why I’m teeing it up on the far left-hand side of the tee box and aiming toward the right-center of the fairway and the three chimneys well off in the distance. By using the whole tee box, I create the best angle to the meatiest part of the fairway.
As you take your practice swings, commit to making a full backswing. Try to get your left shoulder to point behind an imaginary ball, then step up to the actual ball and repeat. When anxiety and uncertainty creep in, it’s very easy to get too quick on the backswing. As a result, the timing and rhythm of the swing get thrown off, and it’s very hard to make solid contact. Completing your backswing should help slow everything down, as well as improve your clubhead path for greater power and accuracy.
The hybrid is a long-iron replacement so, much like an iron, you want to drive the clubhead down and through the ball, compressing the ball against the clubface and utilizing its loft. I like to have the feeling that I’m driving the clubhead down past the ball and swinging to a complete finish. I’m not holding anything back. Swing aggressively to your chosen target; don’t try and guide the ball out there.
Pretend you’re an Olympic gymnast vaulting through the air and you need to stick the finish to post your best score. If you can finish in balance, with your body facing the target or slightly left of the target, then there’s a good chance that you put a strong, aggressive swing on the ball. Concentrate on swinging to a complete finish, and you’ll maintain smooth, calm acceleration through impact and hit the ball on line.