WHO: Ian Poulter
WHAT: 231-yard five-wood to 12 feet for an eagle
WHERE: 529-yard par-5 13th hole at Hong Kong Golf Club
WHEN: Final Round of the Hong Kong Open
Poulter’s eagle, set up by a brilliant cut five-wood into a slight breeze, gave him the two-shot cushion he needed. Poulter bogeyed 18, but he still won by one shot over Matteo Manassero, the 17-year-old wunderkind from Italy, and Simon Dyson of England.
THE DRILL: A few years ago, I was working with Bo Van Pelt at TPC Scottsdale. Bo took out his three-wood and hit a horrible shot off the turf. I asked Bo how often he practiced hitting three-woods off the ground.
“Not very often,” replied Bo.
“Then how do you expect to be good at it?” I asked.
Many people struggle with fairway woods, either because they don’t practice the shots or because they don’t understand one basic fairway-wood law: you’ve got to hit the ball on the downswing, not (as most people think) on the upswing. Because people think they need to catch the ball on the upswing, they incorrectly position the ball too far forward (toward the target) in their stance.
At practice, I paint two lines on the ground for students. One line is the target line and it runs underneath the ball. The second line is perpendicular to the target line and it is the ball position line. (You can also use clubs or other long and skinny items to create the lines.) Except for the driver, every club — including fairway woods — should have the ball positioned two balls inside the left (or forward) heel.
The only difference in your stance with different clubs is the space between your feet. With a fairway wood, the feet should be farther apart than with an iron. The extra space between the feet provides balance when you’re employing the faster swing speed needed to hit a fairway wood.
Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Mark Wood teaches at Fiddler’s Elbow Country Club in Bedminster Township, N.J.