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The Best Way to Hit a Golf Ball Off the Fairway

by Mike Southern
    Geoff Ogilvy doesn't hesitate to make an abbreviated swing from the fairway for more control.

    Geoff Ogilvy doesn't hesitate to make an abbreviated swing from the fairway for more control.

    Robert Cianflone/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

    You are feeling pretty good about yourself. That drive went right where you intended, and now you're sitting pretty in the middle of the fairway. However, your job is only halfway done; you still need a good approach shot to post a good score. Even though the ball is in the fairway, it's not sitting on a tee. Before hitting your next shot, take everything in front of you into account.

    Look at the Green

    First, check out the green. If there's a bunker or water fronting the green, your approach shot choices are more limited than if you can land the ball short and run it on. Similarly, if there's trouble in the back, guard against going over the green. Sometimes, it's better to lay up and hit a wedge in. Unless you're a professional golfer, the best shot is usually the safest one. Less risk means less pressure -- and probably a better score.

    Abbreviated Swing

    Unless you have no choice, you probably are better off taking more club and making a shorter backswing. The longer your backswing, the more likely you are to overswing, lose your balance and make poor contact with the ball. For example, if you are a full 8-iron from the green, consider using your 7-iron and making a less-than-full swing. If you make solid contact, you may be surprised by how far you can hit the ball accurately.

    Focus on Rhythm

    Sometimes, you have no choice but to make a full swing. If you do, pay more attention to your rhythm than trying to generate power. Make a longer swing with relaxed muscles. Try to duplicate that languid practice swing that feels so good. Concentrate on making better contact and the ball with go farther with more accuracy. Remember to hit your fairway woods with a more sweeping stroke than your irons, which require a downward stroke. The longer shafts of fairway woods automatically help you make a flatter swing.

    Normal Shots

    Hitting the ball from the fairway isn't the same as hitting it off a tee. Remember to place the ball approximately in the center of your stance for an iron and slightly ahead of center for a fairway wood or hybrid. If the lie isn't perfect, it's better to err on the safe side and play all fairway shots from the center of your stance. Make a smooth swing and be sure to hit slightly down on the ball; hit the ball before you hit the ground. You probably will take a divot after you hit the ball. Never try to "lift" the ball out of a tight lie.

    From a Divot

    If your tee shot winds up in a divot, you may not be able to go for the green, but that's OK. Just grab a club with enough loft to get the ball out of the divot, put the ball back in your stance a little and make sure you hit the ball before you hit the ground.

    About the Author

    North Carolina native Mike Southern has been writing since 1979. He is the author of the instructional golf book "Ruthless Putting" and edited a collection of swashbuckling novels. Southern was trained in electronics at Forsyth Technical Community College and is also an occasional woodworker.

    Photo Credits

    • Robert Cianflone/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images