Give an average player a 9-iron and he'll usually hit a decent shot. Give him a wood of any kind and he's just as likely to mishit it. Hitting a wood – whether whether it's a driver or a fairway wood – is often more of a mental problem for amateurs than a physical one. If you can play a 9-iron, you can make a solid strike with a wood. All you need to do is make some slight physical adjustments and a mental one as well.
How Woods Differ from Wedges
In a word, the big difference between a wood and a wedge is length. Longer shafts put you farther from the ball and flatten your swing slightly. As a result, you make a longer backswing, which often means you move more over the ball. And you may feel an urge to smash a wood that you simply don't have with a 9-iron in your hand. All of these things affect your mindset and can cause you to make poor swings.
Shots from the Fairway
Aside from the extra shaft length, playing a wood from the fairway isn't much different than playing a 9-iron. You'll stand farther from the ball, and you should widen your stance slightly because the swing is bigger. Most teachers recommend playing the ball a bit more forward in your stance than with a 9-iron. If you play your 9-iron with the ball in the middle of your stance, move the ball just an inch or two forward for your wood shots from the fairway. You still need to hit down on the ball, just not as much; the divot will be smaller.
Shots from a Tee
When you play a wood off a tee, whether it's a driver or a fairway wood, you want to hit up on the ball to get it higher in the air. To do this, widen your stance and place the teed ball farther forward in your stance. You may need to experiment a bit to find the best spot, but positioning the ball on a line below your left armpit (if you're right-handed) is a good place to start. This will also cause you to tilt slightly away from the target; that's because your right hand is lower on the grip than your left, so your shoulders will tilt. Maintain this tilt during your swing. Finally, make sure you tee the ball at the correct height. Set the clubhead on the ground and push the tee down so that half of the ball is above the top of the club.
Swing within Yourself
Perhaps the biggest problem amateurs face with any wood shot is the urge to crush the ball. It takes time to become confident swinging the longer-shafted woods. To gain that confidence, regardless of whether your ball is on the ground or on a tee, imagine that you're swinging a very long wedge. Forget smashing the ball as hard as you can and making a huge backswing – start by making a 9-iron swing. Take your hands back to shoulder height on the backswing, then make a full swing at about 80 percent of your maximum speed. Concentrate on making solid contact. You'll be surprised how far you hit it. As you get more confident with your woods, you can lengthen your backswing and swing faster.