Stop Topping Your Fairway Woods

By | on April 28, 2013 | 38 Comments | Array


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Paul Wilson is the creator of Swing Machine Golf and founder of Ignition Golf. Paul's golf swing technique is based on the Iron Byron swing machine. YouTube Channels: Paul Wilson Golf and Ignition Golf Tips. Please Join me on Google+

38 Responses to “Stop Topping Your Fairway Woods”

  1. April 29, 2013


    Hi Paul,

    Great tip. I just topped a 3 wood today and the cause was just as you described. The good news is that i am hitting the ball much better after swinging the club effortless (at least more in that direction) and at the same time swinging up and out with the lower body leading the way. I love the feeling of that automatic snap at the bottom of the downswing and watching the ball rocket out into the fairway. (Most of the time).

    Just wondering. Starting last Friday I stopped receiving the daily email with a link to a new tip. I have gotten access to the new golf tips by going to your site. I don’t know if it is just me that is affected by this change or if other members are experiencing the same?

    • April 29, 2013


      Never mind. I just received the email on topping fairway woods.

    • April 30, 2013

      Paul Wilson


      Glad to hear you are slowing down and swinging up at it a little. You have a good swing so there is no reason you cannot get this other than you trying to hit the ball way too hard.

      We are having email issues. The company is working on the problem. Thanks.

  2. Fairly good analysis of why we top the number 3 Fairway Wood .in m’y own case ,I took advantage of one of your former tips where you recommend to relax and swing easier ,just like you say today .My problem is more staying
    On the back leg:so I obviate this (bad)tendency by putting more of m’y weight on the front leg ,aim at a point just in front (targetwise )of the ball and it more ” down “on the ball .
    However now I play more and more low number hybrids -20

    • April 30, 2013

      Paul Wilson


      I guarantee you have never heard that cause of topped fairway woods before but it is fact (not even Hogan said this). Glad you liked it.

      When slowing down you can and should still be doing the weight shift. Feel the shift into the backswing. This is critical no matter how slow you are swinging. Once you shift you have a change to shift the other way. No shift to the right no chance to shift to the left.

      The irons will swing steeper naturally because they are shorter. A lot of people find hybrids easier. Maybe it is the look of them I am not sure but if you hit them better than fairway woods keep using them (especially if you hit them almost as far).

  3. April 29, 2013


    Paul, great tips especially the lower body moving first, it does make a difference. To develop this move I initially started my downswing by driving my left knee back, it worked really well. As I progressed and in an attempt to gain more distance, I started to push off my inner right foot to begin my downswing. Unfortunately, I found myself losing distance, how come. Dan

    • April 30, 2013

      Paul Wilson


      You lost distance because you were using a totally different trigger than the one you were using to hit great shots. If I used straightening the left leg as my trigger I would loose distance too. I would also hit the ball off the planet because I have tried this before. Not being left sided I do not like it. So go back to using the left leg and never stop triggering your swing this way.

      Also, try building up the rotational speed of your body rotation slowly. You are trying to run before you can crawl. The harder you hit, the tighter you get, the slower the club will swing.


      Speed Up Gradually:


      DRILL: Listen to Club Swinging:

  4. are u saying u dont straighting the left leg to start downswing. What is a good trigger.

    • Ross,

      You can use the straightening of the left leg if you want. This is one of the triggers. You need to find the one that works best for you. All I am saying is you are not getting off this foot. So get the weight off it through impact. If you use straightening of the left leg as the trigger the weight should be coming off this leg. Remember, if you do any of the triggers all of the other ones happen too. Each trigger is not making you do a different move. You still turn. You still shift your weight regardless of what trigger you are using. Pick a trigger and use it.

  5. Should we also think of wrist lag to keep the club head behind our hands?
    Great tip and is correcting my problems with fairway woods.


    • Dom,

      No. You should be thinking of loose arms and wrists, not hitting with the arms and getting the weight off the back foot. You think of lagging the club and you will not get off the back foot.

  6. Hi Paul

    I just purchased a taylormade rocket balz tour 14 degree 2nd stage 3 wood and I am hitting it almost as far as my driver but straighter what are your views on leaving driver out of my bag these modern 3 woods are getting longer and longer

    • Paul,

      If you are hitting this club well then keep using it. You need to find a driver with the right specs for your swing. You may want to try some other drivers and see if they are better than the one you are currently using. Also, keep working on your swing and driver in your practice until you are confident you can hit the ball farther with it. There is not point hitting it right now. There is no advantage so keep using your other club until you get the right club and a little more consistent swing.

  7. Hi Paul,

    Thanks> For some reason when I get the driver in my hand my swing is all over the place The long shaft seems to cause me problems i feel much more comfortable with a 4 iron or 3 wood in my hands!
    Why? I dont think I am trying to hoit the driver too hard!

    • Paul,

      You may not think you are hitting hard but you are certainly using your arms. In doing so you are manipulating the clubface. Why not work on hooking every shot by rolling the wrists early. If you do you are consistently squaring the face and rolling it over. Once you can do this consistently you are tkaing one side of the course out of the picture. After you are consistent doing this you work on coiling in the backswing and starting the lower body first in the downswing. If you move the lower body first in the downswing you will hit it dead straight. To learn how to roll it watch this:

      Manually Square the Clubface:

      Manually Square the Clubface (Follow Up):

      Once you can do that work on the Touch the Legs position here:

      Legs Touching:

  8. March 29, 2014


    Hi Paul
    Great tip, and will definitely remember the weight transfer and believe that is key. A couple of times when I have topped the ball, I notice my divot was taken after the ball( closer to the target ). Was wondering , why does this has happen?

    • March 30, 2014

      Paul Wilson


      I would think your whole head has moved ahead of the ball as you hit the ball if you topped it as you took the divot. The divot should be taken as the after the ball is hit but to do this and top it you would have had to have been way ahead of it.

      You need to keep your head behind the ball when you are hitting the ball.

      Impact Head Behind Ball:

  9. Reviewing once more this excellent lesson ,I note you do take a small divot after contacting the ball:does this mean you hit down on the ball in a downward arc ,or should you endeavor instead to “brush the turf ” before reaching the ball .
    Some teachers advocate hitting down on the ball with every possible club ,even with the driver !!!

    • August 10, 2014

      Paul Wilson


      You are never hitting down on anything. The club hits down due to the right fundamentals.

  10. December 22, 2014


    Good, logical information. I’ve scrubbed 3-woods off the fairway for years even tho hitting it fine off the tee. Been hitting a 4 iron instead, 185, as my go to club. Will now work on my 5 and 3 woods. Thanks.

  11. Avatar photo

    January 10, 2015


    Another great tip and it really hits home with the close ups of the club face as it contacts the ball. Anything above the equator and the ball skitters down the fairway. I appreciate this tip and it applies well to my other clubs. Slow it down, stretch the club out and let it feel heavy in your hands (centrifugal force at work is the best way I can explain it) and try to focus on the contact area until you come out of the swing. All great tips.

    • January 11, 2015

      Paul Wilson


      I really had trouble with 3 wood off the deck when I was starting out. If only I has known this many years ago. It really works.

      Got to let those arms extend.

  12. Hi Paul
    I was hitting 7 iron pretty good then went to 3 wood and I could not hit it at all. I was hitting a lot of balls that went extreme right off the toe of the club or else I was topping it with hook spin. Please Help!

    • Fernando,

      You are replying to the tip explaining how to stop topping your fairways woods. You obviously did not follow it. You are swinging way too hard. Slow down. Loosen then arms. Topping and hitting it off the toe are because you are swinging way too hard. The harder you hit, the more you will look. Watch the video again and follow it precisely.

      Also, if you are topping the ball I would assume your swing needs work. So make sure you are following the lessons I teach in order. You can find them here: then supplement with the other tips on the site. Don’t jump around.

  13. August 16, 2017


    Am relatively new to golf. Have just been measured for my first set of clubs. The pro at our club has included a hybrid. A 3, I think, equivalent to a 5 iron.
    Anyway, would this tip be appropriate for a hybrid. Am topping ball like crazy. The ‘hitting it too hard’ rang bells.

    Or, do you have specific tips for playing with hybrids?

    • Avatar photo

      August 18, 2017

      Paul Wilson


      A 4 hybrid would replace your 3 iron. That is a little stronger yet a little less than a 3 wood. So it’s a great club to hit from the fariway or rough.

      There isn’t a different swing with a hybrid that’s why I don’t have specific tips on how to hit one. If you are topping, you are a hitting too hard. You are new to golf so you will go through this. What you need to be doing is working on perfecting the swing positions and building a great swing. The faster you can do that the less balls you will top. So go here:

      Those are the positions I teach to everyone in the order I teach them. Do them in practice swings at home, at the range and even when you play. Don’t do everything at once. Start with the grip, setup and follow through first. Mastering those positions alone will have you hitting the ball better than you ever have.

      Here are a few tips on topping:

      Stop Topping Your Fairway Woods:
      Topping: Watch for the Blur:
      Spine Angle Follow Through:

      I have been building great swings for over 25 years teaching the way I teach. Just take it one step at a time. Don’t worry too much about the ball. Your should should be to get each ball airborne not long and airborne. Just them in the air first. This will develop some consistency. Once you get them all in the air you can go for more distance then dial it in on target.

  14. Avatar photo

    October 14, 2017


    Hi Paul, I use my fairway wood when I need distance. I don’t hit it very long, 125 on a good day. So on our Par5, I use Driver, then fairway, then fairway then say 7 or thereabouts. Any tips, Many thanks. MJ

  15. January 4, 2018


    I watched your latest tip on divots. You explained that a divot was a natural consequence of the head tilting back during the swing making the arc of the swing non-circular and the path of the swing takes the edge of the club into the ground after ball contact.

    So is there a subtle difference between that swing and swinging a fairway wood?

    I noticed that during your swing of the fairway wood your head didn’t move back much unlike during the divot tip where it was quite noticeable. I find it very tricky getting the fairway wood to brush the ground in front of the ball as great accuracy is required, especially when the grass is quite short. Any tips to address this problem? Many thanks!

    • Avatar photo

      January 4, 2018

      Paul Wilson


      Yes the longer the club the flatter the plane so it doesn’t enter the ground as much.

      In no way was I trying to keep my head more quite. Might have just been a different swing. My head definitely moves going back.

      Just follow the tip you posted this on. It is all about not hitting with arms. If you turn them off they will stretch out. If you contact too far behind the ball this would be like a fat shot with irons. This is too much weight on the back foot at impact. Here is the fix for that:

      Stop Fat Shots When Working On Moving Your Head:

  16. January 25, 2018

    Greg vonSeeger

    Paul…where do you position the ball in relationship to the back heel when hitting the 3 wood off the fairway? And would it be the same for a 5 wood and a long hybrid (#4 and #5)? Thanks!

  17. Hi Paul,
    My problem with my 3 wood is not topping the ball but hitting ‘stingers’ about 3 or 4 feet off the ground. This can work fine in many circumstances but not so when I am trying to land the ball softly on the green. How would I get more loft or height with my 3 wood? Thanks

    • Avatar photo

      March 20, 2018

      Paul Wilson


      If the cure is not you loosening the arms then you are de-lofting the club. There are only a few ways you can do this:

      1. ball too far back
      2. strong grip
      3. closing the face (but the ball would be hooking)
      4. head moving ahead of the ball as you hit the ball

      So check these things too.

  18. June 18, 2019


    When my arms are not relaxed, not only can i top it, but I can pull it left also. This tip came in handy on the course today.

  19. August 31, 2020


    My problem with the 3 wood is topping it and hitting it fat. I think you will tell me the cure for the fat shot is hit it off my left foot and don’t use my arms. Do I have it right? Your system works when you do all of the things you tell us to do.
    Last week I went to Bears Best in Las Vegas. Nice place you got there. I am contemplating signing up for your golf school.

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