With the rise in popularity of hybrid (sometimes called utility or Rescue)
woods (click here to view our guide to choosing Hybrids), deciding which fairway
wood to opt for has become a little trickier – not least because the line between
a fairway wood and a hybrid is often quite blurred.
There are endless combinations of lofts, different head materials – and now
even different shapes – square versions from Callaway and Nike have hit the
market. So perhaps the first question to ponder is - what do you want the fairway
wood for? The most popular answers to this are likely to be:
1: To hit off the tee
2: To replace long irons from the fairway
3: To reach par 5's in two
Now you've decided what you will use your fairway wood for - it's now time
to decide which fairway is best for you.
Which Fairway Wood?
Fairway Wood Shaft
Fairway Wood Head Design
Fairway Wood Head Material
To hit off the tee
Having more loft, fairway woods are easier to hit than driver – they don’t
go quite as far, but a 3 wood in the right hands can still travel well in excess
of 220 yards. If you’re looking for an easy-hitting alternative to a driver,
then you’ll probably want a 2,3 or 4 wood.
To replace long irons from the fairway
Many people would rather hit a high-lofted wood into a green than a 2,3 or
4 iron. In which case 5 woods and above are what you’re after. The larger clubhead
of a fairway wood compared to an iron makes it easier to achieve more distance
without over-swinging. As a rough rule of thumb, a 5 wood would replace a 2
iron, a 7 wood the 3 or 4 iron, a 9 wood the 5 iron.
To reach par 5s in two
If you want to go for glory, there are some holes which are just too long
to reach with a drive and a long iron. The only thing which will get you there
in two is a drive and a fairway wood. For this, you’re probably looking for
a 3 or 4 wood. And if you expect predominately to use the 3 or 4 wood from the
fairway, look for one where the head is fairly shallow. You’ll still be able
to use it from the tee, but a lower profile head will be better for hitting
from tighter lies.
So Which Fairway Wood?
Most manufacturers denote the fairway wood number on the sole of the club
(3,4,5 etc) as well as the loft (as in this TaylorMade Burner. Some however
- notably Titleist - only denote the loft – as per this image of their popular
15 degree (i.e. 3 wood).
Here’s an approximation of how loft equates to the number:
|Degrees of Loft
||Description and Notes
|13 - 14
||A 'Strong' 3. Slightly lower loft than a normal 3 -
slightly lower trajectory
|15 - 16
||Classic fairway 3 wood
|16 - 17
||Strong 4 - A slightly easier, shorter 3 wood
|17 - 18
||4 wood. Safer than a 3 wood, longer than a 5
|18 - 19
|19 - 21
||Easy hitting long wood. Along with the driver, often
carried with a 3 wood
|23 - 24
||Strong 7. Shaft should be a little longer than a regular
seven. A good complement to 4 woods.
|28 - 29
||9 woods and beyond. High-lofted woods like these can
be used instead of mid irons – some find them easier to hit. Also good
out of rough because the edges are smoother than an iron head so swipe
through long grass more easily
||11 Woods. See above. Lofts vary considerably between
manufacturers. These very high loft fairway woods are especially popular
with lady golfers and seniors who don’t generate quite as much clubhead
Fairway Wood Shafts
Unlike with drivers, most manufactures do offer steel shafts as an option
on at least some of their fairway wood ranges. Nonetheless, graphite shafts
are definitely the norm on fairway woods nowadays. If steel shafts are favoured
at all in fairway woods, it tends to be by better players. Steel shafts may
help give a lower, more penetrating ball flight (assuming you want that – most
golfers are actually looking for more height from their fairway woods).
Some better players also prefer the more raw, solid and immediate, crisper
feel and sound that steel shafts give – and would claim that steel offers a
little more accuracy. If it does, it will be at the slight expense of distance
– and remember that fairway woods are not really about accuracy – they are more
about hitting the ball long. If you’re unsure, stick with graphite. You’ll be
on safer ground – and have a much greater choice as well.
Fairway Wood Head Design
As with drivers, along with the standard models, some manufacturers are beginning
to offer a choice of ‘Offset’, ‘Draw’ or ‘Neutral’ options on fairway woods.
Let’s look at why...
This occurs because the clubface is more ‘open’ (pointing to the right in
simple terms) than it should be when the ball is struck – often because the
player’s hands are ‘behind the ball’ at impact – instead of ‘ahead’ which with
a good swing they would be. This imparts side-spin on the ball, and off it goes
into the trees.
The manufacturers attempt to compensate for this by placing weight inside
the clubhead (something heavy – normally tungsten) in such a position that it
helps you keep the clubhead square at impact.
A draw is a slight right-left swing on the ball – the opposite of a slice
and much more desirable – hence ‘draw’ enhanced woods. A good example would
be TaylorMade’s R7 Draw Fairway Wood (pictured).
Another solution for slicers are clubs with the head already sitting a little
‘offset’ behind the shaft – which has the similar effect of keeping the clubhead
square impact. An example would be Cobra’s Speed LD Offset picture left. Such
clubs are favoured especially by those with lower swing speeds – for example,
senior and lady golfers.
But just to be clear – the vast majority of fairway woods made – and bought
– are standard versions – so don’t get too wrapped up in the choices. If you’re
unsure, start at least by trying out a standard model.
There is, anyway, an argument that unless you do have a slower than average
swing speed – but are still consistently slicing the ball - you might be better
off visiting your local pro in order to cure the swing fault rather than temporarily
‘patching’ the problem with an offset head. On the other hand, if time is short
and you can’t get out to play and practice as much as you’d like, a quick-fix
might be just the ticket.
Fairway Wood Head Materials
There are three types of head material to choose from when it comes to fairway
woods – and wood isn’t one of them!
This is by far the most popular material for fairway wood heads. It’s not
too expensive and strong – and almost all fairway woods sold have heads made
Titanium is half the weight of steel – which is great for making big-headed
drivers. It's now also used in the making of fairway woods – but they tend to
be the bigger fairway woods – those which will be used predominately for hitting
form the tee. Its light weight allows manufacturers to push the centre of gravity
far back in the head (usually by means of a heavy weight plug - often tungsten)
which helps get the ball airborne early – and thin titanium faces provide maximum
Recent examples include the TaylorMade’s r7 CGB Max Fairway Wood. But you
guessed it - titanium fairway woods cost more than steel-headed.
Multi-material composite clubs combine modern materials such as carbon with
steel or titanium to create ultra-lightweight fairway woods. The light weight
allows the manufacturers to place weights around the inside perimeter of the
head which helps to reduce twisting on off-centre hits. Again, these are premium
products which come at a price. Examples include Callaway’s new FT-I Squareway
Woods and Ping’s Rapture range.
We hope this brief guide has helped understand some of the factors that go
into deciding which fairway is best for you. You might also want to read our
buyers guide on hybrid clubs before making a final decision.
There’s no substitute for trying a few out and seeing what suits you best.
All Golfbidder’s clubs comes with a No Risk Trial Period. Try one that seems
to fit the bill, if it’s not an improvement on your current fairway wood, simply
send it back for a full refund – or try something else.
If you need any further help or advice, feel free to ring our PGA-qualified
Customer Service Team on +44 (0)208 401 6901.