No player can hit a club consistently. With numerous off-center hits, fairway woods offer the much-needed support and forgiveness to turn a slice shot into a fade shot. Not everybody plays fairway woods today but these clubs can offer this forgiveness and the custom height many players need.
Fairway woods are not easy to purchase with so many options. Every year, there’s an updated design on the market and both new and experienced golfers aren’t sure which one to choose. But golf players might even choose multiple fairway woods. Here are the best options.
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Aerodynamic, forgiving, and lightweight, the M4 Fairway Wood is now faster. Following its predecessor's footsteps, it shifts the center of gravity for extra performance and forgiveness.
Speed pockets are added across the face of the club. Weight distribution is also considerably improved, so all off-center hits are a bit better with any of the 5 shafts on offer.
Ni-Co300 steel face inserts support the thin face design. They are known for optimized ball speed, and in the context of forgiveness, the inserts also support shots that go the distance. The technology is a unique interpretation that is only found at TaylorMade golf.
Split internal weights are used to add force to each shot. The new center of gravity and updated weights design make the fairway woods slightly better in shot consistency. The larger sweet spot maximizes their impact.
Geocoustictechnology changes the feel of the club considerably. Both new materials and new designs change how the club sounds. With its impressive feel, the geometric upgrade of the club makes a difference in its overall playability.
- New weight distribution system
- Made with new geometrics
- Added steel face inserts
- Correct ball trajectory still depends on the player
Made with a lighter weight and thinner materials, the Callaway Golf Fairway Wood uses some of the latest technologies regarding club dynamics and responsiveness.
Jailbreak technology has been tested and added to the wood. It’s the first time Callaway implemented this technology. In very simple terms, this technology adds 2 bars to the face, to the left and the right of the sweet spot. Their supportive role is to enhance ball speed and stiffness through added rigidity.
Ultra-thin face and FaceCup technologies have also been implemented on the fairway. It’s here that players find the added forgiveness of the golf club helps them minimize the effect of some off-center hits come with. The thinner material also improves distance response.
Internal standing wave technology has been added for high launch and low spin. This is what enhances the trajectory of the golf ball higher and which also makes it travel a bit further. The technology is also paired with the new Callaway design, which places the center of gravity slightly lower.
Aero design is based on air resistance. The fairway wood is one of the most interesting designs in terms of air resistance. It uses reduced air drag principles to enhance speed through the air.
- Game-changing Jailbreak technology
- Ultra-thin face design
- Reduced air drag
- Learning curve when switching from Titleist fairway wood
Callaway is still one of the top 3-4 players in the game for fairway woods. Its Steelhead XR is not faster and more aggressive but also integrates proven technologies from the brand such as Face Cup. It’s now with a lower price tag than when it first launched a few years ago.
Face Cup technology makes the most of the larger face design. It delivers better results across the surface and stands out with its ultimate reliability for high or mid-handicappers. However, the technology may only be as good as the player.
J-36 Carbon crown has now been added to lower the weight of the club. It supports easier launch with lower spin. In long shots, where the wood shows the benefits of this technology the most. The short hosel is another addition which has been planned to lower the weight.
Speed Step technology has been made according to aerospace manufacturing principles. It uses aerodynamics to reduce air resistance and make the air flow smoothly across the fairway wood clubhead.
- Made with a carbon crown
- New Speed Step aerodynamics
- Better Face Cup on the larger clubhead face
- Light for some players
Big Bertha is now a real classic. Its seen across all golf courses in the country. For some players, it’s the only fairway wood that speaks about its quality.
Hyper Speed Face Cup has been the driving plus of the club. It increases the swing speed of the ball across the face a bit better than expected. However, it still offers the ultimate performance with precise centered shots.
The new adjustable hosel makes it particularly interesting for custom shots. Draw or neutral settings adjustability can replace 2 fairway woods in a single design.
Internal standing waves have been added for a new center of gravity. The distance the wood can reach is increased with improved force distribution. Ball trajectory makes the wood hard to replace, even with newer releases.
Made with a premium MistubishiFubuki shaft, the wood comes with better energy transfer. The improved energy transfer means players don’t need to hit the ball as hard for it to fly to the green.
- Made with an improved face
- New adjustable hosel
- Paired with a premium shaft
- Not the latest Callaway release
How to Choose the Best Fairway Wood
Finding the best fairway wood is not easy, but it should not be something to overwhelm a golfer. Once the right foundation has been laid with puts, irons, and drivers, it’s time to move on to fairway woods. Top brands include TaylorMade, Callaway, and Ping. But it’s not just about the brand, as woods need to meet a few basic standards to add real value to the game.
At their core, fairway woods are characterized by shaft distinctions. The shaft is longer than the one of a regular club. Their name is just a reminder of how these clubs have been made at the beginning. But they’re not made of wood anymore as they are made with steel, titanium, or even carbon.
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The advantage of a fairway wood is considerable. The longer shaft allows them to add more power. Each player can see improvements in shots’ distance as a result. But the smaller face also compensates for fairway shots. However, the long shaft takes some time to get used to. Not everybody is going to be excited about its extra length.
Various shafts are added to today’s fairway woods. Most of these shafts are made out of graphite. But as expected, even graphite can come with different characteristics. Generally, these shafts are more suitable for fairway woods as they are higher. As a result, they may come with extra power. But those who want a more robust alternative without the height might look towards steel shafts.
Most shafts on the fairway woods above are made by third-party manufacturers such as Fujikura or Mitsubishi. Those new to golf should not shy away from these brands as they’re known for their resilience.
Clubheads are where the innovation and research meet the player in fairway woods. Most of these are now made with new technologies and better materials. Among their qualities, users should also count on aerodynamics.
Thinner materials are now used across the industry on new clubheads for fairway woods. With thin materials, most would expect the ball’s trajectory to be shorter. But these materials are engineered for improved performance, and their reduced size also means they come with a lesser weight.
But a fairway wood’s advantage is that it often comes with improved off-center hits performance. Most brands now try out various design changes to improve the ball’s trajectory with most hits since it can be difficult to constantly hit the ball on the sweet spot.
The updated center of gravity is seen on most clubheads. Lower and towards the heel, the center of gravity enhances the face’s advantages. Those who want to see better results in terms of speed and distance often find themselves changing the clubhead to a new design mainly for a different center of gravity.
Clubhead innovation is seen with different designs, most of which are patented. For example, Callaway has its Jailbreak technology, adding two supportive thin bars to the clubface material to add propulsion power. In most cases, this technology has proven superior to older generation Callaways, but not necessarily to other brand alternatives. There are a few of these technologies that differentiate today’s manufacturers.
Aerodynamics constantly changes in fairway woods, such as on the Cobra King, TaylorMade M6, Callaway Epic Flash fairway wood, or the Sub Zero. The clubs on sale today are different as they interpret the air’s circulation across the surface of the clubhead, even towards the heel. With reduced wind resistance, the larger clubs need to be faster. Since they’re longer and sometimes heavier than drivers, they need to be as aerodynamic as possible.
In terms of stance and performance off the tee, there is a difference, however. The fairway wood clubhead might be twice as large as the clubhead of a hybrid. This means that chipping the ground with the back of the clubhead is not that uncommon. It might take a bit of effort to get used to its larger size.
Those new to golf might need to take a few practice shots to avoid damaging the crown of the wood. They also need to be better adjusted when switching from a hybrid when it comes to the swing technique. Going to a hybrid from a fairway is considerably easier than the other way around.
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Players must set a closer stance to the ball when using a hybrid for a correct swing. At the same time, they must be further away from the ball when hitting a fairway wood. The more aggressive angle of the hybrid also allows for a bit more room for mishits. But the fairway wood with its larger clubhead is a bit more forgiving, as long as the swing and grip position is correct.
Both swing and grip can be exercised by players at all times. The right distance to the ball also depends on the user’s height and arm’s length. What works for one user might not work for another. This is the main reason all golfers should take the time to exercise their skills and better players’ individual performance when upgrading from a hybrid.
Buy-back programs are not supported by most manufacturers. The warranty doesn’t cover damage made to the clubhead from improper technique. As a result, anyone upgrading to a fairway wood can practice shots to keep it in good condition when it’s time to hit the green.
Fairway woods are categorized differently, and they have numbered accordingly. However, the numbers are inconsistent, so the woods are not easy to differentiate for new golfers.
Low-lofts, mid-lofts, and high-lofts are numbered accordingly. Low lofts can replace the casual driver with a slight compromise in terms of distance. Mid-lofts can replace the average iron. High-loft fairway woods can easily replace mid-range irons.
Fairway Woods vs. Hybrids
Several golfers are confused about fairway woods, confusing them with hybrids. But hybrids are only partly similar to fairway woods as they replace long irons. However, both hybrids are also very versatile. Golfers rely on them off the tee and on the green.
Most hybrids weren’t around when old-school golfers entered the game. As a result, they’re not as popular with old-school players, even if they create a bridge from fairway woods.
There’s not a big difference between a hybrid and a fairway wood as similar 5 wood and a 5 hybrid will perform the same. Both are going to be close to 260 if that’s your performance. Both use the same strength and the same materials. The fairway wood does come with a longer graphite shaft such as on the Callaway Rogue and this tends to be the only difference.
Unlike the hybrid, the fairway wood has a lower center of gravity towards the back. This also means it is a bit harder to control. New golfers should feel a bit more at ease with a hybrid from this perspective.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the easiest fairway woods to hit?
The easiest fairway wood to hit is the one that comes with the most forgiveness. As seen from the examples above, the Callaway Golf 2018 Men’s Rogue Fairway Wood is the easiest to hit. It has the largest thin face, making it the easiest to hit.
There are a few technologies that make it the easiest to hit. For example, the Jailbreak design characteristic makes it the easiest to hit with on-center shots. But at the same time, the Face Cup technology improves the responsiveness on the entire surface of the face. Internal Wave technology also improves precision, and it’s a design characteristic specific to the manufacturer.
Why are fairway woods so hard to hit?
Fairway woods are hard to hit because of the longer shaft. Simply put, it’s too uncomfortable for the average player on the golf course and the new player. But as seen above, this should not be the case.
Instead of using a good fairway wood, players choose hybrids to make their life easier. But the hybrid isn’t as inclined to go the distance as the wood. This is why new players should also learn how to master a fairway wood.
Top tournament-level players always use fairway woods. But some of these players have also been coached by old-school golfers. Some of their preferences might be down to the actual first steps they took in this sport. When these players were out training, their coaches weren’t even aware of hybrids. However, since they perform at a top-level without them, it shows how easily they can be replaced.
What fairway woods should I carry?
A 15-degree fairway wood can be a good start for any player. A 3 fairway wood falls in this category and can be part of the golf equipment of any player. A 5 fairway wood comes with a 17 to 20-degree design. But even with a sharper angle down to 13.5 degrees, golfers can still reach beyond the 260 yards mark.
It’s still up to the player to hit the distance, even when playing a fairway wood. Anyone looking for better results will have to master the swing power and technique regardless of the angle of the face.
Are fairway woods too long?
Fairway woods are a bit longer than the average hybrid. Those of small stature might not feel confident with the long shaft length. But as shown above, they can be gripped a bit lower to mimic the hybrid feel.
Ball flight can be long or shorter, depending on the weights and the face angle. For example, Callaway manufactures fairway woods with weights a bit to the middle of the clubhead, such as the Mavrik. Such woods are perfect for shorter flights. But most players will be looking to maximize power and add the weights to the back of the crown for extra shot power.
But even with an adjustable weight where the center of gravity is towards the middle of the clubhead, there is performance to look after. For example, golfers can still expect to reach the 265 yards mark at a clubhead speed of 125 mph even with such a fairway wood made with a center of gravity towards the middle of the clubhead.
Regarding which players should get a fairway wood, there are arguments on both sides. Those who use them think everybody should buy one or two. But those who aren’t playing at least once a week don’t believe a fairway wood is necessary.
Golfers trying to play only once per month will not need a fairway wood because it’s not the most versatile option. A hybrid might be a bit easier to live with. But anyone planning to take golfing seriously will not be impressed by hybrids for a long time.
How to replace hybrids with fairway woods?
Hybrids weren’t too popular even ten years ago. But many amateur players still carry them in their golf bags today almost completely to the detriment of the 5 fairway wood, which is mostly used by top tour players today.
With a shorter shaft, the swing is more upright, producing more spin on the ball. The same can be achieved with a new fairway wood. The way to do this is to grip it a bit lower on the shaft for a different moment of inertia or moi. About 3 inches lower should be enough to replace the hybrid’s shorter shaft. This means the fairway wood is a 2-in-1 in this case as it replaced the 5 hybrids.
The sole difference remains in the point of grip on the shaft. Using fairway wood saves golfers money as a result. A lower grip is closer to a true hybrid, and a high grip is closer to the true nature of a real fairway wood.