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Best Fairway Woods

Best Overall
TaylorMade M4 Fairway Wood

Best Budget
Callaway Golf 2020 Rogue Fairway Wood

Best Premium
Callaway Men's Steelhead XR Fairway Wood

Written by James Cooper
Last Updated
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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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  • 1

    Callaway Golf 2020 Rogue Fairway Wood

Made with a lighter weight and thinner materials, the Callaway Golf Fairway Wood uses some of the latest technologies when it comes to 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 though 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 enhanced 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 a bit 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.

PROS

Game-changing Jailbreak technology

Ultra-thin face design

Reduced air drag

CONS

Learning curve when switching from Titleist fairway wood

  • 2

    TaylorMade M4 Fairway Wood

Aerodynamic, forgiving and lightweight, the M4 Fairway Wood is now faster. Following in the footsteps of its predecessor, 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 now 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 it the context of forgiveness, the inserts also support shots which go the distance. The technology is a unique interpretation which 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 makes the fairway woods a bit better in shots consistency. The larger sweet spot maximizes their impact.

Geocoustictechnology change 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 the difference in its overall playability.

PROS

New weight distribution system

Made with new geometrics

Added steel face inserts

CONS

Correct ball trajectory still depends on the player

  • 3

    Callaway Men's Steelhead XR 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 also integrating proven technologies from the brand such as Face Cup. It’s now with a lower price tag than when it was first launched a few years back.

Face Cup technology makes the most of the larger face design. It delivers better results across the surface and it stands out with its ultimate reliability for high handicappers or for 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. On long shots, its 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 to make the air flow smoothly across the clubhead of the fairway wood.

PROS

Made with a carbon crown

New Speed Step aerodynamics

Better Face Cup on the larger clubhead face

CONS

Light for some players

  • 4

    Callaway Men's Big Bertha Fairway Woods

Big Berhta is now a real classic. Its seen across all golf course in the country. For some players, it’s the only fairway wood and this 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.

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 wave have been added for a new center of gravity. With improved force distribution, the distance the wood can reach is also increased. Ball trajectory make 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 mean player don’t need to hit the ball as hard for it to fly to the green.

PROS

Made with an improved face

New adjustable hosel

Paired with a premium shaft

CONS

Not the latest Callaway release

How to choose the best fairway wood

Finding the best fairway wood is not easy even on Amazon with som many great choice, 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 or Ping. But it’s not just about the brand as woods need to meet a few basic standards for them to add any 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 out of wood anymore as they are made with steel, titanium or even carbon.

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.

  • Shafts

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. In general terms, 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 to 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 a Fujikura or Mitsubishi. Those new to golf should not shy away from these brands as they’re known for their resilience.

  • Clubhead

Clubheads is where the innovation and research meets 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 trajectory of the ball to be shorter. But these materials are engineered for improved performance and their reduced size also means they come with a lesser weight.

But the advantage of a fairway wood is that it often comes with improved off-center hits performance. Most brands now try out various design changes to improve the trajectory of the ball with most hits since it can be difficult to constantly hit the ball on the sweet spot.

Updated center of gravity is seen on most clubheads. Lower and towards the heel, it’s the center of gravity which makes enhances the advantages of the face. 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 which adds 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 is constantly changing in fairway woods such as seen 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 clubhead of the fairway wood 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.

Players need to set a closer stance to the ball when using a hybrid for a correct swing. At the same time, they need to 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 height of the user and the 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. Warranty doesn’t cover damage made to the clubhead form 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.

  • Numbers

Fairway woods are categorized differently and they are numbered accordingly. However, the numbers are not consistent and this is why the woods are not easy to differentiate to 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.

  • Hybrids

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 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 are going to 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.

  • Fairway woods

Unlike the hybrid, the fairway wood has a lower center of gravity more 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.

How to replace hybrids with fairway woods?

Hybrids weren’t too popular even 10 years ago. But many amateur players still carry them in their golf bags today almost completely in 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. They 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 hybrid.

The sole difference remains in the point of grip on the shaft. Using a fairway wood saves golfers’ money as a result. A lower grip is closer to a true hybrid why a high grip is closer to the true nature of a real fairway wood.

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, it’s the Callaway Golf 2018 Men’s Rogue Fairway Wood which is the easiest to hit. It has the largest thin face which makes 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 just goes to show 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 on the face angle. For example, Callaway is manufacturing 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 to 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.

In terms of 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 are not going to 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 is not going to be impressed by hybrids for a long time.