The Best Fairway Woods in early 2018
The distance game is something that most beginners and high handicappers struggle with when they start playing golf. If you can whack the ball hard across long distances with precision on a regular basis, you are well on course to reducing that high handicap. But to do that you will need to learn how to wield all the different clubs effectively. And this means learning how to swing the longer clubs out there, like fairway woods and drivers. These days, club manufacturers offer hybrid clubs that are easier to hit, carry a fair bit of distance and offer more forgiveness than traditional woods. Though having a few of these versatile clubs in your bag is a great idea, having them replace your woods entirely is not something we would recommend. Hybrids have some of the capabilities of fairway woods, but they are more of an improvement on longer irons, and not an out and out replacement for the best fairway woods. So add a fairway wood or two to your collection of clubs sooner rather than later. Nobody improves their golf by sticking to the "easier," shorter clubs alone. With that in mind, here are the best woods in golf, ranked in no particular order:
What Are Fairway Woods?Woods are one of the traditional categories of clubs in golf. The other are the irons, the wedges, and the putter. Though the driver is considered a separate club, it is a longer wood (the 1-wood) and shares many characteristics with the fairway woods. The main difference between a driver and fairway woods is that the former is longer, has a larger clubhead, and is used exclusively from the tee. The fairway woods, as their name suggests, can be used both from the tee (on the shorter holes), and from the fairway when you need some distance on your second shot. Woods are the longest clubs in golf, and can be quite tough for beginners to wield effectively. They used to make fairway woods from persimmon wood, but modern woods are made from titanium or even carbon fiber.
When To Use A Fairway Wood?As a total beginner, you are better off depending on hybrids for your distance shots, even from the tee. Once you master hybrids and can hit long shots on a consistent basis, you may need to look at getting your first driver and fairway wood. A higher lofted 5-wood or 7-wood may be a better options in the initial stage, rather than the longer 3-wood. A 3-wood is easier to use than a driver. On the shorter par-4 holes, where the extra yardage from the driver is unnecessary, the best 3 wood around can effectively replace the driver. This is especially true for golfers with slower swing speeds, which most beginners tend to be. But the best 3-wood can never replace a solid driver in your bag. It should rather be considered more of a useful understudy. As their name suggests, fairway woods are more at home on the fairway, between the tee and the green. But here they face stiff competition from the more forgiving hybrids. Both have their place in your bag, Fairway woods work well from light roughs, while hybrids are better in thicker rough and in fairway bunkers. The primary use of a fairway wood is to reach the green. A 3-wood is a good choice when the distance is short enough for the ball to safely reach the green. But on lies where you cannot guarantee a landing on the green with your 3-wood, avoid it. You may be better off with a higher lofted 5-wood if you have it in the bag, or a hybrid that gives you more control and avoid bunkers and other hazards.
Choosing Between Fairway Woods And HybridsThere are no hard and fast rules regarding golf club composition. There is only a limit on the maximum number of clubs, fourteen. These days we can even find club sets composed entirely of hybrids. That being said, in an ideal situation the choice needn't be between hybrids and fairway woods. Hybrids are better served as a replacement of the longer irons. Carry a couple of hybrids instead of longer irons, along with one or two fairway woods for optimal distance spacing. Fairways for use from the tee and light rough, and the hybrids for the bad lies. Add to that a choice putter, 3-6 irons, couple of specialized wedges and you have an optimal club configuration.
Factors To Consider When Choosing A Fairway WoodThe golf club market is rather saturated with a lot of marketing hype and technical words. A lot of that is just fluff and can be safely ignored. When it comes to fairway woods, focus on the following features:
ClubheadSteel head tend to be smaller. If you want more forgiveness, titanium or composite heads are lighter can hence larger in size. Most modern manufacturers offer fairway woods with these materials for high handicappers.
ShaftGraphite is the ideal choice for beginners are higher handicappers since it offers more flex. A simple rule is: more flex equals more swing speed, which equals more distance on shots. Pros tend to have faster golf swings and don't need the extra flex, but for anyone with a double digit handicap, the graphite shafts can make a welcome difference.
LoftThis feature is more of a concern in drivers, where manufacturers offer adjustable lofts for players to tweak with. But some modern fairway woods also come with adjustable lofts these days, the loft is the angle at which the club face sits with respect to the shaft, and it can seriously affect where and how the ball flies on impact.
Adjustable WeightsAgain, another feature that is more common in the 1-wood, also called the driver. But these days, this feature is also becoming common in fairway woods. Changing the position of the weighted pieces on the clubface will allow golfers to change how the ball flies on impact. The adjustable features are nice, but only if you know what you are doing. At least in the earlier stages of using fairway woods, you may be better off focusing more on improving your swing and stance. It is better to start tinkering with the club once the basics have been mastered. But having these features on your fairway wood is always welcome.
Looks are entirely subjective, but it can’t be denied that this is one of the most striking looking clubs in this list with its red and black design. And the sound is also quite pleasing, especially on well struck shots from the center of the clubface.
In terms of forgiveness, this club may be best suited for mid-handicappers. The dimensions of the clubhead are not overblown as in most clubs aimed at high handicappers.
The Big Bertha Alpha 815 is available in a 3-wood, 5-wood and 7-wood configuration, with adjustable weights on the clubhead.
What we like
- Excellent looks and feel, with crisp sound on well hit shots.
- Ideal for mid-handicappers looking to improve their score.
- Adjustable weight offers more versatility, with the ability to either increase or decrease spin.
- Excellent performance in the rough, with the ability to reach the green on par-5 holes.
What we dislike
- This is a premium product, so expect the price to be on the higher side.
- Though the forgiveness is generous enough for mid-handicappers, beginners and higher handicapped players might be at a bit of a disadvantage.
- Compact clubhead may not be very suitable for tee shots.
The Tight Lies range from Adams was a classic when it was launched first in the 1990s.
Recently relaunched with modern technology, the latest edition still carries the trademark sole design from the classic model.
As staying true to its name, this wood performs well in the rough and on the fairway, thanks to a very compact head. The impact sound is very quiet, with a metallic note on dead center hits.
The fairway wood is available in lower lofted 3-wood, 5-wood and two other higher lofted versions.
What we like
- The minimalist design with matte black crown looks clean, mature and sober.
- The woods have excellent accuracy and forgiveness, and should be ideal for everyone save for the really high handicappers.
- Best in class performance in tight lies and on the rough, with great elevation on every shot.
- Higher lofted models are ideal for players looking to upgrade from hybrids to fairway woods.
What we dislike
- The smaller head means less performance from the tee.
- Not enough forgiveness for players with really high handicaps.
In keeping with its branding, this club from TaylorMade manages to look busy and fast in its design.
The aerodynamically shaped head was designed with performance in mind, and the larger speed pocket looks to add more flex in each shot.
The forgiveness is on the higher side thanks to the medium sized head. The club doesn’t have any adjustable features, but that is not necessarily a bad thing, especially for beginners. The lightweight feel of the club may also benefit weaker players more than seasoned veterans.
The AeroBurner is available in 3-wood and 5-wood configurations with a graphite shaft.
What we like
- With its lightweight and forgiveness, it can rank among the best fairway woods for high handicappers.
- It gets a good distance on shots with the speed pocket on the head, and a longer than average shaft.
- Performs equally well from the tee and on the fairways.
- The higher than average loft on shots make this club a good performer on all kinds of lies and rough.
What we dislike
- It doesn’t have any adjustable features.
- The white clubhead design is not exactly the best looking in the market.
- The club has some slight accuracy issues when shots are mishit.
Callaway has tried to improve the long distance shots with a metal ridge on the sole of the club that optimizes the Center of Gravity.
The aim is to get a performance ideal for a driver replacement, and the shots are crisp and loud with this fairway wood. The overall feel of the club is quite balanced, and the looks are quite traditional with a black matter finish on the head.
With the usual graphite shaft, the XR is available in 3, 4, 5 and 7-wood configurations.
What we like
- The clubhead has been designed for distance, and this wood works great off the tee.
- The club is quite forgiving without compromising too much on feedback and performance, and has all the features to rank among the best fairway woods for high handicappers.
- The traditional looks with helpful alignment marks on the crown inspire confidence in shots.
It can get excellent distance from the fairways as well.
What we dislike
- It is a nit harder to get ball flight with this club.
- The longer shaft makes it a somewhat difficult proposition for beginners.
- This club also lacks any advanced adjustable features.
Cobra Golf collaborated with Pro Golfer Rickie Fowler on their F7 range of golf clubs and the King F7 Fairway wood is the latest iteration in the series.
Cobra has introduced a couple of rails to the sole of the club at Fowler’s request, improving the performance in the rough and on thick grass.
The club comes with the adjustable lofts that has been a trademark of Cobra fairway woods for some time now.
There are two versions, one which can be changed from a 3-wood to a 4-wood, and the other version having a 5/6-wood combo.
What we like
- Good looking fairway wood with the usual Cobra black and orange design.
- It incorporates several adjustable features, from the weights at the sole, to the loft angle.
- The rails on the sole make this fairway wood an excellent performer on the fairway, even in really bad lies and rough.
- Has decent amount of forgiveness and accuracy on offer for mid handicap golfers.
What we dislike
- The performance can be severely affected by improper weight placement. So beginner golfers might be better off without the adjustable features.
- The overall performance is quite average, especially off the tee when compared to some of the other clubs in the list.
Choosing the best fairway wood (or any golf club for that matter) is a tough task.
Golfers have different handicaps, skill levels as well as preferences, and choosing the ideal club that suits everyone is an impossible task.
All we can hope for is to try and take a pick based on the utilitarian premise of “greatest happiness for the greatest number” of golfers. From that perspective, the Adams Golf Tight Lies is our pick from the list of best fairway woods, especially for higher handicappers looking to upgrade from hybrids.
Since that demographic is the largest among golf club customers, this club is what we recommend.
If you want a driver replacement, the best 3 wood from the list would probably be the Callaway Men’s XR, since it is optimized for distance.