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What is a fairway wood?

A fairway wood golf club is designed for longer shots out of the fairway or short rough, as well as accuracy off the tee when a driver is unsuitable. Fairway woods are shorter than a driver with more loft (between 13–27 degrees in most cases) but longer than most hybrids and irons, making them great to use off the tee and hitting from the fairway.

Advantages of Using Fairway Woods

Each fairway wood offers benefits for different types of playstyles and golfers. If you neglect the fairway woods in your bag, there’s a chance that you might be hurting your long game. Here are some of the biggest advantages of using these clubs.

Driver Alternative

Although a driver offers players the best chance to maximize your distance off the tee, it’s also the hardest to hit straight due to the lower loft and longer shaft.

Paradym Ai Smoke Fairway Wood

Because fairway woods are typically more accurate off the tee compared to driver, it is not uncommon for golfers that are struggling to hit the driver to opt for a 3 wood in some cases. While you might sacrifice distance, 3 woods are great alternatives to keep your ball in play and give yourself more scoring opportunities from the fairway.

Easier to Hit Than Long Irons

The second-biggest advantage to fairway woods is that they’re much easier to hit than long irons. The bigger clubhead of a fairway wood promotes higher launch when compared to 2-5 irons and makes longer approach shots more manageable.

This is one of the primary reasons that we don’t see many 1 or 2 irons on the market or in professional golf. The majority of golfers, professional and amateurs, generally prefer the forgiveness and launch of 3 woods, 5 woods, and even 7 woods in some cases.

Great for Par-5s 

Par 5s are a great opportunity for players to make a birdie or possibly an eagle with a great second shot. With a good drive you can possibly get on or near the green in two shots with the help of a fairway wood approach shot. This should make it easier to get a Par or better on the hole. 

If you miss-hit your driver, a fairway wood can also help you cover more ground on your second shot to get you closer to the green.

Adjustability  

Finally, some fairway woods have adjustability features like most modern drivers. This allows you to easily change the loft and lie angle settings to dial in the right trajectory, spin, and ball flight.

Fairway Wood vs. Hybrid

Fairway woods and hybrids are both great clubs but each have their own specific purposes and offer different designs.

Clubhead size  

To start, fairway woods have a larger club head than hybrids with a more shallow face design.  The shallower club head keeps the center of gravity lower making it easier to hit from the fairway and light rough. The larger design makes them more forgiving than hybrids and easier to launch longer distances.

Loft 

The second difference between fairway woods and hybrids are the loft. Most fairway woods range from 14 to 21 degrees of loft while hybrids will typically range from 18 to 25 degrees or more. Hybrids and high lofted fairway woods are designed to serve as more forgiving alternatives to long irons (2, 3, 4, or 5-iron).

Shaft Length  

Shaft length is another big difference between these clubs as fairway woods have longer shafts than the loft equivalent hybrid golf club. It is important to note that because fairway woods have longer shafts and larger club heads, fairway woods will achieve greater distances when compared to a hybrid with the same loft.

Versatility 

Hybrids have become a staple in so many golf bags and are also often included in a lot of combo irons sets. While fairway woods are ideal for certain situations and lies, they lack the same versatility of a smaller, more compact shape of a hybrid golf club. As a result, many golfers choose to carry a combination of hybrids and fairway woods in their bags as alternatives to longer irons.

Types of Fairway Woods

3 Woods

3 woods offer the longest distances and are great for tee shots or long second shots when you need extra yardage. These clubs are nearly as long (typically about 43 inches, while a driver is 44–45.75 inches) which helps them travel long distances. 

Most 3 woods will feature an adjustable hosel to allow golfers to change the loft and lie angle settings. There are also different types of 3 wood including a strong 3 (3+) which has 14 degrees of loft or a 3HL (high launch) which is 16.5 degrees. 

The one downside to 3 woods is they aren't as easy to hit from the fairway or the rough for some golfers. They’re great off the tee as a fairway finder club but some golfers struggle to launch it from the lower loft and bigger clubhead.

5 Woods & 7 Woods

5 woods and 7 woods have a slightly smaller club head and are more versatile than 3 woods. These clubs have higher lofts and are shorter than a 3 wood, making them easier to hit from the fairway and rough. 

A 5 wood loft is typically between 18–20 degrees while a 7 wood loft is between 21–24 degrees. These fairway woods help all types of players on longer, more challenging shots as they’re much easier to hit than long irons. These are great alternatives to 2, 3, and 4-irons.

High Lofted Woods

Higher lofted fairway woods, including heavenwoods, 9 woods, and 11 woods, often serve as replacements for mid-irons and hybrids

Higher lofted woods are a great choice for women, seniors, and beginner golfers who need help with distance and higher launching shots. These are great alternatives for 4, 5, 6, and even 7-irons.

Utility Woods

Apex Utility Wood

A utility wood is a wood that is made for tour players and skilled golfers. This club blends the distance and launch of a high lofted fairway wood with the versatility of a hybrid. It has a neutral ball flight that can help with tight tee shots, from the fairway, and out of the rough on long par 5s.

How to choose the right fairway wood

Fairway woods can set you up for success in a number of situations, but before adding a new wood to your bag, you should always consider your skill level, power and accuracy. A reputable fitter can also help you choose which loft and shaft flex will best suit your swing speed and playstyle.

Now that you've learned about what goes into buying a fairway wood and the decisions that are in play, it's time to pick the one that's best for you. 

Whether you're looking to buy a new or pre-owned fairway wood, Callaway offers a wide selection of golf clubs, guaranteed to fit any play style. For more help, check out our online fairway wood selector tool for expert recommendations to improve your game.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need a fairway wood in your golf bag?

Although having a fairway wood is not required, you will find most golfers will carry at least one in their bag. Typically, there are one or two woods in the standard golf club set up. 

With that being said, it is not uncommon for golfers to substitute a fairway wood for a hybrid golf club of equivalent loft, or even a low-lofted long iron to better cover distance gaps. 

Ultimately, club selection will be determined by player preference, so it is important to try out the different options to find the best arrangement.

How many fairway woods should you carry?

This depends on the golfer as everyone as their own personal preferences in types of clubs. In general, the vast majority of golfers, regardless of skill level, will carry a 3 wood in their bag.  This club is great off the tee and can help provide more confidence if your driver is giving you troubles. 

Most golfers usually add 1-2 more fairway woods (or hybrids) in addition to a 3 wood. It’s not uncommon for golfers to have a 3 wood, 5 wood, and 7 wood. Or, a 3 wood, 5 wood, and 3 hybrid or driving iron.

How do I choose the right 3 wood?

There are three major factors to consider when choosing a 3 wood; loft, shaft, and club head design. 

3 wood lofts range from 14-16.5 degrees, depending on the manufacturer and model of the club. Beginner golfers and those who have a slower swing speed should opt for at least 15 degrees of loft (or more). More loft helps maximize distance on slower swings for players who have trouble creating proper launch angles. While more skilled golfers with faster swing speeds should opt for 14 or 15 degrees. 

The second thing to consider is the 3 wood shaft - both the flex and weight. You should play the same flex in all clubs but the weight is a personal preference. 

Heavier shafts (70-80 grams) are great choices for stronger golfers with faster swing speeds. Average or slower swinging golfers will benefit more from 50-65 gram shafts. 

Finally, don’t forget about the club head design as some have a built-in draw bias. This can help you hit it straighter if you struggle with a slice without changing your swing thanks to the forgiving design and weight distribution.

Is it worth having a 3 wood and a 5 wood?

It is not uncommon for golfers to carry both a 3 wood and 5 wood. The key is to make sure the lofts are spaced out equally, usually about 4 to 5 degrees, so they each fill a primary distance gap in your bag.