An Expert Guide to Fairway Woods: How to Build Out Your Golf Bag

Published on 05/23/2023 · 7 min readGolf Expert Joe Mallock lays out three scenarios to determine how you should build your bag and gives his top fairway wood picks.
Joe Mallock, Golf Expert
By Golf Expert Joe Mallock

Photo by Virginia Anderson

In golf, we are allowed to carry 14 clubs. Eric Hall, a Curated Golf Expert, covers the fundamental club choices nicely in this article. But, how are you supposed to know what fairway woods to carry in your bag? Your grandpa might have a 3-wood, 5-wood, 7-wood, or even maybe a 9-wood in his bag. But that looks nothing like a pro’s bag, which has a 3-wood, but maybe no other fairway woods. So, what’s the right option for you? The answer is that it all depends on your game. Let’s get into it with three scenarios!

How Many Fairway Woods to Carry?

Scenario One

You play on a course that’s short and tight. There are at least a few holes on the front and back where the driver doesn’t work well. Maybe there’s water 260 yards out that you can’t carry with the driver, so you need to lay up. Or, maybe the tee boxes are lined with trees on both sides, which makes it impossible to aim correctly to account for your driver’s slice. (If slicing your driver is your issue, read about how to stop slicing your driver.)

If Scenario 1 is relatable for you, then you definitely want a 3-wood, and you might consider a 5-wood. The 3-wood is a must-have in every bag! It’s usually easier to control than a driver. For men’s clubs, a driver is typically 45 inches long, and the 3-wood is only 43 inches long. The shorter shaft on the 3-wood makes it easier to control, and the result is better consistency and more fairways found. Also, a 3-wood doesn’t go quite as far as a driver, so the misses don’t miss as badly. This increases the odds that you will keep the ball in play and make par more often!

You might want a 5-wood in the bag if your home course is particularly short or if you often need to get over trees and need a wood with a higher launch. However, over the last 20 years, hybrids are more in style and have replaced the 5-wood for many golfers. Hybrids are designed to be easier to hit from the rough, and they can also be taken off the tee and from the fairway. But, if you play your woods better, then carry a 5-wood instead of a hybrid.

Scenario Two

You don’t hit your irons very far. You carry a 4-iron and a 5-iron, but you seem to hit your 6-iron better, and it goes just as far as the long irons. The issue is that you need to bridge the gap between your driver and your longest hittable iron, which is a 6-iron. Your driver probably has a loft of about 9°–12°, and your 6-iron is usually between 26°-30°. It makes the most sense to carry clubs that vary by about 4° or 5° so that each club flies a different distance, which means a 3-wood, 5-wood and 7-wood will be a suitable combination for you. If you like hybrids, though, remove the 7-wood and go for a 4 or 5 hybrid instead, which usually has about the same amount of loft.

Scenario Three

You are a good player, and you play a long course, which isn’t a problem since you hit your drive between 240–270 yards consistently. You have a good iron game and have no problem hitting a 4-iron at least 200 yards. So how do you bridge the gap in your bag? A 3-wood is a must, and that will take you about 225–250 yards depending on how you hit it. In this case, a 5-wood probably doesn’t make sense since you want something more versatile—maybe a hybrid with 20 degrees of loft or maybe a driving 2-iron since both are a bit easier to hit from the rough than a 5-wood.

Choosing the Right Fairway Woods

Once you have figured out how many woods to carry, you’re going to wonder which are the best fairway woods for you. Here’s a breakdown of the various options on the market so you can choose correctly.

Least Expensive

Tour Edge C522 Hot Launch 3-Wood

Let’s admit it — golf can be an expensive sport. If you’re looking to get premium equipment without spending your whole paycheck, then the Tour Edge fairway woods are a great choice. The C522 Hot Launch series of clubs is a better performance club that’s designed for golfers shooting between 90–105 and goes up to a 7-wood. The E522 Hot Launch series of fairway woods offers the most forgiveness and goes all the way up to an 11-wood — almost unheard of these days. The E522 fairway woods are a great choice for seniors who prefer woods to hybrids and newer golfers who are just learning and want clubs that are easy to hit.

Most Adjustable

Cobra LTDx 3-Wood

If you like to tinker with your clubs, then consider the Cobra LTDx Fairway Woods. They have a 3-wood, 5-wood, and 7-wood. The best part is that with the adjustable hosel you can change the degree of loft by as much as 1.5° in either direction. For example, you could adjust your 3-wood down to a strong 13.5°, or go with a higher loft of 16.5° for a more elevated shot. Plus, you can change the clubface from a neutral to a draw setting to help promote a more desirable ball flight. Cobra is known for its distance, so you’ll be pleased with the pop that you get from these fairway woods.

Most Forgiving

Cleveland Launcher XL Halo 3-Wood

If you find it challenging to hit your current fairway woods because you’re duffing the ball or can’t keep it in play, then you should strongly consider playing the Cleveland Launcher XL Halo Fairway Woods. These woods have a larger face than most other woods on the market. Plus, they use “glide-rail” technology to help the club pass through the turf without chunking or duffing, and it helps to maintain clubhead speed at impact. Plus, there is extra weight placed in the butt of the handle, which makes it easier to control the club based on the physics of a swing. The Launcher XL Halos are available as a 3-wood, 5-wood, and 7-wood, and it is one of the more affordable clubs to improve your game.

Best Performance

TaylorMade Stealth Plus+ 3-Wood

If you’re a single-digit handicapper who’s looking for the best 3-wood on the market, then the TaylorMade Stealth Plus\+ Fairway 3-Wood RocketDSmY5lIqZ841g","text":"TaylorMade Stealth Plus\+ Fairway 3-Wood Rocket"}@sellableLink@ is the club you need in your bag! If your swing speed is over 105mph, then you have the option for an extra stiff shaft with this club. Plus, the 3-Wood Rocket is a strong 13.5° club that allows for absolute bombs, which you probably need if you’re playing long courses that are a minimum of 7,000 yards. The Stealth Plus Fairway Woods use a Zatech Titanium face, which delivers even more pop than the steel face on the regular Stealth Fairway woods. This club is also designed to be easy to hit, too; the sole uses a V-shaped steel plate that creates a smooth interaction with the turf on impact and adds weight towards the heel and toe of the club to improve forgiveness. This club gives better players everything they want—low spin, longer distance, increased accuracy, and a beautifully designed club.


Every golfer should have a driver and a 3-wood in their bag. But there are so many options after that—5-woods, 7-woods, hybrids, and driving irons. Hopefully, what you learned here is that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The best clubs depend entirely on your game, the courses that you play most often, and what you feel comfortable hitting. Even if you only carry a 3-wood, it doesn’t have to be the same as the 3-wood that your buddy says he loves so much. Remember, we all have different swings and different financial situations. What works well for your buddy might not be the best 3-wood for you. Be honest with yourself about what you need, then you’ll find the best clubs for your game! If you found this article helpful and are ready to build out your bag, connect with me, Joe Mallock, or another Curated Golf Expert. We can’t wait to help you!

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