Choosing the Right Loft for Your WoodsPublished on 03/14/2023 · 6 min readWondering what loft you need for your woods? Golf Expert Adam Ditcher explains how to select the best woods and lofts for your game.
Photo courtesy of Callaway
There is a basic understanding of what usually constitutes a set of golf clubs. Just about every golfer carries a putter. Most golfers carry a driver, although some have given up on mastering it and using something else to hit off the tee. Generally, some type of iron set (with or without hybrids) is found in a golf bag, along with some wedges. However, there are so many options out there that a new golfer or someone making their first upgrade from a starter set can easily get lost.
Different Types of Woods
Choosing the right clubs for your game is important, and woods are no exception. Fairway woods are versatile; you can use them off the tee, in the fairway, in the rough, and occasionally to hit a bump and run or a punch shot. A standard 3-wood is generally pretty common to find in most players’ bags. A 5-wood is less common but is still used widely instead of a 2-iron because it is more forgiving for the high handicapper due to its offset and lower center of gravity (CG).
You can also play a 4-wood, 7-wood, 9-wood, or even the occasionally offered 11-wood. There are also strong 3-woods, which come in a lower loft than standard, as well as high loft (HL) 3-woods that are the opposite and have slightly more face angle than standard.
As you can see, there are plenty of options. Add in that different club shafts are available for each wood selection, and there’s a seemingly overwhelming number of combinations.
How Does Someone Choose the Proper Woods?
I believe that the first step in determining the proper lofts for woods is to figure out how many woods are appropriate to play with. Generally, it is beneficial to carry at least one wood, even if you have struggled hitting woods in the past. I have heard many golfers talk about how they can’t hit their woods and have no confidence in anything higher than a hybrid off of the fairway or out of the rough. When comparing a wood versus a hybrid, it is clear that hybrids are generally easier to hit for the newer golfer and even for high handicap players. The clubhead and lie angle help, but the major issue is the lack of distance players can get, even with the longest hybrids on the market.
The most important factor these days is not what the number on your wood says but what type of launch angle you achieve while swinging the club. Many amateur golfers struggle to get consistent performance out of their woods because they struggle to use a club with such a low loft to elevate the golf ball and move it down par 5s or long par 4s. This problem is exacerbated when high handicappers have to hit the ball on the green on a long par 3 or any long approach shots, as the ball will not hold after hitting the green if the ball flight is a low bullet.
Modern woods have a much higher MOI (moment of inertia) than some of the classic woods that many new players will use due to a lower cost to purchase. This means that the clubhead flows through impact smoother with more forgiveness, creating a more forgiving wood than amateurs are likely used to. This combines a low center of gravity (CG) with the weight of the clubhead situated behind the ball to create an easier club to achieve optimal launch angle off the face. Modern woods are lightweight with a graphite shaft and easier to swing because of it. Almost no woods these days are made with a steel shaft.
If you struggle with a standard 3-wood, there is no shame in exploring other options that may be a better fit. Clubs can be fit to your swing more now than ever before. Substitute a 3-wood HL if you find that 15 degrees isn’t enough to get the ball in the air or if your swing is very flat and around your body. If your swing is steep and you have no issues generating ball speed, a strong 3-wood could help you pick up a few extra yards and maybe hit that par 5 in two instead of being just short. The change in just a few degrees of the loft can make a lot of difference in the performance of your 3-wood
Most 3-wood HL options are pretty similar to a 4-wood in loft. Generally, either a strong 3-wood, standard 3-wood, or HL 3-wood will do for a player. After that, it becomes a little less clear what other woods a player should carry, as they tend to overlap with hybrids. For example, a typical 5-wood is 18 degrees of loft, as are many 2-hybrid options on the market. A 7-wood typically would be around 21 degrees of loft, but so would a 3-hybrid. This trend continues, and many manufacturers like Callaway or TaylorMade make options in multiple builds of club design for the same loft on the clubface.
Many of these clubs are designed to be easier to hit than a long iron, which used to be much more common than it is now. There is no longer a real need for even better amateur players to use a 2-iron, 3-iron, or even a 4-iron if they really do not want to. Woods and hybrids can fill those gaps in a golfer’s bag and will be easier to control and hit optimal launch angle off of the face with, not to mention be easier to hit for distance out of the rough. The woods and hybrids also are more customizable than a classic long iron with adjustable hosels and lightweight graphite shafts.
Selecting the Proper Woods
The best fairway woods for each player will largely depend on this breakdown of how many hybrid clubs the golfer wants to carry compared to the number of woods they want in their bag. When trying out new woods, pay attention to the spin, launch angle, and trajectory that the ball demonstrates after impact. Ensure that you also have the proper shaft flex in the club for your swing speed. If you find that your ball flight is too high with some higher woods, such as a 5-wood, hybrids can provide a lower flight, especially iron hybrids. In fact, some professional golfers will swap out a 5-wood and a 2-hybrid depending on the course they are playing and their swing performance that day.
The adjustability these days allows players to fine-tune these longer clubs on the range before the round. The forgiveness of the titanium heads, especially with offset models, will help any player using hand-me-down clubs to have an easier time with their long game. Whether you struggle with a slice or a hook, speak to a fellow Curated Golf Expert or me, and we will help you to get a better grasp of the woods in your bag and maximize the value that a good long game can bring to your score at the end of a round.