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How to Choose the Best Fairway Wood for Your Game

Published on 03/14/2023 · 10 min readWhen it comes to finding the best fairway wood for your golf game, the one that matches your driver may not always be the best option for you.
By Golf Expert Michael Pryor

Photo by happyalex

While it’s entirely possible that the manufacturer of your driver also makes great fairway woods, it may not necessarily be the best option for you and your golf game. Take for example Henrik Stenson, according to tour news, he recently put his Diablo Octane 3-wood by Callaway back in play at the Valero Texas Open. As a PGA Touring Professional, Stenson could get any 3-wood he likes and certainly considering that the club is 13 years old, there are some more technologically advanced options available to him. Not to mention, the Graffaloy Blue graphite shaft in it is nearly 18 years old. Apparently, this fairway wood has some good memories for him as he used it to beat Phil Mickelson and win the 2016 Open Championship. If you were to go to PGA Value Guide, you may be able to pick up a similar club for as low as $13.50—at that price, I'm not sure that it would come with a free headcover.

There are several factors to consider when purchasing a new fairway wood or two! The flex of the shaft, the shaft weight, the length of the shaft, and the loft of the clubhead are all options to consider to ensure your fairway woods perform—get it right and you may be playing your 3-wood for the next thirteen years like Henrik Stenson.

Looking for a Fairway Wood to use from the Tee, the Fairway, or Both

Many golfers claim to be able to hit their 3-woods just as far as their driver, but how can that be? The 3-wood will have more loft on it than the driver will, so golfers are able to hit it high. And if the shaft length is close to the driver’s, these two factors can contribute to being able to hit a 3-wood just as far, if not farther, than their driver. Remember Phil Mickelson’s Callaway “Phrankenwood”? He took it to The Masters because he was hitting it just as long as his driver. This “3-wood” was a little different than your typical 3-wood. It had 8.5 degrees of loft and the shaft length was as long as the typical driver shafts found today in many of the Callaway drivers.

Photo by Callaway

Overall, a company's success in the fairway wood market comes from the design of the clubhead and their ability to make their clubs easy to hit for the typical golfer. Most golfers have difficulty when it comes to hitting long irons, and for companies such as TaylorMade, Ping, Cobra, Titleist, and Wilson, when it comes to fairway woods, their goal is to produce a club that makes those longer shots easier. If you are looking to substitute a fairway wood for your longer irons, a rough rule of thumb is:

  • A 4-wood replaces a 2-iron
  • A 5-wood replaces a 3-iron
  • A 7-wood replaces a 4-iron
  • A 9-wood replaces a 5-iron

For those that have trouble hitting high, straight, long iron shots, a new fairway wood could be just the answer you are looking for to be able to hit those "far away" targets.

The Clubhead: What Is It Made Of

While many fairway woods have steel heads, more and more manufacturers are building clubs with titanium, and some are even using lightweight modern materials, such as carbon, to help the clubs perform better. Titanium is lighter than steel, and this enables the manufacturer to strategically adjust the center of gravity. Taking this concept even one step further, manufacturers such as TaylorMade have begun to utilize lightweight carbon in the crown of the clubhead so they can reposition weight lower and further back along the sole of the club. This new lightweight composite innovation helps to launch the ball higher but also helps to produce a shot with low spin to minimize the curve of the golf shot and keep the ball in the air longer. The titanium clubface, being that it is lighter and stronger than steel, can help to produce faster ball speeds, even if the ball is not hit on the sweet spot.

Finding the Right Shaft

When searching for new fairway woods, the shaft can be just as important as finding the right clubhead. Like your driver, shafts for fairway woods are made with different flexes, lengths, and weights. Today, nearly all fairway woods are built with graphite shafts. The primary benefit of graphite is that it is much lighter than steel.

Shaft Flex

In determining the best flex for you, two key considerations are clubhead speed and ball flight. For those with slower swing speeds, a more flexible shaft would be beneficial. If you tend to have a fast swing speed, you will likely want a shaft that is a little firmer or stiffer. The shaft flex in fairway woods should be slightly softer than the flex in the driver. If you know how fast you are swinging your driver, and/or how far you are able to carry your driver, you will begin to get an idea in terms of the best shaft for your fairway woods. The chart below explains the relationship between your driver’s carry distance and the recommended shaft flex for your fairway woods.

Chart by Michael Pryor

Shaft Length

There are some industry standards in terms of shaft lengths for fairway woods. The average length of a 3 wood is 43”. As you go up in terms of loft (5-wood, 7-wood, etc.) each club will be a little shorter by a ½” to 1”. If your 3-wood is 43” then your 5-wood shouldn’t be any longer than 42 ½ “. Length can be pretty standard, but it is an important consideration to ensure you are hitting the ball in the center of the clubface. If the shaft in your fairway wood is too long, you may find yourself hitting the ball more on the heel of the club, and if the shaft in your fairway wood is too short, you find yourself hitting the ball more out on the toe of the club.

Shaft Weight

Shaft weight is another important factor to consider when buying a new fairway wood. The shaft in your fairway woods should be slightly heavier (5 to 15 grams) than your driver shaft. By doing this you will be able to create a similar feel to your driver and allow you to produce a more consistent swing. Keep in mind that your fairway woods are shorter than your driver so the slightly heavier shafts allow you to create a similar feel in comparison to your driver.

Clubhead Loft

When looking for a new fairway wood, the loft is another consideration that will help you get more out of your longer fairway shots. Having a club head with more loft helps players hit the ball higher and increase the carry distance and control of these longer shots. Many players today are enjoying the benefits of the added loft in their 3-woods by going from 13 to 15 degrees of loft or even in some cases, not carrying a 3-wood at all and carrying a 4-wood which typically has 16 to 18 degrees of loft.

Understanding all of the variables involved with finding the ideal fairway wood can really help you improve this aspect of your golf game. For example, you could customize your fairway wood by using a 3-wood shaft (43”) with a 4-wood head (16 degrees) that would allow you to maximize distance as well as control with the higher launch angle that is produced from the more lofted 4-wood head. This is the idea behind the 3 HL (high launch) that is promoted by many manufacturers today. The key is to find (or build) a fairway wood that best suits your swing and your golf game.


Many of the drivers and fairway woods found today offer some sort of adjustability to allow players to fine-tune their clubs. Various manufacturers offer different options in terms of being able to add or reduce loft to being able to adjust the lie angle and/or face angle. This new built-in adjustability helps to ensure that you are able to optimize your golf shots.


Most fairway woods that are produced today are built to be forgiving. Their lightweight materials, such as titanium, allow the manufacturer to make the clubhead larger and more forgiving, without making the heads too heavy. These stronger, larger, and more forgiving clubheads allow the player to produce more ball speed—even on off-center hits.

Twist Face: What Is It and How Can It Help

TaylorMade's Sim Gloire Fairway Wood with Twist Face technology.

Twist Face is designed to help players when they do not hit the ball on the sweet spot. TaylorMade’s Twist Face technology enhances two different parts of the clubhead: the low heel area and the high toe area. When a player hits a shot low on the heel, it tends to spin more and curve to the right. Shots hit high on the toe will tend to curve left with a lower spin rate.

In an effort to produce a club that offers more forgiveness (or correction), Taylor Made has added more curvature to the clubface. The low heel area has less loft and is more closed, while the high toe area is more open with more loft. According to TaylorMade, this “twisting” helps to minimize the effect of off-center hits.

Baffler Rails

Cobra's King Speedzone Fairway Wood.

Cobra’s Baffler Rail Technology enhances their fairway wood line by guiding the club through the turf to allow for optimum ball contact. The baffler rails can be especially helpful on long par-3’s, longer par-4’s that require a long second shot, and even par-5’s when trying to reach the green in two shots. The higher launch and softer landing could be the difference in the ball staying on the green or going over the green.

Getting A Grip

Photo by ESPA

The only way that we are connected to the golf club is through the grip. It is important to know how to ensure that you are able to get the feedback that helps you to play your best. 1. You first must know the size of grip that is best in terms of fit. A grip that is too small will encourage overactive hands and a grip that is too big will keep you from getting the proper hand action. To get the optimal grip size you’ll want to measure your hands from the tip of your middle finger to the base of your palm. Then, you’ll want to measure the length of your middle finger. These two measurements will help you to find the correct grip for the size of your hands. If you want more information on choosing the best grip for you, check out our guide here. 2. Next, you’ll want to get some different grips in your hands to see which feels the best for you—this may even include hitting some balls with different grips. Do you prefer a firmer feel, a softer feel, or something in between? If you’re not even sure how to grip a club, we have advice and instructions here.

You should now be ready to add some new fairway woods to your bag. You have an understanding of the key components of a fairway wood and how it may help you to play your best golf. Should you need help in building your next fairway wood, reach out to the experts here on Curated. They will be more than happy to help you find the best fairway woods for your game.

Michael Pryor, Golf Expert
Michael Pryor
Golf Expert
PGA Member - 23 years Certified PGA Professional - Golf Operations Certified PGA Professional - Teaching & Coaching ​ ​ ​
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Written by:
Michael Pryor, Golf Expert
Michael Pryor
Golf Expert
PGA Member - 23 years Certified PGA Professional - Golf Operations Certified PGA Professional - Teaching & Coaching ​ ​ ​

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