Golf Club 101: What is a Fairway Wood?

Published on 05/30/2023 · 9 min readUnsure when to use your fairway wood or even what it is? Golf Expert Eric Hall explains why to have this club in your bag and how it compares.
Eric Hall, Golf Expert
By Golf Expert Eric Hall

Callaway Epic Flash Fairway Wood. Photo courtesy of Callaway

It can be tricky to figure out why and how to use your fairway wood. When should you use a 3-wood? A 5-wood? What's even the difference between higher lofts on woods and a hybrid? As a Golf Expert, I field a lot of questions about clubs here on Curated. Read on to find the answers to common questions about fairway woods.

What is a fairway wood?

A fairway wood is a longer golf club that has anywhere between 13 and 22 degrees of loft. It is intended for use either off the tee or from far away in the fairway or rough. Generally, these clubs have a low center of gravity (CG) and a graphite shaft to make them a little lighter, allowing the ball flights to have a more penetrating yet arcing look. Most of these clubs are made from titanium in the club head, though the new TaylorMade Stealth woods are a carbon composite.

When should I use a fairway wood?

There is no set formula for figuring out when you can and cannot hit a fairway wood. Generally, golfers will use them for more control off of a tight tee, for reaching long par 5s, or for chip shots from just off the green. Due to the shorter shaft on a fairway wood from a driver, these clubs have less likelihood to slice or hook on your shots. However, golfers have also been known to use them to hit out of rough, bunkers, and even bushes. Because the clubhead speed that is generated with a fairway wood is faster than an iron, if the lie in the rough is decent enough, the smaller head allows it to cut through the grass.

Is a fairway wood the same as a 3-wood?

A 3-wood is one style of fairway wood. A 3-wood has the strongest lofting among fairway woods that are sold in most golf pro shops, although 2-woods technically exist as well. The 3-wood is the most common wood in a golfer’s bag, besides the driver.

Can you use a 3-wood on the fairway?

Yes! The 3-wood is a great choice to hit off the deck (meaning from the fairway), especially on a longer shot where you need a higher launch into a green. Greens with no front bunkers guarding them are even better; your ball can land short and roll up instead of having to land and stop on the green.

What is the difference between a fairway wood and a hybrid?

Fairway woods usually have a more elongated club head and are usually thinner than hybrids, allowing for a lower center of gravity. Hybrids are used to replace longer irons and generally allow for a steeper descending angle from shots.

Do I need a fairway wood or a hybrid?

Why limit yourself to one or the other? Instead, add both! Replacing a 3- or 4-iron with a hybrid and adding a 3-wood or 5-wood to your bag will give you more versatility and accuracy around the course and more options off the tee! Better players will be sure to have a preference, but for the weekend warriors, making sure that you have a plethora of clubs in the right flex is better than picking one or the other. If you are more comfortable with a little longer shaft from far away and want a more piercing trajectory, a fairway wood is the best option for you.

Is it easier to hit a hybrid or a fairway wood?

Easier is a subjective term. For those who like the shape of an iron, hybrids may look better at address and be easier to hit due to the shorter shaft length. They also tend to be a little higher launching, allowing the ball to land at a steeper angle of decent. For those who like to see a little bulk to their larger head, a fairway wood is going to be easier to hit and launch away, but it is going to have a lower trajectory than that of hybrid clubs. Whichever way you go, both are extremely versatile clubs and are great for amateurs, higher handicaps, and more advanced players alike.

Cleveland Launcher HB Turbo Fairway. Photo courtesy of Cleveland

Does a 3-wood go farther than a 3-hybrid?

If you assume that you are making a good swing for both, your 3-wood should go farther than a 3-hybrid. A 3-wood has 13 to 16 degrees of loft, and a 3-hybrid usually has around 20 degrees of loft. If both swings have the same mph swing speed, you will see about 30 yards difference between the two, if not more.

What hybrid is equivalent to a 5-wood?

Most 5-woods come in 18 to 19 degrees of loft. The equivalent to this in the world of hybrids is a 2-hybrid. Depending on what you like to see at address, you could opt to put one or the other in your bag.

Should I buy a 3- or 4-hybrid?

Depending on what your long iron game is like, why not both? Having a hybrid-style long iron can give you more forgiveness on mishits and potentially help bring your ball in at a steeper angle of descent to stop quicker upon landing. These purchases can transform your game from losing balls or chunking shots to throwing darts from longer range! If having no hybrid is preferable to you, the higher lofted woods, such as a 7-wood or 9-wood, would be a great fit for achieving the same goals.

Should I carry a 5-wood or 3-hybrid?

Put both in the bag. Having the ability to have better mishits with your longer clubs is always a plus, so if you have room in your 14-club lineup, go ahead and add both. It will also give you some added tools for your short game when you need to run your ball up through some fringe before you get to the green.

Should I carry a 3-wood or 5-wood?

Depending on your skill level, a 5-wood may be the better choice, simply for a little added loft and more forgiveness. For a slower swinger, the higher loft gets the ball off the ground and flying through the air. However, one could also argue that a golfer could have both a 3- and 5-wood in their bag to have versatility. All of the top brands are constantly adding innovations that allow all golfers to be able to use a wider selection of their available wares. If you are looking for lower spin, a 3-wood may be preferable, as long as the numbers are in a good range. For a higher launch angle, go for the 5-wood.

When should you hit a 5-wood?

A 5-wood can be hit in a lot of different instances. If you need to keep the ball short of a hazard, hit the 5-wood off the tee. Need a nice second into a par 5? Use a 5-wood off the turf! Is your ball sitting nicely in the first cut or the deeper rough? Go for it with the 5-wood! For beginners, 5-woods allow you to have a bit wider stance at setup, allowing you to feel more stable as you grip the club and get ready to pull the trigger.

How far can you hit a 5-wood?

The average weekend warrior probably hits their 5-wood around 190 to 210 yards in carry, especially on those nice center hits. On tour, players average somewhere near 260 to 270 in carry and total yardage. No matter how far you hit it, it is more important to hit it clean and keep it going (mostly) in the direction you want!

Why do I hit my 5-wood farther than my 3-wood?

This is probably because you are getting better contact and more loft from your 5-wood, as compared to the lower loft of the 3-wood. Making this better contact is allowing you to gain maximum distance with the five wood. High handicappers are more likely to hit the sweet spot with a shorter-length club, whether it be a tee shot or off the fairway. This causes the clubface to be able to be squared to the ball and be more high launching to be forgiving.

How far does the average golfer hit a 7-wood?

The average golfer hits a 7-wood anywhere from 160 to 200 yards in the air. Those with more speed in their swing will probably see carry numbers in the 220- to 245-yard range. Some golfers have hybrids in their bag that are the same loft as a 7-wood; the wood is just intended to have low spin in comparison to the hybrid.

Fairway wood vs. iron: what is the difference?

Fairway woods are usually used for longer shots and provide golfers with more forgiveness on those long shots. Irons are better for scoring and can be far more accurate than a wood. On top of all of that, irons are only really adjustable in shaft stiffness and by bending the loft. Fairway woods have adjustability through turning the shaft in the adjustable hosel. Doing this can change a 3-wood to a 4-wood loft, for example. This adjustability is fairly common amongst the manufacturers, whether you buy from Ping, Titleist, Cobra, or others!

Do I need a fairway wood?

“Need” may be an overstatement, but a fairway wood or two in your bag can elevate your game to the next level. The forgiveness and power packed into their heads allow golfers to reach more par 5s. Having the ability to use a club where the ball position is more forward gives the golfer more time to square up the club and get max wood distance. Fairway woods also allow golfers to be able to run little chip shots through the grass before they get on the green, allowing the golf ball to skid and roll, giving the golfer a wider margin of error on short game shots.

Do you have any other questions about golf or how to improve your game with the right fairway wood? Chat with me or one of my fellow Golf Experts here on Curated anytime for free advice and recommendations.

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