Fairway Woods Buying Guide:
Best Options and Comparisons
Every golfer’s bag always carries more than one golf club. There’s the long iron club, said to be the best club there is for at carrying distances. You have the putter, short-range flat clubs that finish the job of sending the ball to the hole. Finally, you have the fairway wood. Let’s find out, among others, what defines a fairway wood and what it can do for a player’s game performance. We’ll also learn how to effectively use the club in golf, who are the touring professionals that use these clubs, and what your options are.
What is a Fairway Wood?
A fairway wood is a type of long-range club. Its function is nearly similar to the long irons. Both clubs are designed to send balls to the farthest distance possible. Both clubs are ideal for launching from the tee boxes and within the fairway. A player who masters either of these two clubs can expect to score high and attain a hole two shots under par at the least. However, a fairway wood is aesthetically different from long irons, which some players find too heavy and too difficult to master. Fairway woods, on the other hand, are significantly lighter than forged iron clubs. The heaviest fairway wood can weigh only 350 grams, while the lightest iron could weigh about 400 grams. Of course, several factors contribute to the club’s final weight – the materials used to build the shaft and head, and the grip weight, among others. When choosing fairway woods, you have to take into account what materials it is made of. Graphite shafts make the clubs lighter than their counterparts that have iron or steel in their construction. In any case, the lighter weight does have benefits to player endurance and overall performance during the game. All that the players need to observe are correct stance and body mechanics to make the best out of these fairway woods.
Swinging Techniques Using the Fairway Wood
Golfers that predominantly play with fairway woods use different swinging techniques than when they are using irons. Aside from being lighter, fairway woods also have shorter shafts and compel the user to employ a more direct path to the ball on the downswing. They also have low loft angles, which helps players to achieve optimal backspin at launch as well as accuracy. On the other hand, irons have longer shafts than fairway woods. Players have to employ a steeper angle on the downswing. For beginners, they could end up slicing the ball unintentionally. It’s harder to make that kind of mistake when playing with a fairway wood. Fairway woods also compete with hybrids in preference for shooting balls off the fairway to the green. Hybrids are clubs that combine the capabilities of both irons and fairway woods, but with much more forgiveness.
Why Use It?
Fairway woods are distinctive because of their low loft, or the angle between the clubface and the ground. The loft of your clubs is instrumental to the distance at which it could propel the ball. The lowest loft in fairway woods is at 10 degrees. These can be used from the tee box, as they can fly the farthest distance and help the golfer get to the hole in as few shots as possible. The fairway is an area between the tee box and the green that encompasses about 50 to 60 yards. Low to medium loft fairway woods can cover that area very quickly. This means that, unlike long irons, fairway woods can help you score higher by optimizing your ball’s trajectory after launch. Fairway woods are specially designed to cover specific distances. This means that they complement rather than replace other clubs in your bags. For instance, you can use the capabilities of your fairway wood to plan your shots in a manner that sets your wedges and putts up for the hole
How Can You Use It in Golf?
As mentioned earlier, fairway woods have shorter lengths compared to forged iron clubs. You’ll feel most of the difference in your swinging. Because they’re longer, players need to take on a tighter downswing angle when using irons. With fairway woods, however, the angle required is shallower. This allows players to avoid bursting the turf, among others. You’ll need to set it up properly at address. Most golf pundits refer to Justin Thomas’s fairway wood setup as the norm other players might want to emulate. At address, Thomas bends his body slightly forward from the hips while still keeping his back straight. Keeping his feet at shoulder’s width distance and planted firmly on the ground, he keeps his arms relaxed and hanging straight down by aligning his chest with his toes. This stance allows your body to try and keep the golf club level with the ball on the downswing. It helps you maximize ball backspin and distance by hitting the ball on the center of the clubhead. Ball position is also a vital component of a good fairway woods’ hitting technique. Most players prefer to keep the ball centered on their bodies. Taller players may want to put the ball slightly forward to minimize early impact. In any case, the player needs to position the ball in a spot where the clubhead will always hit the ball in the center. Placing the ball too far forward will more often than not cause turf burst and a higher impact point. You should also take the time to understand how the loft affects your actual performance. Lofts in fairway woods can range between 10 to 22 degrees. Knowing how these minute details affect factors like impact, backspin and trajectory will further enhance your game planning.
Who Is Using It?
Several tour-level golfers have mastered the use of the fairway woods, and have since incorporated these clubs into their game routines. These players include:
- Justin Thomas Justin Thomas broke out in 2017, the year that he bagged five tour events sponsored by the PGA. Thomas is unique because he prefers to use older models of fairway woods produced by Titleist. He uses the Titleist TS3 and 915FD fairway woods. The TS3 has 15 degrees of loft, while the 915FD has 18 degrees of loft. Thomas has had the 915FB since 2016.
- Henrik Norlander Henrik Norlander keeps only one fairway wood in his bag, and that is the PXG-0341 X GEN-2 5-Fairway. The fairway wood offers a loft of 18 degrees and an adjustable hosel to help players further customize the game’s performance. The PXG-0341 X Gen-2 5-fairway also offers high resistance to twisting during the downswing and impact, ensuring optimal spin and ball speed.
- Brian Harman Just like Justin Thomas, Brian Harman carries two fairway wood clubs in his bag. These are, namely, the TaylorMade M5 Fairway and the Nike Covert Tour 2.0. The M5 Fairway is made of titanium, carbon, and stainless steel, with a loft of 15 degrees. The Nike Covert Tour 2.0, on the other hand, offers adjustable loft angles of up to 22 degrees.
- Jon Rahm Jon Rahm is a Callaway advocate through and through. Many of his arsenal are Callaway golf clubs, his fairway woods included. Rahm uses two Epic Speed fairway woods from the same company, which also produces the popular Callaway Apex TCB forged iron. Rahm’s Epic Speed prototype fairway woods have loft angles of 15 and 18 degrees, respectively.
- Brendan Steele Brendan Steele has some interesting achievements in his golfing career, including a close win by birdie against Colt Knost in the 2010 Nationwide Tour Championship in Daniel Island. He would go on to win the Safeway Open Championship in 2016 against Patton Kizzire, a title he successfully defended against Tony Finau the next year. He plays with a 3-wood 2017 TaylorMade M2 with 16.5 degrees of loft.
- Maverick McNealy Maverick McNealy made a name for himself when he scored a 61 during the 2014-2015 Pac-12 Championship. This feat puts him in the same league as Tiger Woods and Cameron Wilson in terms of Stanford records. As of 2021, Maverick McNealy carries with him a 4-wood Callaway Epic Speed with a Fujikura Ventus Black 7 X shaft and 18 degrees of loft.
- Cameron Smith Australian Cameron Smith pulled off an impressive bogey that defeated Anirban Lahiri during The Players Championship in January of this year. His final score was 13 under par but was only one shot ahead of Lahiri. Smith plays with either his Titleist TSi2 or his Titleist T2 on the fairway. The clubs have 15 degrees and 18 degrees of loft, respectively.
What Brands Produce Fairway Woods?
Several brands of fairway woods are currently on the market. It’s common to find pro-level golfers endorsing these brands by putting their products on their golf bags. These endorsements drive a lot of interest and sales for the big players in the golf club manufacturing industry. Here are the brands or companies that produce fairway woods for golfers of all levels:
- Callaway Founded in 1982 by Ely Reeves Callaway Jr., Callaway quickly made a name for itself in the golfing scene. In less than 30 years, the company’s products have expanded from outside the United States to almost all countries around the world. Its best fairway wood as of 2022 is the Mavrik Max Fairway woods, which has the most forgiveness out of all products in the same category.
- Titleist Titleist is one of the oldest manufacturers of golf clubs in the world. Titleist entered the market in 1935 with the first Titleist golf ball, which amateur golfer Phil Young developed with the help of an x-ray specialist. Titleist is known for its unique quality control process that employs X-rays to make sure that each product is perfectly balanced.
- Ping Ping shares a common attribute with Titleist – its founder developed the company to create products that solved a perceived problem in golf clubs available at that time. In Ping’s case, its founder Karsten Solheim experienced a hard time putting and sought to design putters to optimize performance. Solheim released the first Ping putter in 1959 and afterward left his General Electric career as an engineer.
- PXG Compared to the two companies above, PXG is a very young company. Its name stands for Parsons Xtreme Golf, after its founder Bob Parsons. An avid golf hobbyist, Parsons decided in 2014 to manufacture his own golf clubs after expressing dissatisfaction at the cubs available at that time. He brought Mike Nicolette and Brad Schweigert on board, resulting in the first PXG 0311 forged iron clubs.
- Nike Nike Golf started its career in 1996 with a 5-year endorsement contract with one of the best golfers of recent times – Tiger Woods. However, it would only be in 2002 when the company would release its first golf club, the Pro Combo irons. Nike, however, discontinued its golf club business in 2016 and instead focused on golf apparel and shoes.
- TaylorMade TaylorMade began its illustrious golf career in 1979 with the release of the Pittsburgh Persimmon. Designed by Gary Adams, the Pittsburgh Persimmon was unique for its use of metal instead of persimmon in the fairway wood’s design. TaylorMade became Tiger Woods’ company of choice in 2017 after Nike Golf discontinued its golf club division in 2016.
- Mizuno Mizuno started off as a baseball equipment manufacturer and briefly served as a glider maker in World War II. However, it was only in 1983 when the Japanese company broke into the US market with the Black Turbo club. By 1985, the company would open its first manufacturing facility in Norcross, in the state of Georgia. Aside from the Black Turbo, Mizuno also broke ground with its MGC-35 titanium-made iron clubs.
- Srixon Srixon created several Z model fairway wood clubs that have become popular among touring and non-touring players. Among these is the Srixon Z F85 3-wood, which offers an adjustable center of gravity and a forgiving size for its club head. The club boasts of an expanded “sweet spot,” allowing both amateur and pro golfers to perform up to par with it on their arsenal.
- Honma Honma Golf first entered the market in 1959 and went on to produce several world-renowned golf clubs. These include the BERES series and T//World golf clubs, as well as the TR20 series. Honma Golf’s headquarters are in Japan, from which it designs and manufactures all of its products. The company is distinctive for keeping all of its production processes in-house, and for combining technology and traditional craftsmanship.
- Cobra Cobra is a pioneer in utilities design, creating the Baffler utility club and releasing it in 1980. The company also revolutionized shaft design by using graphite instead of iron or steel. The new design proved to be lighter and easier for average golfers – Cobra’s main market – to use and master. Cobra also made a name for itself with the King Cobra oversized iron clubs, which was released in 1994.
- Wilson Staff Aside from its products, Wilson Staff became notable in golfing circles for having the longest business relationship with a single professional golfer. This player, in particular, was Gene Sarazen, who partnered with the company for 75 years. Sarazen and Wilson receive credit for building the world’s first sand wedge, the R-90, in 1933.
- Adams Now a subsidiary of TaylorMade, Adams started off as a successor to Preceptor Golf. Founder Barney Adams acquired Preceptor Golf’s assets in 1988 and used them to form what is now Adams Golf. The company produced the highly popular “Tight Lies” fairway wood. Adams became part of TaylorMade’s portfolio of golf brands beginning in 2012.< Manufacturing golf clubs is a very lucrative business. As a result, all of the brands mentioned above outdo themselves in trying to create the best fairway wood in the market. That fares well for us consumers. We have plenty of options to look at when shopping. That knife cuts both ways, however; you might find it slightly difficult and time-consuming the pick the best fairway wood for your handicap and player level.
Best Options and Comparisons
Let’s take a look at what your best options are for fairway woods. We’ll discuss what the experts say and what features each one has that make it an ideal choice to join your golf club arsenal.
The Ping G425 looks and acts more like a hybrid than a fairway wood. All three clubs are adjustable to up to 1 degree up or down. Experts have praised the wood’s ease of handling. Players of all handicap levels will find this lightweight fairway wood very easy to swing and hit the ball with. The club simply feels good to hold at address and very forgiving thanks to its wide club head. The Ping G425 is available in three configurations – the Max, LST, and SFT Fairways. The Max Fairway is available in multiple loft settings – 14.5, 17.5, 20.5, and 23.5. The SFT Fairway can be bought in 16, 19 and 22 degrees loft, while the SFT fairways only come in a 14.5-degree default fairway setting. All three Ping G425 fairway wood features a streamlined look with a neutral gray finish. Despite the gray color, these clubs’ aesthetics are more pronounced than their predecessors – the G410 series.
Forgiveness and speed are what’s in store for you when you play with the Cobra LTDx. Thanks to Cobra’s proprietary H.O.T FACE and PWR-COR technologies, the club has a very low center of gravity and higher moment of inertia. What results is a club that’s so stable and accurate that you’d be seeing more improvements from your game once you start using it. With a very low CG, the club achieves optimal energy transfer to the ball upon impact. Combined with the club’s excellent resistance to twisting on the downswing, the Cobra LTDx can launch the ball at speeds greater than you might have achieved with your other clubs. The H.O.T FACE also increases flex on the club’s face and improves trajectory height for every shot. The clubhead is made out of carbon fiber, a very lightweight material that contributes to the unparalleled feel upon impact with the ball. The crown sports a muted black finish, a departure from previous models. The club also features adjustable shafts and loft settings.
Callaway Rogue ST Max
If one is to describe the Callaway Rogue ST Max fairway wood in three words, they would be: “Fast, stable and forgiving.” Callaway combines tungsten weighting, its Jailbreak ST technology, and AI face design to make speed, stability and forgiveness possible for the Callaway Rogue ST Max. Jailbreak ST optimizes the flex on the clubface upon impact and results in faster ball speeds. AI face design and tungsten weighting help to keep the ball spin low and stable. Consistency is important when playing golf. Aside from making the Callaway Rogue ST Max very forgiving, the proprietary Flash Face Cup keeps your performance consistent all throughout your game.
The Titleist TSi2 combines glossy looks with unparalleled forgiveness and amazing on-play performance. It’s not a surprise that Cameron Smith keeps this fairway wood close by in his golf bag. Titleist understands the need for speed, and the TSi2 certainly delivers. The TSi2 implements Titleist’s Active Recoil Channel 4.0 to optimize the club’s center of gravity. This combination results in faster ball speeds, higher launch heights, and an accurate trajectory. You can get more out of your club as well by fine-tuning its performance. Titleist claims to have engineered the TSi2 to be fully adjustable according to the player’s needs and capabilities. Available in lofts of 13.5, 15, 16.5, 18, and 21 degrees, the Titleist TSi2 is also one of the most forgiving clubs made for the fairway. Its ultra-thin crown helps keep the ball spinning low and stable even on off-center shots.
Get ready to turn heads around with the TaylorMade Stealth fairway woods. Its subtle red-on-black aesthetics and glossy finish are sure to catch the eyes of other players around you. Beneath the visuals, you’ll find this little club equipped with three of TaylorMade’s performance-enhancing technologies – Speed Pocket, V Steel Sole, and Twist Face. There are times when you end up hitting the ball away from the center. Normally, you’d find your accuracy totally messed up. However, with the highly forgiving features of the clubhead, you’ll find that your shot still goes where you want it to go even if you hit the ball off-center. You may see one or two degrees of deviation, but nothing wider than that. Despite its excellent performance, there are two things you might not like about the TaylorMade Stealth. It lacks customization features. You cannot customize either the shaft or its loft. However, its exceptional forgiveness and ball speed more than make up for that deficiency.
TaylorMade SIM 2 Max
Another exceptional offering from TaylorMade, the SIM 2 Max is said to be the most forgiving fairway wood the company has come up with. TaylorMade made significant tweaks to the club’s center of gravity, bringing it down even lower than the company has ever done before. Weight is evenly distributed in the sole of the SIM 2 Max to bring the CG even closer to the edge of the sole. Combined with the proprietary V-Steel technology, this revolutionary new alignment ensures that the club launches the ball at consistently high speed but still keeps the spin low. Another excellent feature is the C300 Steel Face. The sturdy material keeps the face from flexing too much upon impact. What players get in return is very accurate shots – you get the distance that you’re aiming for, even when you hit the wrong side of the ball.
Honma T// World GS
Honma describes the T//World GS fairway wood as “engineered for forgiveness,” and it doesn’t disappoint. First off, the draw-biased design gives players an optimal rate of closure on the downswing. With more of the weight on the heel, the clubhead picks up speed and momentum just before impact. The subsequent energy transfer translates to higher launch speeds and minimized side-spin. At the same time, the Honma T//World GS uses the company’s proprietary Flip Slot Technology to maximize the amount of flex and energy transfer upon impact. Every shot made with the fairway wood is guaranteed to have low backspin and maximum speed. The Flip Slot tech also enhances the club’s forgiveness and ensures unparalleled accuracy. With the Honma T// World GS fairway wood on your hands, you can see your performance soar and your handicap sink towards the single digit.
Wilson Launch Pad
Do you always dread slicing your shot off the tee? With the Wilson Launch Pad, you can be more confident of hitting and launching the ball as accurately as you desire! The Wilson Launch Pad features a moderate hosel offset that lets the club avoid shaping the ball towards the left or right. What results is a straight and accurate shot that goes the distance that you intended and does not slice in any direction. In other words, the club gives you absolute control over the direction of your shots all throughout your game. The club’s entire body features light materials in its construction. This means only two things – a smooth swing cycle and optimal speed at less the effort you would exert with, say, a forged iron. Physics work in your favor this time around. The lightweight design allows for faster downswing and maximum transfer of energy upon impact, resulting in a high-speed launch.
One of the Srixon ZX’s game-changing features is the Rebound Frame. The frame features two flex zones and two rigid zones in the clubface. The technology focuses the momentum generated by the downswing on the face’s center and transfers as much as 95% of the momentum to the ball during impact. The resulting power retention lets the player generate impressive bursts of speed at launch and ensures the accuracy of the trajectory. With this feature, it doesn’t matter where in the course you’ll use the fairway wood – you can hit the ball right whether you’re on the tee or the deck. Moreover, the lightweight carbon crown and the stepped crown both lower the center of gravity for the Srixon ZX. This enhances the fairway wood’s forgiveness factor and moment of inertia. This also ensures consistent performance all throughout the course.
Tour Edge Hot Launch E522
Power, accuracy, and feel are three top concerns for golfers when choosing tour-quality clubs to add to their bags for the season. The Tour Edge Hot Launch E522 has all of these three qualities in abundance for the advanced player to take advantage of. The clubhead, for instance, features the Diamond Face 2.0 technology that puts 24 diamond shapes throughout the surface. These diamond shapes make sure that, no matter what part the face hits the ball, the shot remains accurate and sufficiently powered to go the intended distance. The club also has heel-weighted technology to further enhance power and accuracy. The Tour Edge Hot Launch E522 also has shorter shafts to allow players a shallower downswing. Players can build significant momentum and rate of closure. Energy transfer is significant, which translates to higher launch speeds and trajectories. The club’s closed face also minimizes mishits, significantly reducing fades, slices, and shanks.
Cleveland Launcher XL Halo
There’s nothing more attractive in a golf club than precision. Precision ensures the accuracy of your shots. The more accurate your shots are, the better your scores will be. Handicap means more than just the player; what you have in your bag dictates how good you ultimately are when you play on the course. As part of the Sumitomo Rubber Industries group, Cleveland Golf has access to some of its sister companies’ proprietary technologies. In this case, the company has bestowed the Launcher XL Halo with the Rebound Face. The Rebound Face maximizes the energy that the ball receives upon impact. Normally, a portion of the energy generated at downswing is lost due to the clubface flexing when it hits the ball. The Rebound Face eliminates that loss by acting as a cushion that absorbs the lost energy at initial impact and then transfers the power back to the ball. Rebound Face combines with the proprietary Hi-Bore Crown Step to lower the center of gravity and guarantee high trajectories at launch.
Callaway Big Bertha B21
The last fairway wood on our list, Callaway’s Big Bertha B21 boasts of giving even players high handicaps an easy time in any part of the golf course. The head on the Big Bertha B21, as it claims, is big. The size of the clubhead alone ensures that the player can hit the ball all of the time. There’s plenty of forgiveness to enjoy from this club as well as speed, thanks to Callaway’s Jailbreak technology. The tech guarantees a lot of flex and ensures a generous amount of energy transfer from the clubhead to the ball upon impact. With a larger sweet spot and optimal energy transfer, Big Bertha B21 guarantees the player fast ball speeds and accurate shots all throughout their games. All of the club’s features combine to ensure speed, accuracy, and distance even for those with higher handicaps.
Fairway woods have their own set of advantages over the forged iron clubs. For starters, these clubs are lightweight and are easier to use on the tee and anywhere on the deck. They have shorter shafts, which means shallower downswing angles. In other words, they’re relatively easier to master and use than the longer irons. Players have plenty of choices for their fairway woods. These clubs bear the endorsement of several tour-level players, which bears testament to their capabilities. It can be quite a challenge for you to choose which one fits you and your playing style well; hence, you should exercise some due diligence to find the right fairway club for you.