Fairway woods play a critical role in our golf game, and getting the right combination can positively impact our scoring capabilities. We can see the importance of getting the right fairway woods in the professional game. Many professionals will have fairway wood models that are several years old because they trust what those clubs will do.
Fairway woods carries out several vital roles, giving them significant flexibility at the longer end of your golf bag, which we'll look at in this article. If you want to make changes in this area of your bag, our guide will help you make the right decisions. To do that, we'll cover the following;
- Fairway Wood Basics
- The Anatomy Of a Fairway Wood
- The Benefits of Custom Fitting For Your Next Fairway Woods
Fairway Wood Basics
Fairway woods fall into two camps:
- The 3-Wood
- Lofted Fairway Woods
Nearly every golfer, whether a tour professional or a weekend warrior, will have a 3-wood in the bag. The 3-wood is vital because it can become the "go-to" club off the tee if we struggle with the driver.
3-Woods also present a good alternative to the driver if you are faced with a tee shot that requires strategic positioning to avoid trouble or a tight driving hole where not being in the fairway can punish you.
The higher loft of the 3-wood means there will be a disadvantage in distance compared to the driver, but the loss of distance can be acceptable if we can keep the ball in play more easily.
The added loft can also help manipulate shot shape, especially if you want to hit a draw shot, which is easier to achieve than with the straighter-faced driver. But it's not just about how a 3-wood performs off the tee. Being able to hit good, accurate shots off the deck can allow you to go for par 5s in two or the longest par 4s on your course.
We also need to see a consistent trajectory. There's no point in hitting a 3-wood well when the ball is teed up, but we can't get it airborne with the same club when hitting it off the deck.
Stock 3-woods feature 15 degrees of loft, but you can select lofts between 13 degrees and 16.5 degrees to favour different player profiles, and head profile sizes range from 170cc up to 200cc.
Lofted Fairway Woods
Lofted fairway woods generally refer to five or seven woods, which are the most common lofted woods in players' bags. The five-wood became a more common club as players switched out their harder-to-hit two and three-irons, but there has been an increase in the use of seven-woods for the same reason.
It's not just that five and seven woods are easier to hit. It is also the fact that they can launch the ball much higher and with more spin than the equivalent long irons. This higher trajectory allows players better chances of holding a green with an approach shot on long par fours and fives or tee shots on long par threes.
5-woods generally have a standard loft of between 18 and 20 degrees, whereas the 7-wood will average around 20-22 degrees. Head size in the more lofted fairway woods ranges between 140cc and 170cc
The Anatomy Of a Fairway Wood
We can look at how fairway woods perform in two categories:
- Technologies and Materials Used in Head Construction
- Adjustability Options
- Choosing the Correct 3-Wood Head
- Fairway Wood Shaft Options
Technologies and Materials Used in Head Construction
In recent years, we have seen some manufacturers employing carbon as a replacement for titanium in their driver range. That trend is also filtering into fairway woods, with TaylorMade, Cobra, and Callaway having introduced carbon into the designs of their fairway wood heads. Carbon strengthens the clubhead for faster clubhead and ball speeds while optimising mass more effectively because carbon is lighter than titanium. Titanium and steel still offer strong performance characteristics for fairway woods, with Titleist still employing the materials in their TSR fairway wood range.
Internal technologies to improve ball speed and face responsiveness on off-centre hits can be seen in TaylorMade's Stealth 2 fairway woods with Twist-Face technology or Callaway using their Jailbreak system for the Paradym fairway wood range.
Aerodynamics also come into play, which can help players gain more clubhead speed and achieve better turf interaction for shots played from the deck with designs like V-Steel on the TaylorMade Stealth 2 series.
Dialling in the correct loft and lie angles can be achieved through adjustable hosels featured in the Titleist TSR, Cobra Aerojet and Callaway Paradym fairway woods. The added adjustability can be dialled in to maximise launch and spin characteristics if you go for a fitting session. Cobra and TaylorMade also employ moveable weights to manipulate the optimum mass position in the head.
Cobra does this by interchangeable weights in the heel and toe close to the face on their low-spin model. TaylorMade uses a moveable weight on a track in their Stealth 2 Plus head.
Choosing the Correct 3-Wood Head
You will likely see two options when selecting the best 3-wood for your game.
The first option is designed to suit most amateur golfers, with its mass pulled furthest away from the face to create stability and forgiveness on off-centre hits. The head is also slightly bigger with a shallower-looking face, making it look more friendly in the address position.
The second option is a low-spin model with a marginally smaller head with lower loft and mass pulled closer to the face to give the 3-wood its lower spin characteristics. These models work better for players who generate enough clubhead speed and prefer a more penetrating trajectory with the ability to shape shots more effectively.
Fairway Wood Shaft Options
All fairway woods are fitted with graphite shafts, and manufacturers will provide several options if you go with an off-the-shelf choice. The problem with off-the-shelf shafts is that they are not tailored for your specific swing characteristics and shot dispersion patterns.
The choice of fairway wood shafts is similar to those available for drivers. From a fitting point of view, this can be a good thing as it creates consistency and feel between your driver and fairway woods.
Few graphite shafts on the market are built specifically for fairway wood characteristics, but there are options like Graphite Design's Tour AD F-Series. The F-Series shaft features a softer tip section to help optimise spin and launch for fairway wood heads.
The Benefits of Custom Fitting For Your Next Fairway Woods
How we maximise the potential that fairway woods offers us comes in the form of custom fitting. The first thing to assess in a fitting session is your current set-up, and record data as you hit some balls to get things started.
What the fitter can start to hone in on from the data set are:
- Distance Gaps Between Your Fairway Woods
- Shot Dispersion
- Spin Rates
Distance Gaps Between Your Fairway Woods
Like wedges, consistent distance gapping in your fairway wood set-up will ensure you do not compromise in club selection if you have an awkward distance left to the target.
A classic example would be if you consistently hit your 3-wood 15-20 yards shorter than your driver, which is acceptable, but then have a 30-yard gap between your 3-wood and next fairway wood, you have a problem.
A reliable 3-wood that can hit fairways from the tee or a lofted fairway wood that can help you go after the longest approach shots on the course needs good shot dispersion. The fitter is not just looking at how wide the dispersion is from left to right of the target. They are also looking at front-to-back dispersion.
If a poorly struck shot with a fairway wood is a reasonable distance short of a well-struck shot, that could cause problems in the course, especially if you face an approach shot where there is trouble protecting the front of the target. Tightening shot dispersion during the fitting session increases your confidence in consistently hitting your target out on the course.
Spin rates become important in 3-wood fitting to ensure you can generate sufficient spin when hitting shots off the deck. 3-woods can either have a shallower face, which helps produce spin to get the ball airborne or have a deeper face that can be difficult to spin when playing shots from the deck.
For more lofted woods, having the ball launch with too much spin can rob you of distance, so getting the correct launch conditions will optimise carry and roll on landing.
It's not just what the fitter sees from a data perspective that can help them fit the correct fairway woods for you; they are also thinking about the right shaft option. The fitter can look at several shaft profiles that assist shot dispersion and spin. The fitter can also select the correct shaft weight for any golfer's club head speed and launch characteristics.
Fairway Woods at Golf Tech UK
Fairway woods can be a real asset in our golfing arsenal. They can be a great comforter to us if the driver is misbehaving. They can also allow us better scoring opportunities because we now have something to go after the longest approaches on the course effectively.
Getting the right fairway woods in your bag is an excellent investment as these clubs tend to stay in the bag for the most prolonged time, so being custom-fitted for your next set of fairway woods makes perfect sense.
At Golf Tech UK, we stock the latest fairway wood models from Callaway, Cobra, TaylorMade, and Titleist. Booking a custom-fitting session allows you to work with our fitters to tailor these clubs to your requirements.
If you visit our website, each fairway wood can be completely customised to your specs. You can choose the correct head and select the right shaft from the extensive range we offer, along with the grip of your choice.