fairway wood about to swing into a golf ball

Scenario #1:  It’s your turn to hit.  You’re on the tee box of a short, tree-lined Par 4 hole.  You could hit driver and try to bomb one down there close enough to give yourself just a short iron or pitch shot into the green for a realistic chance at a birdie.  Or you could choose a safer option, laying back a bit and leaving a somewhat longer approach shot, but at least knowing that you’ll probably be safely in the fairway, and not in the trees.  Would you opt for the driver or a fairway wood?

Scenario #2:  You’re on a Par 5 hole and you’ve managed to hit a great drive, and you’re now analyzing your options for your 2nd shot.  You realize that you can’t reach the green with even your longest iron or hybrid.  However, you see that there is no trouble in front of the green.  One option is to hit a safe, but conservative, layup.  Another option is to ‘go for it’ with your 3-wood and possibly reach the green, knowing that even if you don’t quite get there, you’ll have just a short pitch shot left.  Which club would you go with?

 Fairway Woods Give You Options

There are no rules that dictate which club to use in either of these types of scenarios.  Every golfer is different, and your skill set and confidence level often determine your club selection.  But given the circumstances in each situation, and by looking at the risk/reward tradeoffs, choosing a fairway wood in both scenarios seems to be the best play.  Why?

In the first example, the fact that you will usually hit a fairway wood straighter than you’ll hit a driver, means that the more conservative play will put you safely on the short grass, while taking the trees out of play.  The second situation is different.  Here there are fewer risks.  There are no deep bunkers or water hazards in front.  So, the fact that fairway woods will hit the ball much farther than long irons or hybrids, means that the more aggressive play is probably warranted.

And that illustrates the primary benefits of having dependable fairway woods in your bag:  they tend to hit the ball straighter than your driver, and they hit the ball farther than your long irons and hybrids.

Why are Fairway Woods Straighter than Drivers?

Drivers have lofts of anywhere from about 8-9 degrees up to about 11-12 degrees (and sometimes even more).  Fairway woods, on the other hand, generally have lofts of 13-14 degrees up to about 18-20 degrees.  The higher lofts of fairway woods are the primary reason they tend to produce straighter shots than drivers.

Drivers can obviously hit longer tee shots, but their relatively flatter faces contribute to the production of more side spin.  And we all know the results of too much side spin — slices and hooks.  Higher lofts, in contrast, put more backspin on the ball…and, therefore, less side spin.  That is why fairway wood shots will fly higher than driver shots, and will tend to slice and hook less often.

Which are the Best Fairway Woods?

There are many excellent fairway wood options available to you.  We examined the market and reviewed what we feel are the best fairway woods.

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1. Callaway Golf 2018 Men’s Rogue Fairway Wood

Callaway Golf 2018 Men's Rogue Fairway Wood

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Features

  • Jailbreak Technology
  • Easy to Launch on a Strong, Straight Flight
  • Triaxial Carbon Crown for Distance and Forgiveness
  • Boeing Aero Package
  • Industry-leading Selection of Shaft, Weight and Loft Options

The Callaway Rogue is loaded with technology.  Some of you may have seen Callaway advertisements talking about their new “Jailbreak” feature that they’ve used in recent driver models.

“Jailbreak” is their term for a pair of titanium bars inside the club that connect the crown of the head to the sole, and which provide added stability at impact and higher ball speeds across a larger portion of the face.

Key Features

  • New, ultra-thin and springy carpenter 455 steel face
  • Jailbreak technology
  • Cup Face design adds more consistent flexing across the face
  • Lightweight carbon crown frees up weight to be redistributed to where it counts
  • High launch, low spin
  • Available degrees of loft: 5, 15, 17, 19, 20, 21, 23, 25

With the Rogue, this is the first time Jailbreak has been deployed in a fairway wood.  Combined with an ultra-thin steel face, and their Face Cup technology, Callaway claims this is their most effective speed-boosting combination ever.

The Rogue comes in two separate models:  the Standard and the Sub Zero. The Sub Zero model has a slightly smaller head (by 3 cc’s) and the weight has been shifted forward in the head compared to the Standard version.

Why it’s recommended:  This is the first fairway wood model to feature Callaway’s Jailbreak technology which stiffens the body so that the face takes on more of the load.  This leads to better ‘flexing’ in the face.  Result:  mis-hits fly like center-face hits.

2. Callaway Golf 2017 Great Big Bertha Men’s Epic Fairway

Callaway Golf 2017 Great Big Bertha Men's Epic Fairway Wood

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Features

  • Weight saved by the ultra-light triaxle carbon crown (78% lighter than steel) is repositioned to increase MOI and lower the CG for easy launch and added power
  • The latest generation of our hyper speed face cup is more efficient at delivering fast ball speed across the face, especially on mis-hits, for increased average distance
  • Fast head speed from speed step technology - developed with Direct Input from aerospace experts to improve aerodynamics for fast swing speed and distance without extra effort
  • Wide loft selection including 3+ and heaven wood - six models - 3+, 3, 5, 7, 9, heaven wood - gives golfers multiple opportunities to put epic performance in their bag

The signature technology in the Callaway Epic fairway wood is the ultra-light triaxial carbon crown. This crown is 78% lighter than steel which allows for more weight to be put low and in the perimeter of the club. This aids in forgiveness on off-center hits and in getting the ball to launch higher.

Key Features

  • Face Cup technology, which gives the Epic its playability and forgiveness
  • Uses a Speed Step crown to aid in aerodynamics
  • Adjustable hosel to allow modifications of set-up
  • Dual weight ports on the sole of the Sub Zero version, which also can be swapped for fine-tuning purposes
  • Available degrees of loft
    • Standard  –  13.5, 15, 18, 20, 21, 24
    •  Sub Zero – 13.5, 15, 18
    • Star – 15, 18, 21

The Epic is a great looking club with the appearance of a lattice structure revealed around the rear of the head.

It is very easy to hit from a variety of lies and is as comfortable off the tee as it is from the semi-rough. The Epic comes in three fairway wood models:  the Standard, the more compact Sub Zero, and the Star.

Why it’s recommended Callaway has been making world-class fairway woods for many years.  The Great Big Bertha Epic continues in that long line of classic fairway woods that deliver forgiveness and distance in a good looking and easy to hit head.

3. Ping Golf G400 Men’s Fairway Wood

Ping Golf G400 Men's Fairway Wood

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Features

  • Ping G400

The G400 looks similar to its predecessor (the Ping G), but Ping has incorporated a lot of advanced technology to improve overall performance.

Key Features

  • Works well from all types of lies
  • Maraging steel face results in high ball speeds
  • Thin face to improve forgiveness on off-center hits
  • Higher-pitched, but very solid sound and feel
  • Lots of options with a wide variety of lofts to choose from
  • Available degrees of loft:
    • Standard – 14.5, 17.5, 20.5, 23.5
    • Stretch – 13
    • SF Tech – 16, 19, 22

The 17-4 stainless steel crown is now just 0.48 mm thick, which means that they were able to move some of that saved weight lower and further back to improve the Moment of Inertia and Center of Gravity location. This leads to better results on off-center hits, as well as higher launch angles.

The maraging steel face is extremely thin, and Ping claims that there has been a 2% increase in ball speed.  Maraging steel is one of the strongest alloys in the world, and is often used in the aerospace industry.

This is an excellent fairway wood, one of the best on the market, and is highly rcommended.

The Ping G400 comes in three different versions:  the Standard model, the Stretch, and the SF Tec.  The Stretch model has a slightly bigger body, and is therefore suited to those who hit a lot of 3-woods off the tee.  The SF Tec model, is slightly lighter and higher-lofted.

Why it’s recommended:  The Ping G400 fairway woods are easy to launch and extremely consistent.  These are great fairway woods for players who want to control their trajectory and shape shots.

4. TaylorMade M3 Fairway

TaylorMade M3 Fairway

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Features

  • Lighter 5-layer carbon crown and sole frees up 8g of weight for a lower more powerful CG location. Lengthened speed pocket provides more flexibility and more ball speed low on the face
  • Improved playability: new Track overhang delivers precise and consistent turf interaction
  • Personalization: more left-to-right adjustability due to a heavier, 29g movable weight. More streamlined, 12-position 4 degree loft sleeve

The TaylorMade M3 is a premium fairway wood that is targeted at better players.

Key Features

  • Striking 2-tone appearance
  • Lightweight 450 stainless steel construction
  • Easy to launch the ball high
  • Excellent forgiveness on off-center hits
  • Adjustable hosel to customize your ball flight and counteract slices or hooks
  • Available degrees of loft: 15, 17, 19

It features an adjustable sliding weight port on the sole that can be moved forward or aft, depending on the type of ball flight you are seeking. Compared to its sibling, the M4 (reviewed next), the M3 has a slightly more compact head design.

The appearance of the M3 (and M4) at address is absolutely unique.  It has a two-tone crown that features a silver metal front section, contrasted with a black, composite 5-layer carbon crown in the rear.

It is a striking look and one that also serves a purpose:  it also aids in easily lining the ball up. Ball speeds off the Ni-Co C300 alloy face are exceptional and the sound and feel are solid and lively.

This is a popular club on the PGA Tour. Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, and Tiger Woods all have it in their bags.

Why it’s recommended:  If you want a fairway wood that will allow you to dial in your ball flight without sacrificing forgiveness, the TaylorMade M3 could be an excellent option for you.

5. TaylorMade M4 Fairway

TaylorMade M4 Fairway

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Features

  • Speed pocket creates more ball speed across the clubface for more distance & forgiveness. Split-weight mass pads provide increased MOI & perimeter weight distribution
  • Ultra-strong ni-co 300 steel face insert allows for optimized ball speed
  • 5-Layer carbon crown creates a lower CG by saving 8 grams vs a steel crown, driving higher launch while reducing spin
  • Fluted hostel provides superior sound and feel without compromising CG location
  • PLAYABILITY THROUGH GEOCOUSTIC TECHNOLOGY: A large footprint and low-profile shape makes it easy to launch and easy to play. The sole is shaped for optimal playability and improved sound & feel.

The head of the TaylorMade M4 is made of the same material as its counterpart M3 model. The head size though, by comparison, is slightly larger.

Key Features

  • New 5-layer carbon crown creates a lower Center of Gravity, producing a higher launch while reducing spin
  • Ultra-strong Ni-Co 300 steel face insert allows for a thinner, faster face for optimized ball speed
  • Fluted Hosel provides superior sound and feel
  • Geocoustic technology boasts a large footprint and low-profile shape making it easy to launch and play
  • Available degrees of loft: 15, 16.5, 18, 21, 24

This bigger footprint makes the M4 a little but more forgiving. The sole features what TaylorMade calls a ‘GeoCoustic” section on the sole of the club, which is a recessed section of the sole that uses geometry to strengthen the body and improve the sound.

It also incorporates the same Speed Pocket from prior designs, a slot near the front of the sole that helps to produce higher ball speeds, particularly on shots hit low on the face.

The M4 has the same attractive 2-tone appearance on the crown as the M3, with a silver metal front section complemented by a black carbon rear section.  All in all, this is a fairway wood option that is tough to beat.

Why it’s recommended The Taylormade M4 is a great fairway wood option for most players.  It’s easier to hit than the M3 model with many features aimed at offering forgiveness on strikes that miss the sweet-spot.

6. Titleist Mint 917 F3

Titleist Mint 917 F3

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Features

BindingSports
BrandTitleist
EAN0739248436240
EAN ListEAN List Element: 0739248436240
Item DimensionsHeight: 4799; Length: 500; Width: 500
LabelTitleist
ManufacturerTitleist
Model635RG6S15
MPN635RG6S15
Package DimensionsHeight: 236; Length: 4488; Weight: 110; Width: 394
Package Quantity1
Part Number635RG6S15
Product GroupSports
Product Type NameSPORTING_GOODS
PublisherTitleist
StudioTitleist
TitleTitleist Mint 917 F3 Fairway Wood 3 Wood 3W 15 Fujikura Speeder Pro 84 TS Stiff Right Handed 43 in
UPC739248436240
UPC ListUPC List Element: 739248436240

Titleist has been in the forefront of fairway wood technology for more than a decade.  Their newest iteration is the 917 F3 and the 917 F2, essentially two almost identical models differentiated only by head size.

Key Features

  • The face depth of the F3 and F2 make them a reasonable choice for both the tee or the turf
  • Incredibly solid feel and sound at impact (if you like an impact sound that is louder and more ‘lively,’ you may want to look for a different club)
  • Titleist claims that the F2 model launches the ball a little higher than the F3, and with a little more spin
  • Available degrees of loft: 5, 15, 16.5, 18, 21

The F2 model is about 10 cc’s larger than the F3. Like Titleist did in the 917 driver, the 917 fairway woods also feature the SureFit CG adjustable sole weight that can vary the amount of weight in the head and also where it is placed.

There are 5 different weights, ranging from 8 to 16 grams, that can be inserted into a chamber on the sole.

The steel sole of the F3 and F2 works with the variable face thickness of the face to generate some extra ball speed.

Combine all this with their SureFit Tour hosel and you have one of the most adjustable fairway woods in the market, especially when you factor in the two head shapes of the F2 and the F3.

Why its recommended:  The Titleist 917 fairway woods bring new technology to their fairway wood portfolio, including weight adjustability. Combined with the improvements to the Active Recoil Channel and the more forgiving face, it makes the Titleist 917 fairway a worthy performance upgrade to the previous model.

7. Cobra 2018 King F8

Cobra 2018 King F8

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Features

  • Baffler rail System utilizes Shallower or steeper rails depending on loft and angle of attack for improved versatility and forgiveness from any lie
  • Ultralight carbon fiber crown-a lighter 5-ply carbon fiber crown saves discretionary weight to move the CG lower and deeper, producing higher trajectories and increased forgiveness
  • 360 aero-innovative polymer Aero trips positioned around the perimeter of the clubhead improve drag reduction face-on through the downswing to generate maximum clubhead speed
  • Forged E9 475 stainless steel face INSERT-A forged, variable thickness E9 stainless steel face maximizes flex for increased ball speeds and distance across all points of the face
  • My Fly8 with Smart rail-8 easily adjustable loft settings help you manage trajectory and fine tune launch conditions to maximize distance

The most distinguishing feature of the Cobra King F8 fairway wood is the inclusion of two “rails” on the bottom of the club head.

Key Features

  • Forged E9 variable thickness stainless steel face insert maximizes flex for increased ball speed
  • Baffler Rail design provides improved versatility and forgiveness from any lie
  • A lightweight carbon fiber crown saves discretionary weight to move the CG lower and deeper, producing higher trajectories and increased forgiveness
  • 8 easily adjustable loft settings help you manage trajectory and fine tune launch conditions to maximize distance
  • Available degrees of loft:
    • 3-4 FWY –  13, 13.5, 13.5D, 14.5, 14.5D, 15.5, 15.5D, 16
    • 5-6 FWY –  17, 17.5, 17.5D, 18.5, 18.5D, 19.5, 19.5D, 20
    • 7-8 FWY –  21, 21.5, 21.5D, 22.5, 22.5D, 23.5, 23.5D, 24

Some may remember that Cobra initially introduced rail technology many years ago with their highly-acclaimed and much-loved Baffler series of fairway woods. Well, the rails are back on the F8 and F8+.

The purpose of the rails is to improve turf interaction, enabling the club to move more easily through the rough and along the ground.  Cobra also claims they make your shots go straighter.  They maintain that shot dispersion with the F8 is improved by 50%!

They have also made the club much lighter than prior models, by changing the crown material from steel to carbon fiber, resulting in a club that is 20% lighter.

They’ve redistributed that saved weight lower in the club head, achieving a center of gravity that wants to launch your shots much higher. Like TaylorMade did with the M3 and M4, Cobra has enhanced the appearance of the F8 by incorporating a 2-tone crown (a lighter gray in front, a darker gray in the rear).

Why it’s recommended:  Overall, the Cobra King F8 is another quality fairway wood from Cobra. It takes the successful parts of the previous model and simplifies the adjustability while improving the performance through a better center-of-gravity position.

8. Mizuno ST 180 Fairway Wood

Mizuno ST 180 Fairway Wood

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Features

  • An extremely strong 1770 maraging steel face allows for thin, hot face for higher initial ball speed and overall distance
  • Engineerd Wave geometry compresses and rebounds at impact for greater COR area and higher ball speeds
  • Quick switch adaptor to adjust lofts between 13 degree and 17 degree
  • Harmonic impact technology for fine tuned head geometry that delivers ideal impact feel and feedback
  • Mca tensei blue 60 stiff shaft

The new ST180 fairway woods share much of Mizuno’s driver technology, including an amplified Wave sole technology that reduces spin, assisted by the weight saving of the internal waffle crown.

Key Features

  • Extremely strong maraging steel allows for a thin, hot face for higher initial ball speed and overall distance
  • An ultra-light waffle pattern created inside the crown provides discretionary weight to be used for launch optimization
  • Precisely designed weight track system allows you to customize your launch conditions
  • Engineered wave geometry compresses and rebounds at impact for a greater COR area and higher ball speeds
  • Available degrees of loft: 15, 18 (both can be adjusted up or down 2 degrees)

They feature a thinner 1770 maraging steel face to increase ball speeds and to deliver a flatter, more efficient ball flight.

The head’s larger footprint generates a bigger-than-average profile that is highly forgiving. In addition, all ST180 metal woods feature an adjustable hosel that allows four degrees of loft adjustment and three degrees of lie adjustment.  The crown is painted a classy and eye-catching “Mizuno blue.”

Why it’s recommended The Mizuno ST180 provides forgiveness both in terms of ball speed and launch while keeping the spin at reasonably low levels.  If you’re looking for a fairway wood to provide consistent, reliable performance, this deserves serious consideration.

 

Should I use Fairway Woods or Hybrids?

The short answer is that you should use both.  They are each important and both should be in your golf bag but, most of the time, they are used for different purposes.

As described above, fairway woods are good options to use from the tee, whenever accuracy is being prioritized over distance.  They are also the right club to use when you are trying to maximize distance on your subsequent shots.

However, the condition of your lie and other factors will determine which is the better option.  Generally speaking, a fairway wood would be a better choice when:

  • You need to prioritize accuracy on tee shots
  • You have a good lie
  • There isn’t a lot of trouble near the green
  • There is ample room to let the ball roll out

Hybrid clubs are best thought of as replacements for the hard-to-hit long irons.  While some people may hit a hybrid club from the tee on occasion, they are more frequently used for approach shots.  The additional mass of the hybrid head makes getting out of rough a bit easier, and their ability to launch the ball higher than a long iron, makes it a useful tool when you need to land the ball softly. Hybrids are usually the better choice when:

  • You are hitting out of rough
  • You need a higher trajectory
  • You need the shot to land softly
  • As an option when chipping from off the green

Bottom line: You will face all of these situations in a round of golf.  Therefore, the best solution is to arm yourself with some combination of both fairway woods and hybrids.  A common bag set-up is:  driver, one or two fairway woods, and one or two hybrids.

Types of Fairway Woods

There are three types of fairway woods, differentiated by the loft angle of the club face and the length of the shaft:

  • 3-woods will generally come with either 13.5 degrees of loft (called a “strong” 3-wood), or 15 degrees of loft. By far, the 15-degree version is the one more commonly used.  Strong 3-woods should be used only by stronger players who generate significant club head speed.  Most of us will find that the 15 degree 3-wood will be more effective.
  • 4-woods, which were far more popular many years ago than they are now, come with 16-17 degrees of loft.
  • 5-woods come with 18-20 degrees of loft. With the extra loft of the 5-wood, those with lower swing speeds will find them much easier to get the ball airborne than they will with a 3-wood.  This often makes them the best fairway woods for high handicappers.

In addition to the familiar 3-, 4-, and 5-woods, there is a growing trend, particularly among older players and women, to add 7-, 9-, and even 11-woods to their bags.  These high-lofted woods are usually used as replacements for irons and not as true fairway woods.  But if you are a player who finds it easier to hit a small-headed wood as opposed to a flat-faced iron, you should explore the possibility of using them.

Modern Fairway Woods are Easier to Hit

If you struggle to hit your fairway woods well, you’re not alone.  We don’t have perfect golf swings and sometimes we need a little “assist” from the club. Older model fairway woods simply weren’t built with forgiveness and adjustability in mind, as they are today.  Some of the blame for your poor results with fairway woods may be attributable to using outdated clubs that aren’t equipped with the kinds of features that make modern fairway woods so much easier to hit.  What are those features?

Well, probably the most significant game improvement feature of the modern fairway wood is forgiveness.  They have been engineered and constructed in such a way as to effectively expand the sweet spot of the club face.  This means that if you hit the ball slightly too low or high on the face, or slightly too far right or left of the center (i.e., somewhere other than on the sweet spot), there is technology there that will bail you out.  Obviously, a strike on the precise sweet spot will produce the optimal shot, but even if you don’t catch it flush, you will be pleased with the result.

Another feature of the current fairway wood models is the use of lightweight materials (such as carbon fiber) in the club head.  By saving this weight, the manufacturer is then able to redistribute it low in the club head and toward the rear.  Optimizing the placement of the weight in this fashion (low and back) creates a low center of gravity which assists golfers in getting the ball airborne and launching it on a higher trajectory.

And, finally, many of the latest fairway woods are adjustable, giving you the ability to optimize the club’s set-up for your particular and unique golf swing.  On adjustable clubs, the face angle can be closed or opened, to counteract tendencies to either slice or hook the ball, and the loft can be modified to provide the launch angle and flight that you desire.

Bottom Line

Whether you’re looking for a fairway wood to use from the tees of short Par 4 holes, or whether you’re looking for the best club to use on approach shots to the green, you can’t go wrong with any of the models that we have profiled above.  They all offer the very latest in technology, which means additional distance and forgiveness.  Picking the right fairway woods will make you a more complete golfer.

Best Fairway Woods
  • Callaway Golf 2018 Men's Rogue Fairway Wood
  • Callaway Golf 2017 Great Big Bertha Men's Epic Fairway Wood
  • Ping Golf G400 Men's Fairway Wood
  • TaylorMade M3 Fairway
  • TaylorMade M4 Fairway
  • Titleist Mint 917 F3
  • Cobra 2018 King F8
  • Mizuno ST 180 Fairway Wood
4.5

Summary

A fairway wood is an essential club to have in your golf bag! A not so secret weapon to significantly improve your long game and reduce your handicap. We reviewed the best woods available to make the decision easier for you.

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