To most golf aficionados, the words “forgiving” and “fairway woods” don’t exactly belong together in the same sentence unless accompanied by a rather emphatic “not” or “aren’t”!
These class of clubs have always been considered quite difficult to master and wield effectively, thanks to their longer shafts and unforgiving club-heads that had a tendency to punish the errant beginner or high handicapper on a regular basis.
With the rise of hybrids, the higher numbered fairway woods (anything above 5) have largely been pushed out of prominence in the last few decades. Though you can still see a lot of 3 and 5 woods in circulation anything above that has largely gone the way of the Dodo!
Lately though, with manufacturers focusing more on innovations of the surviving 3 and 5 woods, we are seeing a mini-revival of interest in fairway woods, especially from beginners and high handicappers. This has been made possible due to the incorporation of innovative clubhead designs that increase the forgiveness of the hitherto difficult to tame fairway woods.
These game improvement woods have been racking up impressive sales numbers and in this article we will look at the top 5 most forgiving fairway woods in the market:
Our Most Forgiving Game Improvement Fairway Woods
Why Are They Called Fairway Woods?
Back in the day, before high quality steels, titanium, alloys and composites became the order of the day, club manufacturer depended on various species of hardwood to craft dense clubhead capable of whacking the golf ball across hundreds of yards. One of the most common woods used during this era was Persimmon.
And these woods are called fairway woods because they were largely used on longer par 4 and above holes, where even after a good tee drive, you still had a fair distance to cover to reach the greens. Woods designed to be used on these fairway turfs came to be known as fairway woods.
The Wood vs Hybrid Conundrum
Hybrids are a relatively new phenomenon on the golf course. They combine the best characteristics of woods and drivers (which are basically 1 woods) along with the best of what long irons have to offer. Of course, this comes with its own tradeoffs. The hybrids sacrifice distance for more accuracy and control. And in most players’ books, accuracy and control are more useful than just sheer power.
You can always carry a driver for the tee and get enough yardage out of it to see you through the hole, or so the reasoning goes. And when you have a 14 club limit, having more versatile jack of all trade clubs makes more sense than carrying one trick ponies. The fairway woods essentially became deadwood in the eyes of many players.
Why Still Buy Fairway Woods Then?
Simply because things are changing, and fast. Fairway wood designs are finally moving into the 21st century. Following in the path of drivers, more and more models of fairway woods with customization options are hitting the shelves.
Manufacturers are adding more versatility to fairway woods by allowing players to tweak their loft, face angle and even weight dispersion. With careful tinkering you can now do the job of multiple clubs with just one highly customizable fairway wood.
More importantly, manufacturers are releasing game improvement fairway woods aimed at beginners and high handicappers. If you are new to golf, (or even if you have been playing for decades for that matter) you don’t learn the nuances of of the sport by sticking with the easiest options.
Fairway woods have the ability to challenge your skill sets. They can add significantly to your long game, with their long shafts, smaller clubheads and flatter (compared to hybrids) trajectories.
Most importantly though, you have to understand that hybrids are in essence, more of a replacement for long irons rather than fairway woods. The debate was never really about hybrids vs woods.
But since hybrids came along and started performing really well on the pro circuit, they gained more popularity while the woods never evolved and got sidelined.
But now even that is changing and modern woods are appearing with excellent customization features. Having one or two of these modern fairway woods can be incredibly useful in situations where you need distance on the fairway and can do with more loft than your driver.
As long as you are in smoother patch of the rough and the wind is not against you, a fairway wood will definitely get you farther than a hybrid any day.
Things to Watch for in Game Improvement Woods
As a beginner or high handicapper, a well engineered fairway wood with a decent amount of customization options is always preferable to an old fashioned 3 or 5 wood. Why, because as a high handicapper you are still learning the ropes and do not know exactly what you need from driver or a wood to complement your style swing and stance.
With an adjustable fairway wood, you have the option to experiment and mix and match until you know what you want. Then you can always go out and buy that perfect 3 wood for yourself. Look for clubs that have adjustable loft and weights.
When it comes to traditional fairway woods, steel trumps titanium and composites as the material of choice for the clubhead. But modern game improvement clubs will have cast heads with numerous moving parts.
And there is no strict rule that says you have to avoid titanium or composite heads. Game improvement heads tend to be huge with wide sweet spots for maximum forgiveness. If find one that suits you with a titanium or composite head, go ahead. It will still serve you well enough.
Unlike shorter irons and hybrids which benefit more from stiffer steel shafts, fairway woods are better served by longer more flexible graphite shafts. Longer shafts result in less control but more distance.
Since distance is the raison d’ etre for a fairway wood, you might as well stick with the longer shafts and try to improve your swing with them rather than take the easy way out.
Most Forgiving Fairway Woods Reviewed
With a very generous 20% increase in sweet spot area on offer according to Cobra, the Fly Z is a wood designed with the high handicapped players in mind. With the adjustable hosel, the Fly Z can in effect be turned either into a 3-5 wood with adjustable loft between 13-16 degrees, or a 5-7 wood with loft from 17-20 degrees.
In most clubs with adjustable hosel, the club face approach angle is altered when you change the loft settings, But cobra has got around that by using their SmartPad design which delivers a square address regardless of the loft settings.
- Easy to pick up and swing, it is very beginner friendly
- Combines distance with a fair bit of forgiveness, thanks to the huge clubhead and improved sweet spot.
- The graphite shaft provides decent flex and good feedback
- Doesn’t provide too much loft
- The head is quite heavy
- Though a decent option for high handicappers, the forgiveness quotient may still be too low for the weaker players
An out and out launcher that can shoot the ball across long distances, this fairway wood is all about covering the yardage, and fast. It looks fast and it swings proper fast too.
What is missing out though, is a little bit of accuracy on mishit shots and that extra bit of forgiveness that is considered the norm in a full blown game improvement wood.
That being said, this club from AeroBurner is still a great choice for the slower swingers out there. It comes in 3 wood and 15 loft configurations.
- Excellent distance, perfect for those on the lookout for a fairway wood that is all about adding yards to their shots
- xtremely fun wood to swing and hit balls out on to the green, and that itself makes it worthy enough for serious consideration
- Ideal if you have slower than average swing speeds
- That extra bit of forgiveness that some high handicappers seek is missing
- Doesn’t suit players with faster swing speeds since it is too lightweight
This is an oversized wood designed by the Japanese company with literal aim of putting your driver out of business. The head is very large, yet it has pleasantly understated looks with a solid matte black finish and orange trim.
They have actually managed to engineer the face of of the clubhead to make it feel more like a driver. Though they offer custom shafts, Mizuno has not added any customization options on this fairway wood.
- Large head inspires confidence during shots
- Designed for those who like using their fairway woods more from the tee
- Well balanced feel and strong and pleasing impact sound
- Does not have much customization features
- Not suitable for excessive use on fairways
- More geared towards mid handicap players
Unlike the Mizuno wood, this club from Adams Golf is geared more towards use on the fairways and in the rough. This wood has an Easy Launch system which helps it to climb higher rather than go farther.
That doesn’t mean that it is bad at covering long distances, just that it is better at gaining altitude. This is a very lightweight wood with excellent accuracy and forgiveness.
- Class leading performance on accuracy and forgiveness, ideal for high handicappers
- Excellent choice for those who like picking up a fairway wood for use on the fairways
- Not the best at the long distance game
- Too lightweight for more serious players
With its classic design lines and handsome low profile head, this is a great looking fairway wood from Callaway. This is one of the more forgiving woods from the Callaway stable and it competes with the very best in its class for ease of use and performance.
This is a fairway wood that is a complete performer, be it from the tee or in the fairway, even in the rough. The ball flies high and carries to a fair distance. And thanks to the high degree of forgiveness, the shots are repeatable even with frequent mishits.
- One of the best in the business for beginners and high handicappers
- Pleasing classic looks, very unique in its class
- Consistency is its strong suit, ideal for players looking to maintain a good swing action
- A matte finish would have been better
- A bigger head would have helped high handicappers more
With the ongoing evolution in the fairway woods product lines from most major manufacturers, we are a long way away from bidding adieu to fairways woods right now. Increased customization features are changing the way golfers look at woods.
And with game improvement features being added to them, now even beginners and high handicappers can enjoy striking the ball into the distance with fairway woods on a more or less consistent basis.
In this shortlist of the 5 most forgiving fairway woods, our pick of the lot would have to be TaylorMade AeroBurner just for the pure fun it elicits upon use, even for high handicap players. The Cobra Fly Z finishes a close second.