Buyer's Guide: Fairway Woods - Mike Shumaker

Did you see this golf club review?

If you want a special project then try buying a car or choosing which fairway woods to play with. Looks and image are important, but in the end you really need to take them for a spin. Deciding what fairway woods you want can be harder than choosing your driver.

There are more lofts, shafts and head sizes available it is not easy to find the perfect match for your game. With more and more players increasing the number of woods in their bags, the manufacturers have upped their game also. Because of all the fairway woods, hybrid and utility clubs—the companies are doing much more research and development into making the perfect club. When looking for a fairway wood you must decide what you need it for and then research. Do you require more height on your shots? A club to replace a three iron? A club to use off the tee? Maybe a club to hit from the rough? Whatever you decide you need—there is a club for you.

Fairway woods come in many ranges. 2-4 Woods—These woods are mainly used as tee-shot alternatives to your golf driver or long irons. They should have a smaller head than your driver and offer a more controllable, shorter tee shot. From the fairways, the small head design makes them easy to get air borne. Most manufactures will offer 2, 3 and 4 woods, also offer a 3+wood and perhaps a 4+wood. The plus symbol simply means that it is a strong 3 or 4 wood. This means the loft on the club is less than a typical 3 or 4 wood, but the head size remains the same. These clubs will offer more distance at a lower height than a typical 3 or 4 wood. 5-11 Woods—The main purpose of this range of fairway woods is to replace and assist the longer irons, and offer an alternative out of the rough. All golfers from pros to the beginner struggle to produce the contact and flight they want from their long irons, and look to a fairway wood to produce the highflying distance that they lack in their 3 or 4 iron. The advantage of these woods usually involves the weight of the head being positioned lower and wider to lower the center of gravity and create maximum forgiveness. If you lower the center of gravity the flight of the ball off the club should and will fly higher. The size of these woods and their head construction will decrease as the loft increases, which allows the club to get more and more under the ball and adapt to offer assistance in the rough. A good idea for the person taking up golf may be to start with a set of woods. Typically companies will offer 3,4,5 and perhaps a 7 metal to a set. This is a great idea for the players just taking up the game to save money and off consistent feel and playability.

Material of the club will also be an important area that the golfer will want to research before investing in any fairway wood (metal). Most of the woods on the market today will have a head construction of steel. Being as there is no reason or advantage to having a big fairway wood, steel offers a strong forgiving element to the club. The inexpensive metal (steel) can be easily manufactured for a smaller head. Although titanium is relatively outdone by steel in this area, it is still used in many fairway woods. The lightweight nature of titanium makes it a useful face for fairway metals. Titanium is used for slightly larger headed fairway metals because it is lightweight and the thin face means that the weight and center of gravity can be moved lower, wider and further back to produce a high hitting metal fairway wood. The part that scares most golfers is the high price of the club-One must make a choice at this point. One final material that is used in fairway metals is the composite—some but not many companies are creeping into this market. The carbon material is placed on the crown or rear of the club head allowing the manufacture to reduce the weight of the head for lower and perimeter weighting. This will make the club much more forgiving and allow a cost factor much less than titanium.

Shafts are a vital part of any club, but even more on a fairway metal. Many hybrid and utility clubs have appeared on the market in the past few years. Shorter shafts will allow the player to control the shot better. The benefit is the club will feel more like an iron—most players feel more confident with an iron in their hand. The total aim of a shaft in a fairway metal club is to produce more distance. Although you might sacrifice control the distance is the primary goal. There are many materials that are used in the shafts, but let’s stick with the two used most. Steel Shafts—Steel offers a solid, consistent feel that will feel like your irons. It is cheaper and more controllable. Steel shafts are more suited to players who do not need added distance and produce a decent swing speed. Graphite Shafts---If you are thinking of getting a fairway metal to use from the tee and desire solid distance from it, then graphite is the shaft for you. One great advantage of graphite is the vast variation you can have in one shaft. Testing out the different flexes of graphite shafts and the different brands of shafts will help you discover what specifications will suit your swing and feel. Realize that graphite is more expensive.

In conclusion let’s look at some interesting theories with the buying of fairway metal clubs: 1) The ball goes farther when hit into the air—worm burners only roll so far and in fact are embarrassing. Make sure you choose a club that will get the ball in the air. 2) Golf is not a game of perfect shots but instead a game of miss hit shots—choose a club that allows for miss hits to go farther and straighter. 3) If it doesn’t feel good in your hands then the club will not work for you—try it out before buying. 4) Golf is more a mental game than a physical game—5) Take the time to research the market. After doing the different things that will help you buy the club best fitted for you-your game will get better and build confidence that you did not have before the proper club was in your hands.

Mike Shumaker