Within recent years the changes in fairway woods and hybrids have been dramatic. Manufacturers are using the same materials and construction found in drivers such as more flexible faces to produce clubs not only giving the average player more distance but better ball flight characteristics and a lot more forgiveness.
In many cases for those having problems hitting a driver one of the new fairway woods make a viable substitute because they hit the ball longer than previously and are easier to get in the air. Hybrids, which have all but caused the demise of long irons, are even better from the rough and a staple in the bags of most players, even touring professionals.
Gone are the days when drivers, fairway woods and hybrids had to match and come from the same manufacturer and my set makeup is a good example. I carry a driver, 3-wood, 3-hybrid and 4-hybrid each from a different company because in each instance they produce the distance and shot shape I want.
A little research and pre-purchase testing will show you what you need to get the most out of your fairway woods and hybrids.
The XR16 fairway wood ($230) has a bigger head with the highest modulus of inertia (MOI) and highest coefficient of restitution (COR) in any of their fairway woods and players say it just looks easy to hit. A hotter cup face from decreased thickness compliments the larger sweet spot and the overall head shape is more aerodynamic. XR Hybrids ($200) have a forged steel face cup to give more ball speed and better resistance to twisting from a redesigned head shape that repositioned weight and moved the center of gravity 46 percent lower than the X2 Hot hybrid of 2014. The XR OS (oversized) hybrids ($220) have a wider head and provide added versatility with a utility club-like sole with a stabilizing keel in the center. There is also a XR Pro version for $210.
Adding to the Great Big Bertha family lineup are fairway woods priced at $250. Using Callaway’s Forged Hyper Speed Face Cup to generate higher ball speeds and making the head slightly larger the MOI is improved as well. The feature though we especially liked was the updated War Bird sole for smoother turf interaction. The lower lofted GBB fairway woods have an eight setting adjustable hosel.
Unlike the majority of the other Callaway hybrids the Apex is designed with “iron DNA” making a true iron replacement for better shot control. The wide sole and large hitting area make this hybrid handle the rough and tricky lies better than an iron.
The Cobra King LTD fairway wood is part of the reintroduction of a club line with a name that brings back a lot of memories. As does the companion driver, the sole incorporates a Spaceport weighing 16-grams, which pushes the center of gravity (COG) lower and increase the resistance to twisting. The King LTD fairway woods ($299) come in a 3/4 or 4/5 so loft settings run from 13 degrees to 19 degrees. The other Cobra fairway wood we like is the King F6 model priced at $239, a medium size clubhead that is designed for all swing types combining loft adjustments with front and back center of gravity settings. The result is forgiveness with distance through by producing the correct spin and higher ball speeds. The F6 Hybrid ($199) has a traditional looking head shape at address and one fixed 13-gram weight positioned towards the rear of the sole. The weight is low and deep in the head to help in getting the ball out of most any lie.
Capitalizing on the success of the High Heat driver, Knuth is bringing to market a line of fairway woods ($299) and hybrids ($249). All will have a beta titanium cup face construction for more trampoline-effect across a larger portion of the face compared to clubfaces made with steel. The faces are also wider meaning a larger sweet spot so distance isn’t penalized as drastically when the impact is off-center towards the toe or heel. Like the driver, to help amateurs get the ball in the air High Heat fairway woods and hybrids have the center of gravity placed deeper and lower in the clubhead.
Ping has what they are calling a new category of clubs, the crossover that combines “the precision, workability and control of an iron with the ball speed and forgiveness of a hybrid.” Unlike woods or hybrids Ping’s Crossover has an iron’s flat machined face. The body is more like that of a hybrid and built so the sole and top rail flex adding to the distance with heel and toe weighting for playability. “People love the look and feel of the Crossover because they haven’t seen anything like it,” CEO John Solheim said. “It shouldn’t be confused with a driving iron; it’s higher-launching and much more forgiving, and offers a lot of versatility. Our extensive player testing has revealed this to be a very attractive option.” The Ping Crossover is $247.
Those looking for a more traditional hybrid from Ping need go no further than the G family modes. The crown is ultra-thin allowing the COG to be low and back give high launch with lower spin and great resistance to twisting. The G hybrids even have “turbulators” on the crown for better aerodynamics and lower drag on the downswing. They are priced the same as the Ping Crossover and available in four lofts for 17 to 30 degrees.
G Fairway Woods have a lower lead edge that yields 12% higher face impact compared with the G30 series of 2015 and helps get the ball in the air. The thinnest crown ever in a Ping fairway wood means discretionary weight has been used to move the CG lower and farther back which also makes it easier to get the ball airborne. G model Fairway Woods are $287.50 and in addition to the Standard come in the G SF Tec that has weight closer to the heel, a lighter swing weight, and higher lofts to produce right-to-left shot bend for players whose typical miss is to the right. There’s also the G Stretch 3 to produce added distance when used off the tee. It has a larger head, slightly forward CG, 13 degrees loft and reduced spin.
The Srixon Z 355 fairway woods have what the company calls “Action Mass technology,” a combination of a heavier clubhead with an ultra-high balance point Miyazaki Jinsoku shaft. The head also has a shallower profile but higher MOI and maraging steel face so the sweet spot is larger adding both forgiveness and consistency. The three-wood is a cup face design and there’s a 40-gram inner floating bar to help give higher launch and a trajectory with lower spin. Besides the three-wood of 15 degrees, there are also the four (17), five (19) and seven (22) each priced at $230.
Z 355 hybrids also have the heavier clubhead and Miyazaki Jinsoku shaft to help increase ball speed and aid in making a consistent, stable swing. A maraging steel face with a clubhead shape that Srixon calls a “Player Profile” makes for a very playable package. Price at $200 a 19 degree 3H, 4H of 23 degrees and a 5H with 26 degrees are available.
The M1 and M2 drivers from TaylorMade are already best sellers and each has complementary fairway woods and hybrids. The M1 fairway woods are the first carbon crown design for TMaG and being lighter the COG moved lower and helps improve launch conditions. Trajectory personalization by way of shot shaping (fade, neutral, draw) is provided by two 15-gram weights sliding along a sole track that doubles a speed channel for the clubface. M1 fairways woods are $300. TaylorMade was among the first to make utility clubs such as the Raylor and then develop hybrids called Rescues which became for some became the generic name for all hybrids. The new M1 Rescues ($250) carry on that tradition with a very playable head shape and ball flight personalization with two movable weights for a neutral or fade bias.
The M2 fairway woods ($250) feature a new Speed Pocket for a large sweet spot and reduced spin which means added distance and use a carbon composite crown construction similar to the M1. Most golfers after first hitting them comment on the confidence inspiring look at address and superior impact sound provided by a fluted hosel and internal acoustic construction. M2 Rescues ($200) have a newly redesigned open-channel Speed Pocket and a low center of gravity to help getting out of most any lie while producing extra distance.
Tour Edge Golf
Exotics E9 fairway woods from Tour Edge are a great example of why the company has such an excellent reputation. There’s rear sloping crown for lower aerodynamic drag and the sole has their outstanding Slip Stream configuration. Draw and fade bias can be adjusted with heel sole weigh sold separately. The Exotics E9 fairway woods ($230) also benefit from weight be moved towards the rear to help the ball launch angle and shares with the E9 hybrids Tour Edge’s Power Grid construction behind the clubface for more face flex at impact. The Exotics E9 Hybrids ($160) are also an example of how good their products are and why they are favorites of knowledgeable players. The high strength variable thickness cup face is combo brazed to the body and the sole has Tour Edge’s SlipStream design so the sole tends to glide over the ground rather than dig in.
FG Tour F5 fairway woods from Wilson have a reworked clubhead shape with a Carpenter maraging steel face. There’s a super light hosel system, the same as used on the FG Tour F5 driver, that adjusts plus or minus 1.5 degrees. Since the stock tock lofts offered are 13.5, 15 and 17 degrees the quick change hosel means effectively that lofts from 12.5 to 19 degrees are available in half degree increments. Certainly as wide a range as any manufacturer can offer. The sole has an interchangeable weight near the face for decreased spin which combined with clubface high CT (Characteristic Time, a measurement of coefficient of restitution) increases ball speed and distance. Priced at $230, the FG Tour F5 fairway woods comes with a stock Mitsubishi Rayon Fubuki Z65 shaft.
The FG Tour F5 hybrids also received a refined head shape for this year and the face is of the same thin Carpenter maraging steel as the fairway wood. Wilson used the quick fitting hosel from the fairway woods and driver for this hybrid and it allows a plus or minus one degree adjustment. Three lofts are standard, 17, 20 and 23 degrees and weighting adjustment is provided by an interchangeable sole weight. The Mitsubishi Rayon Fubuki Z80 shaft is stock and retail pricing is $210.
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