When Should I Add A Fairway Wood To My Bag? — Explained

when should i add a fairway wood to my bag and when do i need to carry a wood

A fairway wood is one of the most powerful and versatile clubs a golfer can carry, and all golfers will benefit from adding at least one to their bag

On longer holes, a fairway wood can make the difference between hitting the green in regulation, and coming up short. Many golfers also hit their fairway woods with more consistency than their drivers, and elect to hit one off the tee.

when should i add a fairway wood to my bag and when do i need to carry a wood

When Do I Need To Carry A Wood?

when should i add a fairway wood to my bag to use a wood on a golf course

Simply put, if you are playing golf anywhere but a par 3 golf course, you’ll need to add a fairway wood to the bag. Most par 4s and all par 5s will require the use of a driver, a fairway wood, or both.

Woods are necessary clubs for advancing the golf ball longer distances that cannot be achieved with a long iron.

The larger clubhead of a wood propels the ball with a greater amount of ball speed, while also putting the ball on a higher trajectory.

Many recreational golfers struggle to hit a long iron further than 200 yards, and with many par 4s measuring 400 yards or longer, they stand little to no chance of reaching the green in regulation without the use of a wood. While usually only long par 4s require an approach shot with a fairway wood, a wood off the tee will usually give golfers the best chance to have a shorter iron, or wedge, in hand with their second shot.

On par 5s, a wood is almost always used off the tee, usually a driver. In many instances, players will then elect to pull fairway wood on their second shot, with the goal of advancing the ball far down the fairway for a short green in regulation look. Better golfers will take aim at the green with their second shots, hoping to hold the green for an eagle putt, or a two-putt birdie.

For this reason, par 5s are referred to as scoring holes. While many beginners fear the distance of par 5s at first, they will grow to look at them as opportunities as their game progresses, and they become more comfortable hitting fairway woods.

Without a wood in the bag, it can be very tough to achieve the distance needed to work your way around the golf course effectively. While many high handicappers find it easier to control iron shots, learning to hit fairway woods is an essential skill to improve as a golfer.


when should i add a fairway wood to my bag and the benefits of fairway wood distance

Many golfers who are just starting out have a tough time understanding the different types of golf clubs and their uses at first. Essentially, there are two main categories of woods – drivers and fairway woods. There are also hybrid clubs available.

These clubs are designed as a “hybrid” between fairway woods and irons.

Drivers are highly similar to fairway woods in so many ways. Both drivers and fairway woods will have a much larger clubhead than other clubs in the golf bag. These larger, heavier clubheads propel the ball much faster, higher, and further than possible with any iron. The larger club faces also allow for larger sweet spots on the face, sending mishits flying significantly further.

This can be either a good or a bad thing depending on how bad the miss is, as a further flight could mean being buried deeper in the woods or out of bounds! These features make the 5 wood a suitable wood for beginners. Ultimately, what matters is that you get the ball as high as possible and achieve the easiest launch. If you’re a newbie and you impart plenty of long-game spin, you’re better off having a 3 wood in your golf bag rather than a driver.

Compared to drivers, 3-woods have a smaller club head size that maximize control and offer tighter, shot dispersion.  

These larger heads of drivers and fairway woods are made even more effective when combined with graphite shafts. While the club head of a wood is heavy, graphite shafts are light and powerful, flexing and releasing through the downswing to generate huge amounts of club head speed. Woods also have longer shafts than any other golf clubs, allowing for a longer windup, and even more speed and power.

One of the most common materials used to manufacture fairway wood heads is steel. It’s especially great for the smaller clubs since it offers a good amount of stability. Furthermore, it’s a cheaper material to use compared to other materials. Titanium is also a powerful material that helps deliver extra distance, allowing for a spring-like effect from the thinner club face.  

The driver is the lowest lofted club outside of the putter, and provides the most distance of any golf club. The head of a driver is also the largest of any club, averaging roughly double the size of a large fairway wood. The large size and low loft of the driver allow for a low, piercing ball flight, advancing the golf ball very far and allowing it to run out down the fairway.

Fairway woods are available in a variety of lofts, and are most commonly seen in 3 wood and 5 wood configurations.

They have slightly shorter shafts than drivers, with the average 3 wood being roughly 2 inches shy of most drivers. The higher loft of fairway woods create a higher ball flight than the driver, creating a softer landing and making it possible to hold greens, even from long distances.

Fairway woods have a shallower face than a driver. This unique feature is designed to maintain a low center of gravity. This helps you get your golf ball airborne from the fairway. It’s also worth considering that fairway woods are made with soles that are relatively easier to hit from the divots or the rough. That’s really difficult to accomplish even when using modern drivers.


Benefits Of Fairway Wood Distance vs Irons

Distance is a very important factor when it comes to shooting low scores on the golf course. More distance off the tee leads to less distance from the green, and easier, more manageable approach shots. The best thing about fairway woods is the fact that they offer great feel, distance, and trajectory.

On many longer holes, even a booming tee shot still leaves the green out of long iron’s range. This is where fairway woods come in, as they allow golfers to take aim at greens from further distances possible than with their long irons.

The lower loft of the fairway wood, combined with the power generated from the larger head, allow for a much further ball flight than with a long iron. Fairway woods also fly higher than long irons, allowing them to enter the green at a softer angle and increase the chances of staying there. Long irons have a lower ball flight, and will run out further than a similarly lofted fairway wood.

For example, a player may hit a 4 iron and a 5 wood similar total distances, but the ball flight of the 4 iron will be lower, and it will land shorter before rolling out to the chosen yardage. With the 5 wood, the ball will fly higher and further, before landing softly and rolling out less. On a hole with a forced carry, let’s say water in front of the green, the 5 wood would be the better option, as the 4 iron’s shorter carry distance would put it in the water.

There are many situations on the golf course where irons just won’t cut it, and a fairway wood is necessary. The longer distances and higher ball flight produced by fairway woods make them a necessary addition to any golf bag, and many golfers find their long irons without a home after being replaced by the superior fairway wood.

When Should I Use A Wood On The Course?

The driver is the longest club in a golfer’s bag and is used almost exclusively for hitting tee shots. The circumstances in which to use a fairway wood will depend on the player. Some advanced players will elect to hit driver off the fairway on longer holes, chasing more distance and a low, running ball flight. Where you place the ball matters a lot in this case. Ensure you place it a few inches within the leading heel. The idea is swing the club flat or slightly elevated into the ball when driving.

This is not common practice or advisable for high handicappers or even mid handicappers, and is more often seen on the PGA Tour than on a local public course. 

Fairway woods are also commonly used off the tee, as many golfers find that they are more accurate with fairway woods compared to the driver. 

While not as long as the driver, the higher loft of fairway woods allows for a high launch and more predictable ball flight. Many shorter holes do not require the use of the driver, and a well placed fairway wood off the tee can leave a manageable approach shot into the green.

The most common use for fairway wood is for a player’s second shot on a longer hole. The long distance and high ball flight of a 3 or 5 wood allows a player to advance the ball very far, and aim for the green in some cases. Par 5s in particular are usually best attacked with a fairway wood, and can lead to some great scoring opportunities. 

We recommend that you try using fairway woods on the greens. It’s good to experiment and try something out of the ordinary. For instance, if you’re playing around the green and probably your wedge isn’t functioning as well as you want it to, don’t be shy to use a fairway wood. It’s not something you’re used to, but it will get the job done, sometimes with added benefits! 

Frequently Asked Questions:

Do I need a fairway wood in my bag?

If you are playing anywhere besides a putt putt, or par 3 course – the answer is yes. A wood might even be necessary for longer holes at a par 3 course, and is an essential part of a complete set of golf clubs.

At the same time, fairway woods are not really necessary, especially for beginners who need a worthy replacement for their driver. If your bag has a driver with a high loft that you can easily hit, fairway woods are not of much significance. 

Should I have a 3 wood or a 5 wood in my bag?

It depends on your needs, and many players elect to carry both. For players with a very large gap between the distance of their driver and longest iron, it is advisable to carry both a 3 wood and a 5 wood. However, in most circumstances, a 5 wood is believed to perform a lot better than a 3 wood.

The shorter length of the shaft accompanied by the increased loft makes this club a lot easier to hit. A complete set of golf clubs should have proper distance gapping, allowing the golfer to have a good option in hand from any yardage.

Conclusion: Research by Tellmemoregolf.com

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While a set of irons is a great place to start when putting together a complete set of golf clubs, a fairway wood will eventually become necessary for any golfer looking to improve.

Many players find a fairway wood to be their best option off the tee, and trade the distance lost for added accuracy vs the driver. 3-woods are a better choice for most players owing to their shorter shaft which makes it way easier to get out of tight and tricky spots. The higher-lofted 5 woods come in handy for players who want to generate higher launches. 

Fairway woods are most commonly used to advance the ball down the fairway, or reach the green on longer approach shots. This combination of distance and accuracy makes the fairway wood extremely useful for golfers of all skill levels, and at least one should be found in all golf bags.


Patrick Corley

From a golf scholarship to a Southern California University, to a private golf coaching career and an instructor position at a nonprofit organization, I’m here to help you get better at golf! With my 50+ years of golf experience; I bring you Tell Me More Golf. A golf coaching website that helps your game with instructional golfing content that’s ultimately geared toward making you a better golfer and having more fun!
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