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OUR JOB IS YOUR GAME
How much thought have you put towards the fairway wood(s) in your golf bag? Every club in your set must have a purpose, and to that end, fit your playing style. Are you a golfer that utilizes a fairway wood most often off the tee, or in the fairway? For most of us, the ideal fairway wood is one that can be hit off the tee when it makes sense and hit into greens on long par-4s and short par-5s. While golfers don’t typically think of fairway woods as scoring clubs, the right fairway wood can help set you up to score well from nearly anywhere on the golf course.
This year we tested 24 different fairway woods from 15 manufacturers. Our group of 20 dedicated player testers varied in age, swing speeds, and ability level. Combined, our testers hit over four thousand golf shots. For this test, we tested clubs designated as 3-woods by the manufacturers. The stamped lofts tested ranged from 14.5° to 16°.
If you’re in the market for a fairway wood in 2019, this test is for you.
Most Wanted: Callaway EPIC Flash Sub Zero
Fairway Wood Buying Considerations
Performance should be your primary concern when buying a new fairway wood, but there are some additional considerations you may want to think about before you make your purchasing decision.
IF IT WORKS, LET IT RIDE
It’s no secret that fairway woods can be challenging to hit and what we found during testing is that no fairway wood comes close to working for every golfer. In a typical Most Wanted test, our winners are among the top performer clubs for 60%-70% of the testing pool. For fairway woods, that number is closer to 45%. That tells us that golfer needs are varied, and one size definitely doesn’t fit all, or even most. We’ve found that golfers typically hold on to their fairway woods longer than any other club in the bag – and with good reason Finding a fairway wood that works for you can be difficult. For some, it may feel impossible. Fresh approaches to adjustability notwithstanding, there’s not a whole lot of evolution happening in the category right now, so if you’ve got a fairway wood that’s working for you, you shouldn’t feel any pressing need to replace it. If what you have is working, let it ride.
In golf, knowing how far you’re going to hit each club in your bag is imperative to shooting your best scores. That means the distance gaps between each of your clubs should be both practical and consistent. If you hit your 3 wood as far as your driver, that’s probably a good indication you need to take a look at both clubs, and possibly create more separation between the two. Perhaps a little more loft on the fairway wood could improve trajectory and help you hold greens. A shorter shaft would likely give you more control. Conversely, if you need to increase distance, consider more a strongly lofted 3 woods (many manufacturers offer 13.5° models) or those with adjustable hosels to dial down loft and increase your distance.
Do you find yourself struggling to hit lower lofted fairway woods solidly? As manufacturers continue to promise more ball speed and distance every year, one of the ways that clubs get longer is by being built with longer length shafts. Typically, the longer the shaft of the club, the more difficult it can be to get a consistently square strike. Our 2012 Study revealed that shorter driver shafts often lead to more consistently centered impact. The same is true for fairway woods. Longer clubs may increase club speed, but club speed is useless if it isn’t be turned into ball speed or causes you to spray the ball. Make sure you pay attention not only to the loft but also the length of the fairway woods that go into your bag.
TOUR VS. STANDARD
Several manufacturers offer multiple versions of their fairway wood models. While naming conventions vary, the options generally boil down to some flavor of standard vs. tour. Tour versions typically offer design characteristics intended to appeal better players. A compact head, a more forward center of gravity, square to open face angles, and less loft can be indicators of the tour model of a club. Standard models tend to be larger, neutral to closed at address, and offer more rearward centers of gravity for increased forgiveness. It is interesting and important to note, that in our testing, clubs targeting better players often worked well for high handicap golfers – particularly those looking to mitigate excessive spin. The best way to figure out which club is best for you is to go through a proper club fitting with a professional.
Like modern drivers, many fairway woods offer adjustable hosel sleeves which give you the ability to manipulate loft, lie, and, as a consequence, face angle. Adjustability inherently creates fitting versatility. Most golfers (especially off-the-rack buyers), however, will take a set it and forget it approach, but a knowledgeable fitter can leverage adjustability to tune a club that fits you well into the best club in your bag.
OPTIMAL NUMBERS vs. KEEPING IT IN PLAY
It’s easy to get wrapped up in optimizing launch monitor numbers, but for some golfers, it makes sense to throw the numbers out the window and focus on the result. The reality is that many golfers struggle to not only hit fairway woods consistently but to keep them in play. If that’s you, forget about achieving optimal launch conditions on your few good swings, and don’t sweat a few yards of distance either. Clubs like the PING G410 SFT and others that offer shot shape correction can help you advance the ball while keeping it in play. Ultimately, that should help you shoot lower scores.
Most Wanted Runner-Up - Cobra F9 Speedback
One of the top-performing lines this year, the Cobra KING F9 Speedback family of clubs has consistently finished in the upper echelon over the course of the 2019 testing season.
One unique, but classic design characteristic of the F9 Speedback is the Baffler rail system. Placed along the sole of the club, the rails help the club move effortlessly through the turf. Tester feedback was positive and many felt the rails really helped keep the clubface square through impact. Boasting some of the highest ball speed and carry numbers among fairway woods tested, the Cobra KING F9 Speedback should be a must-try during your next club fitting.
During each test, we look for trends that provide us insight into where the market as a whole is moving. We also look for noteworthy changes manufacturers have made to improve year-over-year performance. We also solicit feedback from our testers. We want to understand what they liked, what they didn’t like, and why. We want to reemphasize that, while we do collect and share noteworthy portions of this subjective feedback, it does not factor in our rankings.
Trends and Tweaks
- Most golfers carry just one or two fairway woods; however, with utility irons and hybrids increasing in popularity, golfers now have a plethora of options to create a combination of clubs that best fits their playing style.
- Some fairway woods, like the Sub70 Pro and Tour Edge Exotics CBX 119, feature a more compact profile and are designed for better players with more refined shot-making abilities. Others, like the XXIO X and PING G410 SFT, offer a larger footprint and are designed for higher launch and increased forgiveness. Clubs with these types of designs are especially well-suited for golfers who struggle to get their fairway woods off the ground consistently.
- Adjustability has become an integral part of fairway wood designs. 10 of the 21 models tested feature adjustable hosels. Many of those offer movable weight technology (Callaway EPIC Flash SZ, Sub70 Pro, PXG o341X GEN 2, Titleist TS3, TaylorMade M5). With adjustability comes the versatility to more precisely dial-in launch, trajectory, and to a degree, forgiveness characteristics.
Fix YOUR Big Miss
One of the most, if not the most common miss for the average golfer is a slice (or a miss to the right for right-handed golfers). Sound like you? If so, manufacturers like TaylorMade and PING have your back. Both the TaylorMade M6 D-Type and PING G410 SFT are designed specifically to help eliminate, or at least mitigate a slice.
With weight strategically placed in the heel and a bit offset, these models might just be your ticket to keeping the ball in the short grass. If you miss to the right, make sure to add these fairway woods in your consideration set during your next professional fitting.
Notes from the Testing Pool
- The Callaway EPIC Flash was the highest-rated club overall. Testers noted the club’s exceptional looks and feel and specifically noted the appealing design of the carbon fiber crown. Featuring both Callaway’s proprietary Jailbreak and Flash Face technology, the EPIC Flash and EPIC Flash Sub Zero fairway woods were top picks among those tested in 2019.
- Some of the other top-rated fairway metals in our 2019 test were the runner-up, Cobra F9 Speedback, the PING G410 and G410 LST, and both the Titleist TS2 and TS3 fairway woods. There was unanimously positive feedback on the ease of use of the F9 Speedback fairway metals. Testers also cited the exceptional feel of the TS2 and TS3 woods.
- Lower handicap golfers tend to gravitate towards more compact head designs like the Callaway EPIC Flash Sub Zero and Tour Edge Exotics CBX 119 fairway woods. Both of these models feature smaller profiles, thinner faces, and low spin characteristics.
- While most low-digit handicap golfers favored the smaller head profile, many testers, regardless of handicap and swing speed, preferred the Cleveland Launcher HB fairway. Testers cited its exceptional feel and ability to get the ball airborne.
- In every test at MyGolfSpy, subjective feedback collection inevitably yields negative reviews from our test group. Among those that received poor subjective feedback were the Bridgestone Tour B JGR and Sub70 939X. Testers noted the Bridgestone set up with too much offset, and many felt the design promoted a shut clubface at address and impact. The Sub70 939X received poor subjective feedback because of it’s sharp edges and poor feel on off-center strikes.
Exceptionally Long, Exceptionally Forgiving - Srixon ZF85
Producing the highest average ball speed and longest average total distance, the Srixon ZF85 is not only long but also forgiving. Looking further into numbers, the F85 fairway wood had the smallest standard deviation of ball speed - that's a telltale sign that even on off-center strikes, speed was maintained.
The Srixon ZF85 utilizes two design characteristics that might attribute to this level of forgiveness: a carbon crown that frees mass be moved used low and back in the head, and cup face technology, which is designed to increase ball speeds across the entirety of the face. If you're looking for added distance with a player's preferred look, don't miss the boat on the Srixon ZF85 during your next fitting.
2019 Most Wanted Fairway Wood Data
To filter and compare by club, use the drop-down list and checkboxes to select the only the drivers you wish to compare.
EXPERT TIP - The design makes a difference
Like most other club categories fairway woods are engineered with the intention of helping golfers achieve certain ball flight characteristics. Some are designed to produce high launching, high spinning shots. This is what you need if when the goal is to hold the green on approach shots into long par-4s or par-5s. On the opposite end of the spectrum, some designs feature more forward centers of gravity. Generally, these clubs will spin less and produce a more penetrating trajectory. They're ideal for optimizing distance off the tee..
How We Test
Our Mission is to help you find the best fairway wood for your game.
We are 100% independent and unbiased, and we always put the #ConsumerFirst.
About Our Testers
Our pool of testers consists of 20 golfers with handicaps ranging from plus to the high single digits. As a group, they span a broad range of swing characteristics (head speed, attack angle, etc.).
Over the course of several sessions, each golfer is required to hit 10-12 "good" shots with each club. Club order is randomized on a per tester basis.
Limiting Variables and Gathering Data Reliably
Crunching the Numbers
Before determining our rankings, we identify and remove outliers using a proprietary detection methodology.
To arrive at our final results, we calculate the averages of key metrics (ball speed, distance, dispersion, etc.), while also considering the standard deviation and the statistical reliability of those values.
For more detailed information on our test process, visit our How We Test Page.
2019 Most Wanted Fairway Wood
|Club||Measured Lie||Loft*||Measured Loft||Measured Length||Swing Weight|
|Air Force One N7|
|Cobra KING F9 Speedback|
|Callaway Epic Flash|
|Callaway Epic Flash SZ|
|Tour Edge Exotics CBX 119|
|Tour Edge Exotics EXS |
|Tour Edge HL4|
|Cleveland Launcher HB|
|TaylorMade M6 D Type|
|Ping G410 |
|Ping G410 LST|
|Ping G410 SFT|
|PXG 0341X GEN 2|
|Sub 70 939X|
|Sub 70 Pro|
|Tommy Armour Atomic|
|Bridgestone Tour B JGR|
* denotes measured value vs. manufacturer’s stated spec.
BUYING A NEW FAIRWAY WOOD
Q: How often should I buy a new fairway wood?
A: While on rare occasions there are quantifiable year-over-year breakthroughs, typically it takes 3-5 years for manufacturers to make any significant performance gains. With the USGA further tightening restrictions on manufacturers, it’s possible, even likely, that it will take longer still moving forward. Our recommendation is to buy a new fairway wood only when they appreciably outperform what is already in your bag. Of course, if you want new fairway wood because you want a new fairway wood, that’s fine too.
Q: How do I determine the right fairway wood for me?
A: A proper club fitting with a professional will help determine what fairway wood will suit your unique game. However, you can assess your own needs by determining what kind of shots you need to hit with your fairway metal. Do you take hit the 3 wood primarily off the tee, or do you find yourself utilizing fairway woods off the turf? If you primarily use the fairway wood off the tee, a deeper face can help promote solid contact on the tee. Conversely, shallower faced, slightly elongated fairway woods can help with turf interaction, allowing you the best chance at solid contact off the fairway or out of the rough. Make sure to fully evaluate your game in advance of a professional fitting to help the fitter understand what you’re looking for in a fairway wood.
Q: Does the shaft matter?
A: Absolutely. While changes to spin and launch and spin differences are rarely massive, shaft changes frequently lead to improved accuracy, tighter dispersion, and greater overall consistency.
Q: What should I look for when testing fairway woods?
A: While golfers have been conditioned to consider distance to the exclusion of nearly everything else, we recommended looking at the little numbers and looking for small circles. When comparing metrics like distance and ball speed, be sure to look at your standard deviations (the small numbers usually found under the big ones on the data screen). Smaller numbers mean better consistency, which will usually mean more than an extra yard or two on the golf course. Similarly, look for tighter dispersion ellipses (small circles). We can’t understate the importance of consistency with fairway woods.
Adjustable Center of Gravity Fairway Woods
While it's not nearly as common as it is in the driver category, a few of this season's fairway metals feature movable weight (adjustable CG) technology.
Whether is the SureFit CG flip weight in the Titleist TS3, PXG's familiar multi-port tungsten weight system, or TaylorMade's sliding sole weight - all of these clubs are designed to extend fitting capabilities and ultimately provide better performance for more golfers. Although most (especially off-the-rack buyers) will take a set it and forget it approach, a knowledgable fitter can leverage adjustability to tune a club to provide the best results possible.
Q: How are the fairway woods in the test fit to each golfer?
A: We use a fitting process that we call fit from stock. Woods are fitted to each tester using the stock, no up-charge options from each manufacturer. We test 3 woods ranging in loft from 14.5°-16°. Adjustability is growing in popularity. Whether it be movable weights or an adjustable hosel, we make every effort to optimize each club for each tester. Occasionally manufacturers will send multiple sets with different stock shafts that we can utilize to improve launch conditions.
Q: How is the Most Wanted Fairway Wood Determined
A: To determine the Most Wanted Fairway Wood, we collect performance metrics with Foresight GCQuad Launch Monitors. To determine our overall rankings, we utilize a proprietary methodology that considers the statistical reliability of a Strokes Gained metric across the entire pool of testers.
Q: How is the “Longest” Fairway Wood determined?
A: To determine the Longest Fairway Wood, we consider the average total yards across the test pool along with the statistical reliability of that data.
Q: How is the “Most Forgiving” Fairway Wood determined?
A: To determine the Most Forgiving Fairway Wood, we focus on a narrower set of metrics that includes: Shot Area (dispersion), Radial Distance, Accuracy, and the average standard deviation for ball speed and carry yards.
Q: How much does subjective feedback like looks, sound, and feel factor into your rankings?
A: ZERO. Our rankings are based purely on launch monitor data and quantifiable performance metrics.