Best Fairway Woods For High Handicappers: The 2017 Complete Review

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Callaway Golf 2017 Great Big Bertha Men's Epic Fairway, Right Hand, Aldila Rogue Max, 60G, 42" Length, Regular, Heavenwood, 20.5 Degrees
Our Choice
TaylorMade Fairway-M2 2017 #3 R Golf Fairway, Right Hand
Callaway XR 16 Fairway Wood (Men's, RH, 3 Wood, Speeder Evolution 565, Stiff Flex)
Cobra KING F6 Golf Fairway Wood (Men's, 13.0-16.0, Graphite, Regular, Right, 3W4W), Black
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$279.99
$249.00
$229.99
$139.99
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Callaway Golf 2017 Great Big Bertha Men's Epic Fairway, Right Hand, Aldila Rogue Max, 60G, 42" Length, Regular, Heavenwood, 20.5 Degrees
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$279.99
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Customer Reviews
Our Choice
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TaylorMade Fairway-M2 2017 #3 R Golf Fairway, Right Hand
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$249.00
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Customer Reviews
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Callaway XR 16 Fairway Wood (Men's, RH, 3 Wood, Speeder Evolution 565, Stiff Flex)
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$229.99
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Cobra KING F6 Golf Fairway Wood (Men's, 13.0-16.0, Graphite, Regular, Right, 3W4W), Black
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$139.99
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Customer Reviews

Fairway woods are often overlooked by players today, especially beginners and high handicappers. They are actually really important not only to cover some distance from the fairway but also to add versatility to your overall gameplay. After all, we are allowed to carry 14 different clubs at once, and it is advisable to take one or two fairway woods in your bag.

Yet, buying one fairway wood or two for beginners can be a confusing task. With so many options and different features out there, it is hard to find the right fairway woods that can compliment your driver and other clubs. In this buying guide, we will have an in-depth discussion for game improvement fairway woods, as well as several products we will recommend.

Product Recommendations

Below, we will review four of fairway woods we felt are the best out of all the available options nowadays.

Callaway Golf 2017 Men's Great Big Bertha Epic Fairway Wood

Pros of the Callaway Golf 2017 Men's Great Big Bertha Epic Fairway Wood

  • Easy to play with excellent forgiveness
  • Excellent feel, as expected from Callaway
  • Great looks with thin face and rounded head, giving it a very dynamic look with the carbon material
  • Very squared address, very easy to align
  • Excellent stock graphite shaft with the 65g Project X HZRDUS, stable and very light
  • Very high natural ball speed with nice flight trajectory, which will translate to distance

Cons of the Callaway Golf 2017 Men's Great Big Bertha Epic Fairway Wood

  • The sound is a little hollow by Callaway's standard due to the carbon composite material
  • Does not feature the Jailbreak rod found on the Great Big Bertha Epic Driver

Callaway 2017 Great Big Bertha Men's Epic Fairway

  • Weight saved by the ultra-light triaxial carbon crown (78% lighter than steel) is repositioned to increase MOI and lower the CG for easy launch and added power
  • The latest generation of our hyper speed face cup is more efficient at delivering fast ball speed across the face, especially on mis-hits, for increased average distance

The brand 'Big Bertha' has been synonymous with a long-line of high-quality fairways and drivers for quite some time. They are often known for the classic looks and feel while delivering forgiveness and distance, and the new Great Big Bertha Epic lives up to that reputation.

The key highlight of the Great Big Bertha Epic Fairway is the Triaxial carbon crown. Not only does it looks really nice with modern and high-tech design, it only weighs 6 grams. As a result, Callaway can move the center of gravity (CG) very low because the crown is very light, increasing both flight trajectory and forgiveness.

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Weight of the Big Bertha'a Triaxial Carbon Crown

Then, there is the updated Face Cup, which is thinner than previous versions, such as the one on the XR16 clubs. With the Face Cup, the face can flex more during impact, making the sweet spot bigger and allowing very fast ball speed even during mis-hits. The Great Big Bertha Epic Fairway Woods are consequently really forgiving with excellent playability.

There is also the Speed Step on the crown, which is inspired by Boeing engineering to give more aerodynamics on the crown. This design first appeared in the XR16 clubs, which reduces air friction by smoothing the airflow over the head. Although it won't have the same effect as on Callaway drivers due to the head size, it is still excellent while also acting as alignment assistance.

Since the face is thinner and better retains aerodynamics with the rounded head, the Great Big Bertha Epic fairway sits a little squarer compared to its predecessor, the XR16 Fairway. Considering the XR16 Fairway is already excellent with its alignment, this is a significant improvement.

What surprised us is that the fairway wood didn't feature the Jailbreak rods found on the driver version. The jailbreak rods are put inside the head to increase ball speed on the driver version. It is not as satisfying regarding distance when compared to the Great Big Bertha Epic Driver.

The Callaway Great Big Bertha Epic Fairway is very responsive, giving the very nice Callaway signature feel. Because it uses carbon composite instead of titanium or steel, it sounds a little dull compared to older Callaway fairways, although it still sounds nice.

The Great Big Bertha Epic Fairway is very forgiving on a wide variety of specs. It is obviously excellent when hit from the fairway, but is also very comfortable to use off the tee or from the semi-rough. A very nice choice for those looking for forgiveness and consistency.

TaylorMade M2 Fairway Woods

Pros of the TaylorMade M2 Fairway Woods

  • Simply one of, if not the longest fairway available, sometimes too long, which is saying a lot
  • Excellent forgiveness, very easy and versatile to use. The forgiveness is vastly improved from the 2016 M2
  • Modern, high-tech design true to TaylorMade's standard and current trends
  • Great improvement in sound department compared to the 2016 M2 fairways
  • Well-distributed ball speed across the face with the inverted cone technology, consistent performance in distance

Cons of the TaylorMade M2 Fairway Woods

  • Limited shaft options compared to the 2017 M2 Driver
  • Relatively expensive, although it is worth every penny

TaylorMade 2017 M2 Men's Fairway Wood

  • Geocoustic technology that has advanced shaping with a two-tiered sole design 
  • Longer, more flexible, open-channel speed pocket with increased flexion 
  • Fluted hosel design that provides superior sound and feel without compromising CG or distance

If Callaway has the Big Bertha line for forgiveness and distance-focused clubs, TaylorMade has the M2 line, which is equally popular. With this rivalry, the situation is always like this: Callaway is about retaining classical looks and feel, with a more subtle approach to technology. On the other hand, TaylorMade embraces technology, often using modern, over-the top approaches with technology and design for their clubs.

So, when comparing the 2017 M2 fairways with the Callaway Great Big Bertha Epic we have discussed before, the situation is no different. First, if the Great Big Bertha Epic follows an aerodynamic design, the 2017 M2 is using a more dramatic design called the Geocoustic, where the sole is significantly recessed in the toe area and reinforced with exterior ribs.

This design mainly addresses the sound problem of the 2016 M2 clubs. The 2016 version of the M2 is already excellent in almost every aspect. Just the sound is a little muted. With this new Geocoustic design, there is less hollow space inside the 2017 M2, vastly improving the sound aspect.

The Speed Pocket, designed to allow more flex across the face, is also revised. A little weight has been eliminated from the top end of the club by using a thin steel section over the 6-layered carbon crown. The fluted hosel is also lighter, featuring six instead of the previous 8-sided design. As a result, the center of gravity is lower than before, allowing a more effective Speed Pocket. The new Speed Pocket allows excellent ball speeds across the face, even during off-center hits.

So, the 2017 M2 Fairway is both very forgiving and excellent in distance. If there's any complaint we will make, it is the stock Reax shaft, which in our opinion, only caters mid to slow swing speed players. You can upgrade to 30 or so shaft options for free through TaylorMade's fitting service. However, the three main shaft options from the driver version of the M2 are simply better (we've also written our own in-depth guide on choosing the right driver shafts for your driver).

Still, a very small downside for an excellent fairway wood.

Callaway Men's XR16 Fairway Woods

Pros of the Callaway Men's XR16 Fairway Woods

  • Very versatile, can be used from the fairway of even from the rough
  • Decent forgiveness with rewarding well-struck shots and satisfying performance with mis-hits
  • Excellent Callaway feel, heavy during take away but excellent through the downswing with light, pleasant response
  • Great looks with pear-shaped design and matte finish
  • Great sound especially on well-struck hits
  • Relatively affordable nowadays

Cons of the Callaway Men's XR16 Fairway Woods

  • Relatively modest flight trajectory, hard to get the balls airborne sometimes
  • The face artwork feels exaggerated and the crown could do more with a more pronounced alignment aid

Callaway XR 16 Fairway Wood (Men's, RH, 3 Wood, Speeder Evolution 565, Stiff Flex)


Callaway XR 16 Fairway Woods

  • Bigger, more forgiving and easier to hit: the head shape is bigger, and we've built in an awesome combination of our highest MOI, low center of Gravity, and highest COR in a fairway wood. Our lightest crown ever allows US to move weight where we want it
  • Higher ball speed from a hotter face cup: we've taken our industry-leading forged hyper speed face cup and made it hotter and thinner for even more speed and a large sweet spot. Is that something you might be interested in we thought so

Another one by Callaway, the Callaway XR16 clubs were released back in mid-2016, so it is a little older compared to the Great Big Bertha Epic we have discussed above. As a result of this situation, the XR16 is relatively more affordable. So, it is an excellent choice for those with a strict budget.

The XR16 features the reinvented 'Warbird' sole of the original Big Bertha fairways, which many regards as a legend since its introduction over 20 years ago. It may look more modern and totally different, but the basic principle is similar: a large contour on the sole from front to back, combined with another one from heel to toe. The result of this sole design is an excellent lie angle and address position. The lower central point of the sole also makes it more playable in longer grass, making the XR16 playable from all types of lie and slopes, even the semi-rough.

The face features a Hyper Speed Face Cup technology, which allows the face to flex more during impact. Being an older version of the Great Big Bertha Epic's Face Cup, this doesn't provide as much distance and consistency, but still very decent.

What is really notable from the XR16 is the feel and sound. During impact, the XR16 is very responsive with light, pleasant vibration. On well-struck hits, it will produce a very nice 'zing' sound, which is satisfying. A true classic Callaway regarding feel and sound.

The XR16 features a stock Fujikura Speeder Evolution 565 in red, which looks as good as it plays. It is very light and stable, which truly complements the XR16 head.

Distance-wise, however, we can say that XR16 is average, mainly because it doesn't feature the newer technologies found in the Callaway Great Big Bertha Epic or the TaylorMade 2017 M2. The flight trajectory is relatively low, which often hinders its forgiveness. It is, however, still very decent compared to other options available in the market.

The Callaway XR16 Fairway is an excellent all-around choice, which is equally as good from the fairway and off the tee as from tough lies and semi-rough. Considering its affordability, it is an excellent choice for those looking for a versatile option.

Cobra King F6 Fairway Woods

Pros of the Cobra King F6 Fairway Woods

  • Excellent playability and adjustability with the adjustable hosel and movable weight.
  • Decent forgiveness, very satisfying well-struck shots while slight mis-hits won't affect too much performance
  • Great distance coverage with medium flight trajectory and decent roll. With the adjustable hosel, you can also loft up to maximize distance
  • Excellent feel with firm impact, inspiring confidence and it is easy to identify misses with the Cobra King F6
  • Great sound
  • Classic mid-sized pear-shaped head with high-tech sole design, one of the best looking clubs out there

Cons of the Cobra King F6 Fairway Woods

  • Not as forgiving as others in this list
  • The adjustability features can be confusing at first

Cobra King F6 Fairway Woods

  • F6 CG TUNING-F6 Drivers featuring adjustable 'Front to Back' CG technology. A front CG position delivers a penetrating ball flight with more roll, while a back CG position delivers a more towering ball flight with greater forgiveness
  • MY FLY-KING F6 Fairways come with Eight easily adjustable loft settings to manage trajectory and fine tune launch conditions to maximize distance on any course, and for any swing

The brand Cobra might not have achieved the legendary status of those like Callaway, TaylorMade or Ping. However, Cobra is increasingly popular nowadays with their eccentric and aggressive technological approaches and designs.

The Cobra Fly-Z fairways (we reviewed it in its driver version), which is the direct predecessor of the King F6, is really successful with decent forgiveness and performance.

The Cobra King F6 brings a lot of improvements to the table, making it an even better club. First, there is the movable weight and adjustable hosel, which is certainly the key highlights of the Cobra King F6. The movable weight is a 20-gram tungsten in an aluminum shell, and you can move it forward or backward across the two positions on the sole. As you might have guessed, moving the weight will alter the center of gravity (CG). Moving the CG back will increase the spin and produce a higher flight trajectory, and vice versa. So, the movable weight makes the Cobra King F6 Fairway really versatile for various situations.

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The adjustable hosel, dubbed the MyFly8, allows you to change the loft on the fly without removing the head first. There are three head options included in the package: a 3/4 wood head covering 13 to 16 degrees, a 5/6 head covering 17 to 20 degrees, and a 7/8 wood head covering 21 to 24 degrees. The MyFly8 covers five points of 4-degree range with 3 draw settings. So, by combining the loft angle, weight placement, and head option, you get a very versatile fairway covering all sorts of situations and distance needs.

The Cobra King F6 fairway retains the rounded head with a toe-heavy design of the Fly-Z, which moves the weight to the sides for more stability and forgiveness. You should also note that moving the movable weight backward will also improve forgiveness. The new King F6 head sits more squared than the Fly-Z, paired with a relatively compact profile which is really nice for alignment.

In the looks department, the Cobra King F6 is simply one of the best-looking clubs in the market. It's modern and high-tech looking without being over the top. It feels really good with excellent response and sounds great.

The key highlight of the Cobra King F6 Fairway is the adjustability features. It might not be as forgiving as the Callaway Great Big Bertha Epic or as long as the TaylorMade M2. However, thanks to its adjustability, it is a very versatile fairway with great, all-around qualities.

Questions / Answers

Why should I use fairway woods over hybrid clubs, especially if I am a high handicappers?

This is a very common question, mainly because hybrids are really popular nowadays for any skill levels. In our opinion, it is best to have a driver, 1 or 2 hybrids, and 1 or 2 fairways in your bag to ensure versatility.

The larger heads of the fairway woods are more forgiving than hybrids, and they send the ball higher with more backspin due to their higher lofts. These qualities make fairway woods a better option for hitting from the tee and the fairway. On the other hand, hybrids are better from the rough with the smaller heads. (if you're interested in hybrid clubs, we've made a review specifically on them here)

XE1 Wedge Review

Due to the head shape and design, a fairway will always go further than a similarly lofted hybrid. The fairways are generally longer-shafted and generate more ball speed. So, with these points being said, we can understand that fairway woods have different purposes and characteristics compared to hybrids.

How do I choose the right fairway wood for me?

There are several important factors you should understand before purchasing a fairway wood. They are:

LOFT ANGLE

Loft angle dictates flight trajectory and distance. The higher the loft angle, the higher the flight trajectory and the shorter the ball will travel. Fairway woods have higher loft angle than drivers, with the 3-wood has a loft angle between 15 and 18 degrees. The higher the number, the higher the loft. For example, 5-woods have loft angle between 20 and 22 degrees. Higher lofted woods (7-, 9-, 11-, etc) are often called utility or specialty woods.

SHAFT LENGTH

The higher the club number and the loft angle, the shorter the shaft length to compromise. So, the 3-wood is the longest fairway wood available (besides the drivers which are essentially 1-woods), usually around 42" long.

MATERIALS

Fairway woods are usually made from three different materials, which also often dictate size.

Stainless Steel

The most common material used, and usually the most affordable. Stainless steel is quite decent in strength but is quite heavy compared to other materials. Because of its weight, we can't make large club head size with stainless steel without sacrificing playability or distance.

Titanium

Titanium is a material commonly used to make larger fairway woods for hitting from the tee. Titanium is relatively light compared to stainless steel, yet also very strong. With titanium, manufacturers can push the center of gravity (CG) deeper in the club head, which translates to higher natural flight trajectory. Titanium face can also be made really thin, providing better performance in distance.

Multi-Material Composite

The advancement in technology has allowed manufacturers to combine modern material options such as carbon with titanium or steel to create ultra-lightweight heads. As a result, we get larger, more forgiving heads without sacrificing performance. The light weight also prevents twisting on mis-hits by distributing the center of gravity around the inside perimeter of the head. Multi-material clubs are generally the most expensive.

On top of these factors, there is another consideration you should have when choosing your fairway wood. It truly depends on what you are looking to achieve:

If you want the fairway wood to hit off the tee, a 2-, 3- or 4- wood is easier to hit than drivers due to their higher lofts. They won't travel as far, but can still produce a decent distance of over 220 yards.

We all know how long irons can be really difficult to use.

So, fairway woods can be good alternatives to long irons and hybrids with their larger club heads and more forgiveness. As a general rule, a 5-wood can replace a 2-iron, a 7-wood for 3- or 4- iron, and 9-wood can replace the 5-iron.

Ever wanted to reach the par 5 in two? Some holes are simply too long to reach with a driver or long irons. In these cases, a 3- or 4- wood with a fairly shallow head can do the job, especially from the fairway.

What are the key benefits of fairway woods for high handicap golfers?

High handicappers' clubs are commonly designed with two things in mind: more forgiveness and consistency in distance. With fairway woods, it is no different.

Handicapped Golfers

Fairway woods for high handicappers are designed to be more forgiving. This is mainly achieved by making the head bigger, giving you a bigger sweet spot to hit the ball. Other approaches in design and technology can also be used, such as manipulating the center of gravity (CG) position, enabling the face to flex more during impact, or other designs.

Generally, fairway woods for high handicappers are also designed with distance as their emphasis. There are several approaches that can be taken for this purpose, but nowadays the performance in distance is achieved mainly through center of gravity positioning.

With adjustability being the trend of golf club designs nowadays, what forms of adjustability should I look for in a fairway wood?

Although not as prominent as in drivers, some manufacturers do offer some forms of adjustability in their fairway woods. There are generally three forms of adjustability/customization offered in fairway woods:

Adjustable Loft

By using adjustable hosel, players can adjust the loft of the fairway wood. By removing a screw in the heel, the loft adjustment can be made when the shaft is connected to the club head and replacing it with the intended setting. Usually, this method allows the loft to be increased or decreased by up to 5 degrees.

However, it is not only the loft that is changed with this method, as the lie will also be affected. 'Lie' is the angle of the ground at address with the shaft, which will affect the horizontal flight of the ball. Some adjustable hosels allow us to change loft angle without affecting the lie, which is a thing to consider when purchasing a club with adjustable hosel.

In the end, adjustable hosel is designed to optimize your ball flight and performance in distance, and that is the key consideration you should have in adjusting your loft and/or lie.

Face Angle

Face angle, as the name suggests, is the angle of the face at address. We call the face angle 'squared' when it is totally perpendicular to the ball, with the open clubface facing away from the player. An open clubface decreases loft angle and vice versa.

Adjusting the face angle can have a quite significant impact on ball flight. Moreover, a closed clubface can help players who have a tendency to slice the ball, while an open clubface can help with hook tendencies.

Movable Weights

Adjustable weight feature is really prominent in drivers to manipulate center of gravity positioning. It is less prevalent in fairways, but some manufacturers do offer it. Manipulating the weight position will affect the center of gravity, which will, in turn, affect forgiveness, flight trajectory, and distance.

Although movable weight is a rare feature among fairways, it is a nice feature to look for in a high handicapper's fairway wood.

Are there things to look for that differentiate fairway woods for high handicappers?

There are two key design emphases for high handicappers' fairways: forgiveness and distance. So, those are the two attributes you should look for when purchasing your fairways.

Those qualities can come in different forms, as different manufacturers have different approaches to achieve them. As a general rule of thumb, here are some features you should look for:

HEAD SIZE

Generally, fairway woods for high handicappers come in relatively large head sizes. This is due to the fact that larger heads can accommodate bigger moment of inertia (MOI), which will increase forgiveness. Remember, however, that a large head should also have proper weight and center of gravity placement.

Golfer

FORGIVENESS FEATURES/TECHNOLOGIES

There are other technological approaches that can increase forgiveness, which will vary greatly between manufacturers. Most of them will have similar principles: manipulating the center of gravity position or enabling the face to flex more for an even bigger sweet spot. Before purchasing your fairway, it is important to check for its forgiveness features or technologies.

DISTANCE-FOCUSED TECHNOLOGIES

Since performance in distance is really important for fairways, it is also a very important factor for high handicappers' clubs. Different manufacturers can use different technologies to achieve more distance. Usually, they come either as a center of gravity positioning, lighter overall build, or other similar features.

Are there any prerequisites to using fairway woods?

On the contrary, fairway woods are among the easiest clubs to use mainly because the head size is relatively bigger, allowing an easier time to produce well-struck shots.

So, to answer this question, there is very little to no prerequisites to using fairway woods.

In many ways, using the fairways is similar to that of a driver, which should be familiar to just about anyone. Fairway woods produce high flight trajectory with strong backspin, allowing consistent distance and shot-stopping control.

Are there any particular brands I should look for?

A very difficult question, as there are many brands offering excellent fairway woods for beginners and high handicappers. There are three particular brands we will recommend:

TaylorMade

TaylorMade is one of, if not the most famous manufacturer for golf drivers. Many of their top notch technologies and designs for their drivers are also implemented in their fairway woods. TaylorMade woods and drivers are known for their distance and forgiveness, two key qualities we are looking for.

Callaway

It's hard to mention TaylorMade without mentioning Callaway, arguably being the biggest rivalry in the world of golf equipment. Callaway is known for their old-fashioned approaches to technologies. However, that's not saying their features aren't top notch. If you want great response and feel, it's hard to go wrong with Callaway.

Cobra

Although Cobra is not as big as Callaway or TaylorMade, they are very popular nowadays, known for their creative features and technologies.

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