Increasingly the long irons of past greats like Arnold Palmer and Ben Hogan have been replaced in the bags of professionals and hackers alike by newer, easier to hit clubs. Anyone who has ever tried to find the sweet spot on a 2- or 3-iron is likely happy to have the choice to replace these clubs with a fairway wood, hybrid, or driving iron. The question is: when you’re looking at a second shot 200 yards from the green, which one do you want to use?
- Large head
- Glides over short fairway
- Swings like driver
- Bad from rough
- Higher launch (good or bad depending on situation)
The fairway wood is simply a wood with subtle design changes to allow it to hit off a flat surface. The ball will have a higher launch, which is good for soft landings on the green but will take away some yards from your distance so knowing your abilities will help you decide if this club will work for you.
pictured: TaylorMade SIM Fairway Wood
- Swings like iron
- More forgiving like a wood
- Can be played from fairway or light rough
- Medium launch
- Limited ability to shape shots
The hybrid has a shorter shaft and a center of gravity farther forward than the fairway wood, utilising some irons-like features into a club that still looks and feels like a wood. Unlike the wood, the ball isn’t played forward in the stance but instead in the middle with a more downward swing plane, similar to an iron shot. This club allows the distance and feel of long irons but with a much more forgiving clubface.
pictured: Titleist TS2 Hybrid
- Ability to shape shots
- Played from any fairway or rough
- Needs a very fast swing
- Not very forgiving
Driving irons have the lowest launch angle of the 3 clubs and needs a high swing speed to really get the best out of the club. Skilled golfers can shape shots, and the lower launch angle allows for a bump and run approach as well. These are less forgiving than hybrids and fairway irons in general.
Ultimately it should come down to feel and comfort for each individual player. It's far better to have a less fashionable club and a lower score than the newest gadget and a double bogey. Fairway woods may be better than hybrids for some players, but many will be best served by having one of each. Driving irons are the most difficult of the three but should be explored by lower handicap players.