As a beginning golfer or high handicapper, there may be no club any harder to hit than a fairway wood off the fairway. The tops, the skulls, the amount of sod that gets destroyed... It is no fun to watch or be a part of.
However, it could be argued that having a trusty 3 wood could be a beginners best friend. You can use it off the tee when the driver goes bad. You can use it to recover from short tee shots. You can even use it around the green. (Okay, maybe not a great idea until you can break 100.)
But the point is, you need fairway woods you can trust.
Can’t wait? Here’s the Best Fairway Woods for Beginners in 2018:
- 1Callaway Rogue Fairway Woods
- 2Taylormade M4 Fairway Woods
- 3Cobra F-Max Fairway Woods
- 4Ping G400 SFT Fairway Woods
- 5Cleveland Launcher HB Fairway Woods
- 6Cobra King F8 Fairway Woods
- 7Mizuno ST180 Fairway Woods
- 8Titleist 917 F2 Fairway Woods
- 9Tour Edge Exotics CBX Fairway Woods
No time to read the reviews, jump right to the Best Fairway Woods for Beginners Comparsion Table.
Not quite a beginner and looking for a workable or low spin fairway wood, move on to our review of the best fairway woods for better players.
What Should a Beginner Look for in a Fairway Wood?
Look for the most forgiving fairway wood. Don’t worry about distance.
Every brand on our list will get you down the fairway in good measure.
Forgiveness, launch, spin, and adjustability differentiate golf clubs these days. Here’s a quick rundown on each:
The Perfect Beginner's 3 Wood
Forgiveness - No club will help if you hit three inches behind the ball, or pick your head up and top it.
But, modern clubs make their living on correcting slight and moderate mishits.
Of all the factors a beginner should consider when looking for fairway woods – or any club for that matter – forgiveness ranks at the top.
Launch - Many beginners find launching the ball off the fairway one the hardest things in golf.
Manufacturers know this, and that’s why they make game improvement clubs differently than the clubs aimed at pros and experienced players. They do everything possible to position weight low and back in the clubhead to promote launch.
Spin - Optimally, the combination of low spin and high launch will get you the best distance. But, spin is a double edge sword.
More seasoned players like some backspin because - off the tee, it gives their ball rise, and off the fairway backspin provides more stopping power on the green.
However, because spin often works against newer golfers – picture that slice that made a sharp turn about 120 yards out - the best fairway woods for high handicappers and beginners reduce spin, at least for the longer three and four woods.
Less spin also helps in the distance category thanks to more roll after landing. As you progress through the bag towards the more lofted clubs, however, spin becomes your friend.
A little backspin could be the difference between a birdie putt, and rolling off the back of the green.
Center-of-Gravity Weights - Only two of the nine brands we’re reviewing today make fairway woods with adjustable center-of-gravity weights. CG weights will allow you to add, remove, and move weight, from one area of the club head to another.
When positioned correctly, they’ll help you to - raise or lower the ball's launch angle, reduce any tendency to draw or slice, and get more or less spin on the ball.
CG weights aren’t magic but, they do work reasonably well when set up correctly. On the downside, most players either don’t know how to or don’t have the time it takes to configure them correctly. Plus, many CG weights come with a special tool, (which usually disappears within about a month), to take them in and out.
Some clubmakers have moved away from using CG weights because they found that players don’t use them anyway.
Adjustable Lie and Loft - Like CG weighting, an adjustable hosel will let you customize your club to fit your swing.
The adjustable lie will let you raise or lower the clubs shaft at address.
This, in turn, makes it more likely that you’ll be able to get comfortable and keep the sole of the club even with the ground, at the same time.
The adjustable loft lets you raise or lower shot trajectory based on your swing.
What should a player look for who intends to use the fairway wood as a driver replacement?
Assuming you’re a beginner, consider a wood with between fifteen and eighteen degrees of loft. Usually, this means either a standard three or four wood, depending on whether the club has an adjustable hosel.
Also look for the most forgiving 3 wood that offers high launch and low spin, as this combination will get you the most distance and accuracy. Last but not least, look for a more driver-like wood with a more substantial head, deeper face, and rounder profile.
What should a player look for who intends to use the fairway wood off the fairway more than the tee?
Woods with shallow faces have a lower center of gravity and will launch higher with more spin than those with deeper rounder faces. Also, a longer heel-to-toe profile inspires confidence and makes them perfect for beginners.
If hitting a 3 wood off the deck scares you to death, read our tips to crushing your 3 wood next.
I Already Have Hybrids, Why Do I Need Fairway Woods?
The average golfer feels more comfortable swinging a hybrid than a fairway wood. The hybrid has a shorter shaft which makes good contact an easier chore.
Also, the denser head and lower center of gravity that hybrids typically have, make them more forgiving on mishits and helps get the ball in the air. Most fairway woods have longer and broader soles and require cleaner contact and a more shallow approach to the ball than hybrids. But, don’t let that scare you off of carrying a wood or three.
The longer shaft and larger heads that fairway woods feature give them a considerable edge in distance over their same numbered counterpart.
Fairway woods also work better out of short rough. Plus, nothing beats a three wood at stinging a low line drive down the fairway into the wind or sliding one under a low hanging tree branch.
Who makes the best fairway woods for beginners?
For hitting off the tee, because of their larger and rounder profiles, the Cleveland HB Launcher, and the Titleist 917 F2 are probably the best choices. Each has an adjustable shaft, and the Titleist has an extremely versatile system of CG weighting.
They both excel in the all-important categories of distance, forgiveness, launch, and spin as well. The simplicity of the HB Launcher might give it a slight edge as beginners have enough to think about without complicating matters with interchangeable weights.
Off the fairway, new players and high handicappers should take a hard look at the TaylorMade M4, the Callaway Rogue, the Ping G400 SFT, and the Cobra Fmax woods. Each has the right ingredients - a low profile, a low center-of-gravity, and significant rear weighting – to help newer players launch the ball off the turf.
TaylorMade M4 Fairway Woods
This is a high-spinning fairway wood, which is available in 15 /16.5 / 18 / 21 / 24 degree lofts for righthanded players. It offers extreme distance and forgiveness with minimal workability.
The internal weight pad is split with half the weight in the heel and half in the toe. The GeoCoustic sole is implemented to help maximize the forgiveness.
We think this is near or at the top of the list for 2018. I encourage you to read our guide to the TaylorMade M4 Fairway Woods.
Callaway Rogue Fairway Woods
Early testing indicates that the “Jailbreak” and “Face Cup” technologies perform as advertised. Rogue fairway woods play long and straight, even on mild to moderate mishits.
The Rogues could be considered an upgrade to last year’s top-selling Great Big Bertha Epics thanks to the success of “Jailbreak.” Just a guess, but I think Callaway may have found something in "jailbreak".
While they don’t have adjustable shafts and CG weights like the Titleist 917 F2s, the Rogues don’t need them. They’re more of a pick-up-and-go kind of club. These are not just one of the best fairway woods for beginners; they’re great clubs for players at any level.
Needless to say, I'm a big fan of the Rogue Fairways. Our full review of the Callaway Rogue Fairway Woods will further convince you if you are not already.
Ping G400 SF Tec Fairway Woods Review
The G400 SFTs look a lot like the G400s but, with some important tweaks. Ping added loft and shifted the sweet spot towards the heel. The heads are slightly larger as well.
The Cobra Fmax offers similar slice correction but, don’t have an adjustable hosel or changeable CG weights. The Ping G400 SFTs play long, forgive plenty, and will help you with the dreaded slice.
Cobra King F8 Fairway Woods Review
Cobra traded the bright colors prominent on the F7s for a more business-like “Nardo” gray on the entire F8 line. They also moved the bottom rails closer together and increased their height to reduce twisting at impact and allow the F8s to more easily glide through the turf.
The F8s match up well performance wise with everyone on our list and are possibly the most budget-friendly choice as well.
If you’re wondering if the F8s are for you, however, consider this statement straight from the Cobra website – “The F8s are for 5 to 25 handicap golfers with moderate to higher swing speeds seeking maximum distance and forgiveness in a fairway wood.”
Cobra F-Max Fairway Woods Review
The Fmax and F8 are two distinct clubs. The F8 is a feature-rich club for a wide range of players, whereas the Fmax woods are more suited to beginners and regular players with slow to moderate swing speeds.
Like the Ping G400 SFTs, the Fmax woods offer slice correction but, unlike the SFTs they don’t have an adjustable hosel or changeable CG weights.
Cobra created the Fmax for players with moderate swing speeds as opposed to a particular level of handicapper. Beginners, who slice, or have trouble launching the ball, but achieve reasonably good distance on square hits, should put the Fmax at or near the top of their list.
Cleveland Launcher HB Fairway Woods Review
The no-frills Launcher HB has plenty to offer. It’s easy to hit, has ample forgiveness, and as the name implies, good launch.
For novice players who prefer to use a wood off the tee, the Launcher could be the best 3 wood off the tee for beginners and high handicappers as well. But, because of the relatively higher price compared to similar competition, the Launcher HB might not see many takers.
Mizuno ST180 Fairway Woods Review
Up until recently, Mizuno has mostly been known for their excellent player’s irons. Lately, however, with the ST180s, and the GT180s as well, they’ve made some gains on the big boys in the driver and woods categories.
While GTs and STs almost identical, the movable CG weights on the GT180s offer a higher level of adjustability than the ST line. Overall, the St180s are undoubtedly good clubs, long and forgiving, but, for the most part, not necessarily the best option for beginners.
Tour Edge Exotics CBX Fairway Woods Review
Tour Edge Golf makes some bold claims when it comes to who makes the longest woods. Based on a study, (that they commissioned), the Tour Edge Exotics CBX standard 3 wood outdistanced the TaylorMade M1 by almost ten yards, the Callaway Great Big Bertha Epic by fifteen yards, and the TaylorMade M2 by a whopping twenty-six yards.
If you’re tempted to run out and grab one of these woods, however, consider that Tour Edge makes no boasts when it comes to forgiveness. For beginners and higher handicappers, fifteen extra yards could mean fifteen yards further into the woods.
Titleist 917 F2 Fairway Woods Review
Other than TaylorMade, no other manufacturer makes a fairway wood this versatile. The interesting “AA” battery shaped CG weights, and the “Sure Fit Hosel,” make the Titleist 917 F2 one of the most customizable clubs on the market.
That, plus the fact that only the Cleveland HB Launcher has a larger top-to-bottom profile, makes the F2 a good option off the tee. Off the fairway, however, the 917s may not be the best option, especially for beginners.
Best Fairway Woods for Beginners and High Handicappers
Easiest Fairway to Hit, Not Adjustable
Barely behind the rogue; not adjustable
Very Forgiving with Draw Bias to help Slicers
Great Blend of Distance & Forgiveness; not Adjustable
Most Affordable on the List
Very Forgiving with Draw Bias to Help Slicers
Easy to Hit; Highest launching Fairway wood
Best Club off the tee, no adjustability
2nd Most Affordable on the List
May Not Be Enough For Beginners
Adjustable; Comes with Arccos (Cobra Connect)
May Not Be Enough For Beginners
Best Club off the tee, no adjustability
May not be enough for Beginners
Most Adjustable on the list
Longest Club on the List; Could be too long for beginners
And the Winner is...
While all of the nine clubs reviewed will help you launch the ball long and straight, the TaylorMade M4s, the Callaway Rogues, the Ping G400 SFTs, and the Cobra Fmax woods offer the highest levels of game improvement features that newer players require.
With that said, the combination of exceptional forgiveness, consistent distance, simplicity, and overall performance, makes the Callaway Rogue Fairway woods the best option for beginners, and high handicappers as well.