Fairway Woods vs Hybrids: What's The Right Mix?
Getting the right mix of clubs is crucial and nowhere is this more important than at the top of the bag. After the easy choice of the driver, moving from your longer distance clubs to the irons creates some choices. You need to ensure that every club has a purpose and you don’t have two styles of clubs in there that are sending the ball the same distance.
Fairway woods are familiar to everyone and, as their name suggests, they are for hitting the ball from the fairway by sweeping it off the surface. As they are usually hit from the ground they are the lowest launching of all the clubs, so that is why the heads are deeper to move the centre of gravity back and add backspin. They can of course also be used from the tee and the extra loft can make them easier to hit than a driver. It's often thought that using a fairway wood off the tee allows for more accuracy that with a driver, but data has recently debunked that theory.
Hybrids bridge the gap between fairway woods and irons by combining the best features of both. A larger face for gives more forgiveness than and iron and a narrower profile than a wood to allow them to be hit from longer grass with more of a downward iron style swing. Getting the right mix of these depends on the type of player you are, but we can assume that most golfers will start with a 15° 3-wood. Better players may prefer fairway woods to hybrids for their next loft at around 18° as the larger head will be more neutral at impact. Hybrids tend to have more weight in the heel like an iron does, so most have a slight draw bias. Therefore high swing speed players may prefer to play a long iron or fairway from a tee than a hybrid as the extra height can make it turn left.
For everyone else, the hybrid offers that extra forgiveness and a straighter flight combined with short shaft lengths that you find in irons. These days more hybrids can be found in bags to replace 4, 5 and even 6 irons, especially amongst mid to slow swing speed players who need help getting the ball airborne. Therefore the grey area is in zone of 18° to 24° where some will use a 5-wood and 7-wood and others a 2-iron or 3-iron. Here it will depend on the type of shots you want to see and your carry distances as your 3 and 4 iron could be going the same distance through the air and a different lofted hybrid could give you another type of shot to play with.
The best way to determine what is right for you is to head to your local custom golf club fitter and do a gapping session and fitting for the 3 or 4 clubs below your driver that will blend into the irons and then the right mix of fairways and hybrids will be clear for you to see.
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Martin Hopley is one of the foremost UK equipment reviewers with over 20 years' experience. As the former founder of Golfalot.com he was an early pioneer of online reviews and has also been a regular contributor to other titles. He is renowned for his technical knowledge and in-depth analysis, which he now brings to Golf Monthly.
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