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Fairway Wood Vs Hybrid – Which Should You Buy & Use?

Carrying both a fairway wood and a hybrid is pretty standard for a lot of golfers. However, knowing which one to buy and to use off the tee, on an approach, or even from the rough can be a little more complicated.

In this article, we’ll help you understand the difference between fairway woods and hybrids and when to use each. The key piece of information we’ll keep coming back to is how much loft the clubs have. Loft plays a big role in how easy clubs are to use and how far they travel and it is important to know the number on the bottom of your hybrids and fairway woods doesn’t guarantee a certain loft.

Fairway wood lofts range from around 13 to 22 degrees. Hybrids tend to have anywhere from 18 to 28 degrees of loft. The main difference between how far a fairway wood and a hybrid travel is the loft.

Let’s look at how you can tell which club to use, what lofts you should have in your bag, and the performance differences between the fairway wood vs hybrid.

Design differences between fairway wood vs hybrid

Looking at a hybrid golf club next to a fairway wood, you will quickly notice that the fairway wood looks like a miniature version of the driver, and the hybrid looks like a mix between the fairway wood and an iron. Hybrid golf clubs are smaller, ranging in size from around 80cc to 120cc.

The fairway woods are usually between 160cc and 240cc.

With the fairway wood being larger, it’s usually a little flatter when you look at it from the top down. It also has a large sweet spot simply because of the size difference.

Hybrids look a bit more like an iron from the top down and sit a little taller than the fairway wood. They also have a shorter shaft and higher lie angle (the angle between the club head and the shaft).

Differences in how to hit fairway woods and hybrids

A golf shot with a fairway wood in your hand can be similar to a driver. Place the ball towards your front foot and aim to sweep the ball off the ground.

Hybrids play a little more like a long iron. The club is positioned just forward of the middle in the stance, but when you make contact, you should be aiming to make more of a descending blow, like an iron.

Not striking down with a hybrid is a common error many golfers make. Hence, golfers who like their irons tend to transition well into hybrid golf clubs.

Who is more suited to each?

To understand the use of hybrid clubs and fairway woods, it’s best to break this down by high handicappers, mid handicappers, and low handicappers. However, one rule applies throughout – look to have 4 degrees of loft between each golf club this will ensure your clubs have a useful gap between them.

Low Handicappers

Low handicappers can use personal preference to decide if the fairway wood or hybrid is better. One downside of the hybrid golf club for low handicappers is the higher ball flight and lack of control (when compared to a long iron). Long irons tend to offer the same distance but more workability for the fastest swing-speed golfers who can strike the ball consistently well.

However, many low handicappers benefit greatly from a solid 3-wood or 5-wood that they can use as an alternative off the tee or into par 5s.

Mid Handicappers

Mid-handsappers should have a mix of fairway woods and hybrids in the bag and remove their 3 and 4 irons. Hybrids will offer many mid-handicap golfers more forgiveness and consistency.

One extra consideration is what you find easiest to hit off the fairway and out of the rough. You should build a set of clubs that give you options to hit the ball as far as possible off the fairway and have options that allow you to recover well out of the rough.

A high-lofted fairway wood or hybrid can be a great tool out of the rough.

High Handicappers

High handicappers will certainly benefit from the extra forgiveness hybrids and fairway woods offer over ling irons. Consider starting from a 5-iron or even 6-iron and replacing lower lofted clubs with a blend of fairway woods and hybrids. As we mentioned, make sure you have 4 degrees between each so you don’t have multiple clubs hitting the same distance (here is a guide on how to gap your golf bag).

High handicappers with slower swing speeds should stay away from both hybrids and fairway woods with very low lofts. Loft will be your friend for longer carries and straighter shots.

What situation to use each?

Now that we have broken down who should use a fairway wood vs hybrid and the benefits of these clubs, let’s determine when to use them.

Tee Shots

The fairway wood is an excellent choice from the tee box. In fact, sometimes it is better than a driver. Some players can hit a 3 wood just 10 to 20 yards shorter than the driver. If you think you may run out of fairway or just want to keep your shot on a straighter line, consider the fairway wood off the tee.

Approach Shots-Fairway

Approach shots with fairway woods are a good selection on a par 5 or a longer par 4. However, you will want to make sure that you have a relatively flat lie and that there is a little room around the green should you not clip the shot perfectly.

With fairway woods having a little less loft than the hybrids (on average), they can be harder to hit off the fairway.

Hybrids from the fairway are a great choice and perform better than the long irons most of the time. The hybrids are shorter in length than fairway woods, so if you have an uphill, downhill, or sidehill lie, go with the hybrid.

With both these shots, try gripping down the club further than normal to give yourself more control.

Approach Shots-Rough

There is no question that approach shots from the rough are easier to hit with the hybrid clubs than the fairway woods. Hybrids offer a steeper angle of attack, a higher launch, better turf interaction as the club goes through the rough, and a little more stability in the clubface.

In addition, hybrids usually have a few degrees more loft, and most golfers need that to get out of a tough lie.

Scrambling (Out of A Poor Lie)

When you have a shot in a poor lie, the goal is to get as much distance as possible and advance the ball on a straight path. Although you have to evaluate the lie specifically, most of the time, tricky lies are easier to navigate with hybrid golf clubs.

With the hybrid being shorter and having some built-in forgiveness, you may find this a more versatile club out of a tough lie.

Frequency asked questions

We’ll end this article with a few frequently asked questions about hybrids and fairway woods that we haven’t covered so far.

Should I buy a fairway wood, hybrid, or both?

It would be easy to suggest that having both the fairway wood and the hybrid in the bag is the best decision. However, I know some players who truly can’t stand one or the other, and the versatility in that set makeup just doesn’t make sense.

Whichever blend you opt for, we’d just ensure you have 4 degrees of loft between each club (that’s the last time we’ll mention it).

What’s easier to hit, fairway wood or hybrid?

The hybrid is often considered one of the easier golf clubs in the bag to hit as it has a slightly shorter shaft than the fairway wood and a bit more loft (which increases forgiveness). However, you must also consider the type of fairway wood or hybrid; a player’s style (smaller clubhead, lower loft) hybrid will be considerably more challenging to hit than a game improvement style fairway wood.

Should high handicappers use fairway woods or hybrids?

High handicappers with slower swing speeds should consider fairway woods because of the extra distance the fairway woods can provide. The slightly lower loft and longer shaft make getting the ball flying down the fairway easier with a normal swing. Faster swing speed golfers may have better control with the hybrid golf club.

Can a hybrid replace a fairway wood?

A hybrid can replace a fairway wood. Typically, you replace a fairway wood with a hybrid that has the same amount of loft. However, it’s important to remember that a hybrid is a slightly shorter golf club, and the total distance with the hybrid can be a few yards less (even with the same loft as the fairway woods).

Where possible, go test out your options on a launch monitor. Hit 10 balls with each club and look at the average distance and spread of golf shots.

Final Thoughts

We hope this article has given you some extra insight into fairway woods, hybrids and how to consider which to put in your golf bag. You can now see there is a considerable overlap between these clubs.

Remember to sweep your fairway woods and strike down on your hybrids. Ensure you build a set with 4 degrees of loft difference between each club and to find out what suits you the best, go test them!

Happy golfing.

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Will Shaw, PhD, MSc, PGA Pro

Will is a PGA golf professional, with a PhD in Biomedical Science and MSc in Sports Biomechanics & Psychology. He spent 10 years lecturing part-time at Leeds Beckett University and the University of Leeds in Biomechanics and Motor Control before becoming the Head of Golf for the University of Exeter. He currently runs Golf Insider UK, Sport Science Insider around wider consulting and academic roles in sport performance and motor control.

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