Best Fairway Woods for High Handicappers & Beginners

 I'll tell you a secret

Fairway woods are the most under-rated weapons to get you under 100 and breaking 90.


If the driver costs you shots over and over, leave it at home for now and find yourself a trusty fairway wood that can travel over 160 yards off the tee into the fairway every time. That's your new secret weapon my friend. Oozing forgiveness and a soft-landing ball, fairway woods can quickly become your favorite club.

On top of that, for slower swingers, higher handicappers and beginners, a fairway wood with more loft will go further and straighter than a lower lofted wood and work much easier than the popular hybrids.

How I found golf zen with fairway woods

For months I struggled to get a 15 degree 3 wood into the air and carry more than 140 yards. At the time, I was still learning to play golf and someone told me 3 wood was better than driver to start off with. So I tried. And tried and tried and tried.

I practiced and practiced and nothing ever changed - I may as well have used a putter. Until one day, a retiree golfer at the course told me 'try a 5 wood or a 7 wood'. I never even knew there was such a thing as a 7 wood! 

I saw the man again a few days later and he gave me a Slazenger 5 wood. 

Let me tell you, it changed my whole universe. I hit that thing perfectly immediately! Carried 180 with a little draw! You read that right - a 19 degree fairway wood went further than a 15 degree  3 wood. Needless to say, I also got a 7 wood, dropped my handicap to 11 and since then I've been preaching the virtues of fairway woods to anyone who'll listen.

So as you can see, fairway woods come in handy and are made in a wide range of lofts to get you around the course easily. They're just so easy to hit and I hope the woods I've tried and found for you will change your game for the better too...

Top fairway wood pick: Taylormade SIM Max

All the latest tech possible into a fairway wood designed to make the game easier and get the ball in the air with as little effort as possible. The higher lofted versions are best suited to the high handicapper.

Best Fairway Woods for High Handicappers & Beginners

  1. Taylormade SIM MAX (Best of the best fairway woods)
  2. Cleveland Launcher HB Turbo (best for stopping a slice)
  3. Cobra F Max Fairway Wood (Value option for slower swingers)
  4. Cobra F9 Speedback (Best value for 2020 - easily)
  5. Taylormade RBZ Black Fairway Wood (best high handicapper focused club)
  6. Tour Edge Exotics EXS 220 (Sleeper pick)

Why I selected these fairway woods for you

The best fairway woods for high handicappers and beginners must come in lofts higher than 17 degrees. You'll be able to hit them consistently and get them to travel longer distances. I also think you should have as many fairway woods as you like but never going below 17° of loft. 

The fairway woods you see the pro's hitting from 13° to 15° are much more difficult to get airborne off the tee and even harder to do off the fairways. 

I absolutely recommend you start with fairway woods and add hybrids later - once you're used to hitting down on the ball. (Yes, you should be hitting down on the ball with your fairway woods)

6 Need-to-know things about fairway woods

Fairway woods for beginners and high handicappers are a tough subject. Because they're difficult to hit, I tried to simplify the whole process of finding decent ones. 

Too Long; Didn't Read version

Learn to hit fairway woods first, then hybrids. Get a higher lofted fairway wood, starting from 17° and up. Swing smooth and hit down on the ball with the fairway wood. Trust the loft of the club to get the ball in the air - you do not need to manufacture the shot and TRY get it in the air. Only hit a fairway wood on an approach shot if it will reach the center of the green or the back of the green.

1. Distance isn't everything 

Fairway woods don't need to be SMASHED and shouldn't be. A smooth swing with a slight downward hit on the ball will produce a nice consistent and accurate shot that will travel straighter and with more height.

Hitting a fairway wood HARD hurts your chances of that desired accuracy and consistency. My best advice for hitting a fairway wood is to relax and trust the club to do the work and swing EASSYYYYYYY. Trying to get the ball up in the air will result in a lot of slices and thinned shots. 

The clubs are designed in a way to make your life easier. Trust them.

2. Loft is your best friend

Low lofted clubs produce much lower ball flight. Usually, we would associate a lower loft with more distance. That is the case if the swing speed is fast enough. A slower swing speed and lower loft means a very low short shot.

How fairway woods look for beginners and high handicappers - more loft means better shots

The more loft a club has, the more forgiveness it has. This can be seen with a 3 iron vs a 9 iron. The 9 iron is much easier to hit. The surprising thing is that a golfer with a slower swing speed could hit the ball further with a higher lofted wood than with a lower lofted.

For example, a high handicapper is often able to carry a 5 or 7 wood much further than a 3 wood because the 3 wood flies lower with less forgiveness. The extra backspin and loft of a 5 or 7 wood produces much more elevation and in turn more carry distance, even on mishits.

3. Different skill levels for different clubs

  • Higher handicappers and beginners usually swing a little slower and require a bit more loft than normal and so a FIVE WOOD would be the best place to start for most higher handicappers - that's usually 17° of loft.
  • Lower and mid handicappers are more experienced and have developed a faster swing. They can play lower lofted fairway woods because the lower a loft, the more skill and speed you need to elevate the ball.

4. Fairway woods are better to start with than hybrids

In my opinion, newer golfers should learn to hit DOWN on a fairway wood before moving onto the hybrids. Hybrids have made long iron play much easier but I believe a 17°, 19° or 21° fairway wood is far more forgiving and easier to hit than a hybrid of the same loft. 

Hitting hybrids requires a downward strike on the ball but learning to do that with a club that looks meatier like a fairway wood makes the transition to hitting hybrids so much easier. 

Learning to hit a 3 or 4 hybrid immediately as a beginner or high handicapper will be difficult because essentially it is still a 3 or 4 iron but it just has a chunk of metal stuck on the back. And you and I both know how difficult it is to master a long iron!

5. Difference between fairway woods and hybrids

Modern example of a fairway wood

  • Bigger clubhead
  • More weight behind the ball in the clubhead
  • Easier to hit especially when learning to hit down on the ball
  • Longer shaft 42"
  • Head volume between 150 and 180 cc
  • Face resembles a driver

Modern example of a hybrid

  • Smaller clubhead with smaller footprint
  • Looks like an iron from the top with a chunk of metal on the back
  • Must have steeper swing into the ball
  • Shorter shaft 40"
  • Head volume around 110 cc
  • Face resembles an iron

Fairway wood vs hybrid in the same range of Nike clubs

6. When should we use fairway woods?

Appropriate times
  • Long par 3s
  • On approach shots where the fairway wood will reach the distance to the center of the green
  • On the tees of holes or courses where accuracy is more important than distance
  • When escaping rough because the round shape of a fairway woods head doesn't get tangled like the sharpness of an irons blade
Inappropriate times

    • When we're 250 yards out and a fairway wood will 'get us somewhere up there' - it's better to divide the yardage into 2 shots you prefer. Something like 150 yards with 100 yards into the green. A blasted 185 yard 5 wood will leave us with the extremely difficult 65 yard pitch - partial shots are very difficult.
    • When the distance to the green is in our range but the fairway wood won't CARRY the bunkers or water short of the green.

Best Fairway Woods for High Handicappers and Beginners Reviews


Taylormade SIM Max

Maximum tech to hit it easier off the deck

First off you can ignore the 15 degree version my good man. The loft is too low. In addition to the 15° woods, they do have the 18, 2 and 24 degree versions.

What's interesting about that is that 24 degrees is the modern 6 iron! But it's the traditional 3 or 4 iron loft. So don't be put off by the 24 degree idea. It's much easier to get one of these in the air than a jacked up loft on a 5 or 6 iron in todays irons.

An old feature is back from previous models in the Taylormade range, with V Steel making a renewed appearance. It's now all over the sole, with special steel on the crown in the front and at the rear, a composite carbon to distribute the weight in a way that gets the ball flying higher and further, easier.

The tech keeps coming, with Twist Face technology also implemented in this model as well. They have twisted the face a little to help compensate for off center hits, keeping the straighter and reducing dispersion left and right. 

Is it that much better than the M6? Not really, so if you're looking for a VERY similar performing fairway wood, check out the Taylormade M6.

Pros
  • Good choice for those who hit it low in the face
  • Easiest to hit off the deck!
  • High-launching and glides through the turf
  • Crisp sound at contact
  • Lofts of the clubs printed on the bottom so you can buy the right wedges and hybrids!
Cons
  • Matte finish means scratches are much more pronounced.
  • Not for golfers who want to shape the ball flight

Cleveland Launcher HB Turbo

Good for beginners and high handicappers who slice the ball

Cleveland are the kings of game improvement clubs but very sneaky. Not much fanfare out there, but a lot of golfers at club level jam Cleveland woods and irons

The 3 wood with 15 degrees is easy to launch but the 5 wood is where the game gets easy for the high handicappers. Cleveland have made a fairway wood that looks great - in fact so close to a PING, it's scary. The Hi-Bore crown is a proven design as it's been in the woods for the last 10 years.

Face-design is one of my bug-bears and the face on the Cleveland is as it always is, nice and simple. The face and hosel are created to be draw-biased to help eliminate that pesky slice. Now if you're slashing across the ball heavily, it's best to fix that swing, but if you're a light slicer, the offset can really rein that in.

I found it difficult to hit off the mats indoors and was just hitting hooks and big draws. I found it performed better on the grass and natural lies. For this reason, I think it works better on normal turf but not hardpan. But then again, which fairway woods do well on hardpan?

I've personally used Cleveland fairway woods even while I was a scratch handicapper, 13 years ago. 

Pros
  • Fights the slice with an offset hosel
  • Nice and light to increase swing speed because there is no adjustable hosel
  • High-launching and glides through the turf
  • Crisp sound at contact
  • Looks very attractive at address, one of the prime factors for selecting a club
Cons
  • Matte finish means scratches are much more pronounced.
  • Not adjustable at all

Cobra F-Max Fairway Wood

Value option for beginners and high handicappers with slower swings

Cobra golf clubs are always a hit with amateurs. The F Max is a really classic-looking fairway wood with a plain black head but with a touch of offset to get rid of a slice. This is the fairway wood of choice for Brian from my channel. you can see him rocking Fmax clubs in his videos of late.

If you're a slower swinger, the Cobra F Max might be just what the doctor ordered.

The lightweight head combined with a very lightweight shaft will help you get some more mph on the old swing. And more swing speed means more distance. Brian was rockin these clubs when his swing was a bit slower. After a couple of lessons, he increased his swing speed to the range that these became unsuitable so he had to change shafts.

A very wide club face gives you a long surface area to make contact with. With more sweet spot areas to hit the ball, you'll find more forgiveness and straighter shots. 

I recommend the 16°  20° and 23° fairway woods. Combining a higher loft than normal fairway woods with light weight and the offset face means less slice and in turn tons more distance.

Pros
  • Lands softly on approach shots with medium high flight
  • Slower swingers show best results in distance and flight
  • Buttery soft feel at impact
  • Crisp sound at contact
  • Lofts of the clubs printed on the bottom so you can buy the right wedges and hybrids!
Cons
  • Faster swingers should avoid this

Cobra F9 Speedback Fairway Wood

Ultra value for beginners and high handicappers

The Cobra F9 Speedback was brilliant when it came out and it's even better now as it's going to be lower in price because the new model is out. 

Loft-wise, the 5/6 and 7/8 woods will be excellent choices for higher handicappers. There are rails on the bottom of the sole which help to guide the clubhead through the turf. The weight plate in the back is not movable which in today's club climate is such a relief. As high handicappers, we don't need to be worrying whether we have the right settings or not.

You can adjust the loft on the hosel up and down a couple degrees - that's why the numbering of the club is 5/6 which mean either 5 or 6 wood, and 7 or 8 wood settings. This gives maximum flexibility to help you get the ball in the air more efficiently by adjusting the loft yourself.

JMac on my channel has just put a Cobra F9 fairway wood in the bag to match his F9 driver and hybrid. It's an absolute beast.

Pros
  • Available in 3,4,5,6,7,8 wood settings over three models
  • Easily adjustable on the hosel
  • No annoying weight slider
  • Easy to get airborne and generate plenty of speed
  • Easy to align crown design
Cons
  • Matte finish means scratches are much more pronounced.
  • Not for golfers who want to shape the ball flight

Taylormade RBZ Black Fairway Wood

Super light for more distance

The amount of the old-time favorite white Taylormade RBZ I've seen jammed by my high handicapper friends will astound you. Taylormade have revamped it with the phasing out of the white golf club trend by introducing the RBZ in black.

The shaft is only 55 grams so you can expect a lighter feeling and more club speed. With a shallower face, it feels like it gets under the ball much easier from the fairway than previous versions. Ball flight off the ground is much higher with softer landing, meaning less roll out on the greens.

Available in 16.5° and 18°, they'll make excellent woods from the tee or fairway.

Pros
  • Speed pocket for more distance and better sound off the face
  • Shaft is very light for more swing speed and distance
  • Well priced big name product
  • Perfect 16.5 degree and 18 degree lofts for maximum forgiveness
Cons
  • Not for fast swingers
  • Paint scratches off the head and is easily visible

Conclusion

I really suggest finding yourself a set of fairway woods that start at 16.5 or 17 degrees and work in intervals up to 24 degrees because these babies are going to be your new favorites!

You never have to be ashamed of how many of any club you have in your bag. Whatever gets the job done is what you play and with the assortment of woods and hybrids out there, you can practically fill your bag with them!

Leave a Comment:

1 comment
Gary Stacey says

My favorite wood is an older club, has a 23 deg loft 7 wood head by ASHTON X ID, (moly forged head) and a 60 gr high launch graphite shaft by True Ace. The face is not wide and has a round bottom to reduce turf interaction. An east swing will produce a high flight. This is old school stuff, but it works. Ashton has ceased to make the heavier heads.
The point here is that the graphite shaft has to have a lot of flex for the slower 85 mph swing speed of a senior golfer to achieve the high ball flight and the 23 degree loft. I have much more control versus a 3 or 5 wood. I also use a similar 3 wood.
It should be said the shaft flex and bend point needs to be selected for your type swing.

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