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Made principally of titanium or steel, fairway "woods" are a gentle reminder of the days when clubheads were built by master clubmakers from a single block of persimmon. Today, they provide the critical bridge between the driver and long irons or hybrids.
Used mostly for shots to the green on par-5 and long par-4 holes, fairway woods provide more forgiveness than an iron. This is due in part to the sweeping motion required to hit them effectively.
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With countless options available from all of the major brands, selecting the right fairway wood for you is a matter of understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your game.
Newer or senior players will benefit from higher-lofted fairway woods, mainly 5 and 7-woods, as direct replacements for the longer irons in the bag, principally the 3, 4, and 5-irons.
Players seeking maximum distance will find that companies such as Adams and TaylorMade® have developed a series of fairway woods with built-in speed slots, designed to reduce drag while increasing clubhead speed.
The first step to consistent play from the fairway is to understand that the swing required for a metal wood, unlike an iron, is dependent on a shallow angle of attack. While iron play requires a steep angle of descent (better players strike the ball first and follow with a divot through the turf), fairway woods require a sweeping motion and little or no divot.
To give yourself the best opportunity for consistent contact each time, position the ball a few inches inside your left heel. It's particularly important to trust club's loft to get the ball airborne; many amateurs make the mistake of swinging too hard in hopes of gaining a few extra yards.