Ask a driving range full of golfers, “How do you use your fairway woods?” and you’ll get a long list of answers. Luckily, the question of “Which new fairway woods should I consider buying?” has a much shorter list of answers.
Whether you use fairway woods mostly off the tee, from the fairway or from the rough, this year’s crop of models is designed to help you hit them longer than you ever have before — especially if you haven’t bought a new fairway wood in the past 3-to-5 years. In that time, equipment companies have integrated the fast-face technologies of their drivers into the fairway wood category, and the results have been impressive.
With our 2015 Gear Trials: Best Fairway Woods, we’ve listed the six absolute best fairway woods you can buy, as chosen by our Gear Trials Panel — six of the top custom golf club fitters in the world.
The 2015 Gear Trials Panel includes:
- Carl’s Golfland (Michigan)
- Cool Clubs (15 locations in 4 countries)
- Haggin Oaks (California)
- Miles of Golf (Michigan, Ohio)
- Modern Golf (Canada)
- True Spec Golf (Bahamas/Miami/NYC)
If you’re a golfer who primarily hits your fairway woods from the tee, you’ll want to look closely at the models that excel in distance. Those who mostly use their fairway woods from the fairway, on the other hand, will want to pay closer attention to those models that excel at forgiveness. If both are important to you, check out our overall ratings.
Those are just guidelines, of course, and we always recommend that golfers go through a professional fitting to ensure that their new fairway wood is the right style for their game.
Along with this year’s six winners, we’ve also listed five lower-spinning, less-forgiving alternatives: Callaway’s XR Pro, Cobra’s Fly-Z+, TaylorMade’s AeroBurner TP, Titleist’s 915Fd and Tour Edge Exotics’ E8 Beta. These clubs will work best for a much smaller percentage of golfers than our six best fairway woods, but they’re fueled by the same technologies as our winners.
Note: The list below is in alphabetical order.
- Headsize: 173cc (15 degrees)
- Adjustable Hosel: No
- Price: $229.99
Ever since Callaway released its X Hot fairway woods in 2013, we’ve been raving about the distance, forgiveness and versatility of the company’s fairway woods. This year’s XR line is no exception, receiving the highest scores in our Distance (10) and Overall (9.75) categories, and tying for first in our Forgiveness category (9.5) with Ping’s G30 fairway woods.
“The Callaway XR is a homerun that can show gains for every golfer,” said one of our Gear Trials Panelists. “[They’re] a great successor to X2 Hot.
The XR fairway woods have a shallower face than last year’s X2 Hot models, making them easier for most golfers to hit from the fairway and light rough. Their Hyper Speed Face Cups — the leading contributor to the XR’s high launch, low spin and big ball speeds across the face — are also slightly thinner and lighter, giving them an edge in ball speed and forgiveness over previous models.
“Callaway has that formula right now,” said one of our Gear Trials Panelists. “They know how to create a frame that creates speed.”
We wish that formula included adjustable hosels, and that’s the only knock we have on the XR. The good news is that the fairway woods are available in six different lofts (15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27) to ensure that there is an XR that will work for your game.
Need less spin? Callaway’s XR Pro fairway woods ($239.99) use the same technologies as the XR models, but their center of gravity (CG) is pushed forward in their more compact heads to suit the needs of high-spin golfers. They’re also a fit for those who prefer a more penetrating ball flight and can handle a less forgiving fairway wood.
The XR Pro is available in three lofts (14, 16 and 18 degrees), but we recommend the 16-degree model (144cc) for golfers looking for a fairway wood with the best blend of distance and forgiveness. The 16-degree XR Pro is extremely low-spinning, so the higher loft should lead to longer carry distances, while its slightly shorter stock shaft (42.75 inches) should lead to better consistency.
- Headsize: 181cc (3-4 wood)
- Adjustable Hosel: Yes, 4-degree range
- Price: 229.99
“Fly-Z is a great combo of distance and forgiveness for the majority of players,” said one of our Gear Trials Panelists.
The Fly-Z fairway woods measure a bigger-than-average 181cc, making them the largest fairway woods on this list. That’s great for golfers looking for a confidence boost at address. But the real strength of the Fly-Z fairways lies in their big forgiveness, as well as their ability to help golfers fill specific yardage gaps in their game.
The Fly-Z is available in two models: a 3-4 wood that can be adjusted from 13-to-16 degrees and a 5-7 wood than can be adjusted from 17-to-20 degrees.
Cobra designed the Fly-Z fairway woods with a low, rearward center of gravity that makes them extremely consistent, but also one of the highest-spinning fairway woods on this list, along with Ping’s G30. That will cost some golfers distance, and is the reason for their 7.5 score in the Distance rating.
Like it smaller? If you like the Fly-Z, but a smaller, lower-spinning head is more your style, Cobra’s Fly-Z+ is probably for you.
The Fly-Z+ ($249.99) has all the technologies of the Fly-Z, but measures a considerably smaller 147cc, making it one of the smallest fairway woods on this list. Golfers can pick up distance because of its more forward CG, but they will pay a penalty in consistency when you miss the sweet spot.
Like the Fly-Z, the Fly-Z+ is offered in two models: a 3-4 wood that’s adjustable from 13-16 degrees, and a 4-5 wood that’s adjustable from 16-19 degrees. Remember, with low-spinning fairway woods like the Fly-Z+, loft is your friend.
- Headsize: 167cc (14.5 degrees)
- Adjustable Hosel: Yes, 2-degree range
- Price: $279.99
“G30 gets the ball up in the air relatively easy with great ball speed across the face,” said one of our Gear Trials Panelists.
The easy-to-elevate part has been a mainstay of Ping’s G-Series fairway woods throughout the years, but the great ball speed is something relatively new. To create more ball speed, and thus more distance, Ping gave its G30 fairway woods larger club faces than its previous models, and equipped them with thinner, more flexible 475 Carpenter steel faces. The main reason to buy a G30 fairway wood, however, is still its strong all-around performance.
“It does everything well, particularly on mishits,” said one of our Gear Trials Panelists said.
The G30 tied with Callaway’s XR as the most forgiving fairway wood on our list, but the one thing it’s not great at is lowering spin. It won’t fly as far as the XR for most golfers, because of its rearward CG that drives its spin higher and led to a 7.5 score in our Distance Rating.
Here’s a trend we’d like to see become more common: The G30 fairway woods mark the first time Ping has given one of its fairway wood lines an adjustable hosel, which allows golfers to increase or decrease loft as much as 1 degree or as little as 0.6 degrees from their printed lofts. The three available lofts (14.5, 18 and 21 degrees), give golfers the ability to dial in the loft they need to optimize their carry distance, or make the small face angle changes that give them more confidence at address.
Last but not least, Ping’s G30 fairway woods have “turbulators,” four ridges on the top of their crowns that the company says quiet airflow around the club head during the swing to increase swing speed. We’re not sure just how much of a difference they make, but they do a great job framing the ball at address.
- Headsize: 165cc (3 wood)
- Adjustable Hosel: No
- Price: 229.99
Looking for the highest-launching fairway wood on this list? That title likely belongs to TaylorMade’s AeroBurner, which uses a low and forward CG and TaylorMade’s latest Speed Pocket — a deep, wide slot on the front of its sole — to help golfers launch their fairway wood shots higher and faster than with TaylorMade’s previous fairway woods.
“Remember how awesome RocketBallz was?” said one of our Gear Trials Panelists. “AeroBurner is like that, but it’s more forgiving, and has a much higher, more playable trajectory that will suit a wider range of players.”
AeroBurner is the lightest fairway wood on this list, which will help some golfers swing it faster, and TaylorMade also equipped the fairway woods with a new crown shape and hosel fin that the company says reduces drag for even more club head speed. According to our Gear Trials Panel, the look of the AeroBurner fairway woods at address has been polarizing. Some golfers like its unique head shape, while others have opted for something else because of the Aeroburner’s looks. Another concern is the AeroBurner’s Forgiveness Rating (8.5), which ranks near the bottom of the fairway woods on this list.
When testing AeroBurner, pay special attention to loft, as its forward CG reduces spin significantly. Its offered in five different lofts (3 wood — 15 degrees, 3HL — 16.5 degrees, 5 wood — 18 degrees, 5HL — 21 degrees, 7 wood — 23 degrees). In many cases, the AeroBurner’s low-spin nature causes the higher-lofted models to fly longer for some golfers, as well as improve their consistency, so make sure to test a higher-lofted model than you’re currently playing.
Like it heavier? TaylorMade’s AeroBurner TP ($279.99) has a more traditional weight, thanks to its slightly heavier head and stock shaft. Better players will also enjoy its smaller size (159cc), as well as its 2-degree flatter lie angle and 1-degree open face angle, which adds more fade bias.
- Headsize: 175cc (15 degrees)
- Adjustable Hosel: Yes, 2.25-degree range
- Price: $279.99
“There’s no shot you can’t hit with the 915F fairway wood,” said one of our Gear Trials testers.
That’s the feedback we’ve continued to receive about the 915F, which could be the most improved fairway wood we’ve seen from an equipment manufacturer in 2015. This year, Titleist gave the 915 fairway woods its new “Active Recoil Channel,” a deep slot that te extends across the entirety of the club face to give golfers more ball speed, less spin and more forgiveness. The fairway woods also have Titleist’s new 465 stainless steel faces that give the 915F faster ball speeds than any of the company’s previous fairway woods.
Titleist’s continued focus on custom fitting is another feather in the 915F’s cap. It’s offered in five lofts (13.5, 15, 16.5, 18 and 21 degrees), and the company’s SureFit hosel allows for the small tweaks in loft and lie angle that are important to better players. Titleist also offers the 915F with the most impressive stock shaft offerings in the business — “real deal” models from Aldila and Mitsubishi that cover a wide range of weights, bend points and flexes.
The 915F isn’t the best performer in terms of launch, spin or ball speed on this list, but it’s close in every category, and highly workable if that’s your thing. Its combination of classic looks, pleasing feel, thoughtful adjustability and premium stock shaft offerings put it over the top in many fittings, according to our Gear Trials Panel.
Want more fade bias? Titleist’s 915Fd performs quite similar to the 915F, but it measures a smaller 160cc and offers a neutral, slightly lower-spinning ball flight that better players tend to prefer. The 915Fd (279.99) is offered in two lofts (13.5 and 15 degrees).
Tour Edge Exotics E8
- Headsize: 180cc (15 degrees)
- Adjustable Hosel: No
- Price: $249.99
The E8 doesn’t launch as high as other fairway woods on this list, and it tends to spin a bit more than the others as well — but if it’s ball speed you’re after, it’s hard to do much better than the E8. The E8 is also quite versatile because of its shallow face design, which make elevating shots from the turf a breeze — regardless of your handicap. That can minimize its lack of forgiveness (8), relative to the other models on this list.
“Tour Edge has another outstanding fairway wood for distance and low spin, but mainly for a player under a 15 handicap,” said one of our Gear Trials Panelists.
What high-speed, lower-handicap golfers will enjoy about the E8 is its lower, more forward CG, which makes it lower spinning than Exotics’ XCG7 fairway wood. Detail-orientated golfers will enjoy the E8’s extensive loft options (there’s five — 13, 15, 16.5, 18 and 21 degrees) and its adjustable sole weights (sold separately), which allow golfers to tweak swing weight to their liking.
Want a deeper face? Exotics E8 Beta fairway woods ($299) offer golfers slightly less spin from its 180cc head, and a flatter lie angle for more fade bias. The biggest difference between it and the E8 however, is the E8 Beta’s shape. The fairway wood has a deeper face and a head that’s shorter from heel to toe. The shape creates more hitting area on the top of the face for golfers with steeper angle of attacks.
The E8 Beta offered in lofts of 12, 13, 15, 16.5 and 18 degrees, and comes stock with two of the hottest shafts in golf: Aldila’s Rogue Silver and Rogue Black.
- 2015 Gear Trials: Best Drivers
- 2015 Gear Trials: Best Hybrids
- 2015 Gear Trials: Best Game-Improvement Irons
- 2015 Gear Trials: Best Players Irons