The decision between a fairway wood and a hybrid is one of the most common facing golfers. All other golf clubs seem to have their specific purpose. A driver, irons, wedges and a putter each have clearly defined roles, but with fairway woods and hybrids the line becomes blurred.
A fairway wood and hybrid can both perform similar roles. Hybrids have certainly become increasingly popular in recent years, but fairway woods still have their advantages. So, if you only have space for a 3 wood or a 3 hybrid, which one should you choose?
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What is the difference in construction?
The most noticeable difference is the clubhead volume, with a fairway wood significantly larger than a hybrid. Both clubs will come with graphite shafts as standard, but fairway woods will typically be slightly longer. Fairway woods often come with some adjustability in the hosel or on the sole, which is not always the case for hybrids.
Which is easier to hit?
Hybrids are considered easier to hit than fairway woods for the majority of golfers.
The slightly shorter shaft in a hybrid allows you to have greater control. Also, it allows for you to swing the club more like an iron, which most golfers find easier and more repeatable.
Higher spin rates, a deeper centre of gravity placement and improved MOI all make hybrids more forgiving and higher launching. These characteristics, along with the more compact clubhead, make them easier to hit from the rough and bad lies as well.
However, there are also some golfers who prefer fairway woods. The larger clubhead of a fairway wood does give it a bigger sweet spot. Also, golfers with faster swing speeds may prefer the lower launch of a fairway wood. However, if you have a slower swing speed then a hybrid will be much easier to hit.
Which goes further?
Firstly, it is worth noting that a 3 wood and a 3 hybrid will have significantly different lofts. Typically, a 3 wood will be roughly 15 degrees and a 3 hybrid will be roughly 19 degrees.
As a direct comparison the 3 wood will clearly travel much further than the 3 hybrid. So, in respect to distance, these clubs clearly perform different roles and you could easily carry both in your golf bag. A 3 hybrid is similar to a 5 wood in terms of distance.
However, even if you were comparing a fairway wood and hybrid of the same lofts then the fairway wood would travel further. A larger clubhead and longer shaft will create great ball speed and longer distances.
When making a decision regarding fairway woods and hybrids it is important to consider the distances you hit your golf clubs. You do not want any overlapping yardages. Consider how far you will hit a 3 wood and 3 hybrid, then how that fits into your golf bag.
When do you plan on using it?
When choosing between a 3 wood or 3 hybrid you need to first consider when you are most likely to use the club.
Playing from the tee more golfers will prefer a 3 wood, because of the additional distance. A 3 wood provides a worthy back-up if you are struggling with controlling your driver. When hitting from a tee the 3 wood becomes a more viable option for even slower swing speeds. In comparison, a hybrid’s natural higher launch and increased spin can sometimes sacrifice too much distance from the tee in comparison.
Everywhere else on the golf course, a hybrid is going to be more forgiving and versatile. You might be sacrificing some distance, but it is much easier to launch a hybrid from the ground and it can be useful from the rough and bunkers as well as the fairway. The only exception is that the lowest handicappers may find a fairway wood more workable when trying to shape shots.
How about a driving iron?
When considering your options at the top of your bag, below a driver, it is worth remembering there is also another option. The driving (utility) iron.
Golfers that prefer an iron-like appearance should definitely try out this option instead of a hybrid. Driving irons have a thicker sole and usually include hollow-body and perimeter weighting technology to add improved forgiveness over a long iron.
Driving irons fit halfway between a long iron and hybrid in terms of performance. A hybrid will offer more forgiveness and distance. However, a utility iron will offer great workability and a low penetrating ball flight.
When it comes to comparing a 3 wood and a 3 hybrid, it is clear that these clubs both offer something completely different. A 3 wood will be the second longest club in your bag, designed for maximizing distance. Whereas a 3 hybrid acts as a long iron replacement, offering improved forgiveness and versatility.
It is important to know whether you have a preference between fairway woods or hybrids. Many golfers will carry at least one of each, but there is no rule saying that you have to. Whilst generally hybrids are known for being easier to hit, it is not uncommon for some golfers to simply prefer fairway woods.
Depending on the other clubs in your golf bag and your distance gapping, it might be a good option to carry both a 3 wood and a 3 hybrid. The best solution is to try out both clubs and find out what works best for you.