Fairway Woods vs. Hybrids: Which Should I Use?

wood vs hybrid compared

When it comes to fairway woods vs. hybrids, beginners often don’t know the differences between these clubs. So, they don’t know which one to use in different situations.

Fairway woods have a wider head and a wider sole. They allow you to hit the ball a greater distance with a lower ball flight.

Hybrids have a narrower head – they’re a combination of a wood and an iron. You get less distance with a hybrid, but they launch higher and are easier to hit.

Let’s compare these golf clubs and identify all the differences. We can also consider the pros and cons of each, where and when to use them, and who should use each club.

Fairway Woods

With their larger head and longer shaft, fairway woods offer you more distance. They’re excellent for reaching that long par-5 in two shots, but the lower ball flight makes it harder to hold greens.

Also, fairway woods are a smart option if you need to play it safe on a tight tee shot. They’ll give you more control than a driver while still offering good distance.

When compared to hybrids, fairway woods are harder to hit. That’s because fairway woods offer lower spin and are harder to launch.

However, the lower launch makes fairway woods more effective in windy conditions. The ball flies lower, and the wind doesn’t affect its flight as much.

Hybrids

golfer hitting hybrid golf club

Hybrids are a combination of fairway woods and long irons, borrowing features from both types of clubs. If a fairway wood and a long iron had a baby, you’d get a hybrid.

Hybrids are more forgiving and easier to hit than fairway woods. They offer you more spin and a higher launch, making them easier to use.

The higher spin of the hybrid makes it easier to stop the ball on the green. They’re excellent for approach shots into par-4s and long par-3s.

Hybrids also give you amazing versatility when compared with fairway woods. You can use a hybrid in many situations, including from the rough and under trees.

However, hybrids are less effective in windy conditions because they launch high. If the ball goes too high, the wind can drastically affect its flight.

Fairway Woods vs. Hybrids: The Differences

When it comes to fairway woods vs. Hybrids, there are a few key differences in construction, distance, and your setup.

Construction

Head – a fairway wood has a larger head than a hybrid and is designed to sweep the ball off the grass, resulting in a lower launch.

Sole – the wider sole also means a fairway wood will go further and lower than a hybrid. But the wider sole isn’t as effective out of the rough and bounces off the grass, while the hybrid sole glides through the rough.

Shaft – a fairway wood shaft is longer than a hybrid, giving the former more distance. However, the shorter shaft in the hybrid offers more control.

Loft – a hybrid often has a higher loft than the corresponding fairway wood. This makes the hybrid launch higher, making it easier to hit but resulting in less distance.

Face – hybrids have a bigger sweet spot than fairway woods, making them more forgiving on off-center strikes.

Distance

We’ve already established that fairway woods go further than hybrids. The bigger head, lower loft, less spin, and longer shaft contribute to this distance disparity.

Let’s look at the distance of four common fairway woods and compare that with the distance of four common hybrids.

The table below gives you average distances and is a guide only.

Fairway WoodDistance in YardsHybridDistance in Yards
2-wood2152-hybrid205
3-wood2103-hybrid190
4-wood2054-hybrid180
5-wood1955-hybrid170

These distances won’t be the same for every golfer, of course. Better players with fast swing speeds will likely get more distance than this, while high handicappers with slow swings will likely get less.

Setup

Your setup should be different when using fairway woods and hybrids. These clubs have different characteristics, so you need to adjust your setup accordingly.

Fairway woods have longer shafts, so you should address the ball closer to the front of your stance. That ensures you attack the ball from the right angle.

Remember, fairway woods have wider heads. You want to sweep the ball off the grass, and the proper setup allows you to do that.

Having the ball further forward in your stance means you’ll attack at a shallower angle. That’s exactly what you want when hitting a fairway wood.

With hybrids, you want to play the ball a little further back in your stance compared to fairway woods. The higher the hybrid, the further from the front you should play it – a 5-hybrid should be further back in your stance than a 2-hybrid.

Hybrids are shorter than fairway woods, and they also launch higher. So, if you play a hybrid too far forward in your stance, you’ll likely launch the ball too high.

However, don’t play it too far back in the stance, either. That’ll make your attack angle too steep and cause you to dig into the ground – a small divot with a hybrid is OK, but a large divot will result in chunked shots.

A good rule with a hybrid is to play it a little forward from the middle of your stance. You shouldn’t attack the ball too shallow or too steep from that setup position.

Fairway Woods vs. Hybrids: Pros and Cons

There are pros and cons when it comes to fairway woods vs. hybrids. Let’s look at the pros and cons of fairway woods and hybrids.

ProsCons
Fairway WoodsGreater distance
Better in the wind
Good for tight tee shots
Lower launch
Lower spin
HybridsHigher launch
More forgiveness
Highly versatile
Higher spin
Shorter distance
Less effective in wind

Fairway Woods Pros

Distance – fairway woods offer you more distance. Sometimes you need that extra length off the tee when approaching a long par-5.

Good in windy conditions – fairway woods spin less and launch lower. That means they’re good for windy conditions.

Off the tee – fairway woods can be a great safety option if you have a tight tee shot. They’re easier to control than a driver, and you won’t lose much distance.

Fairway Woods Cons

Lower launch – the lower launch makes fairway woods harder to hit. They’re especially hard to hit off the fairway compared to hybrids.

Lower spin – fairway woods have lower spin than hybrids. That makes it hard to stop the ball on the green from long approach shots.

Hybrids Pros

Higher launch – hybrids have a higher launch. It’s easy to launch the ball, making hybrids simple to hit.

Forgiveness – they offer you plenty of forgiveness. The low center of gravity and large sweet spot means you don’t get badly punished for mishits.

Versatility – hybrids are super versatile. You can use them in many situations on the golf course.

Higher spin – the higher spin allows you to stop the ball quickly on the green, even on long approach shots.

Hybrids Cons

Distance – hybrids go a shorter distance than fairway woods. They might not be the best for reaching long par-5s in two.

Windy conditions – the high launch makes hybrids less effective in windy conditions. Also, the high spin makes them harder to control in the wind.

Not for Everyone – not everyone gets the best out of hybrids. Better players with fast swings can launch them too high and get too much spin.

When to Use Fairway Woods vs. Hybrids

As we’ve seen, fairway woods and hybrids have pros and cons. Let’s look at some situations you might face on the golf course and identify when to use fairway woods vs. hybrids.

Tight Tee Shot

A fairway wood is usually the best bet when you’ve got a tight tee shot. You’ll still get good distance while having a good level of control.

Also, teeing the ball up makes hitting a fairway wood much easier. That lessens one of the big pros when using a hybrid.

Long Par-3

You’ll likely get the best result with a hybrid on a long par-3, as long as you can hit it far enough. Hybrids spin more, giving you a better chance of stopping the ball on the green.

If you hit a fairway wood, you might hit the green. But the ball is likely to roll through the green then because of the low spin.

Approach to a Long Par-5

Here, a fairway wood is your best bet because you need the distance. Even if you can’t reach the green, a fairway wood will get you closer.

That makes your next shot easier and gives you a better chance of getting it close. You’re better hitting a wedge into the green than an 8-iron any day.

golfer hitting ball of the fairway with a 3 wood

Rough

If you find your ball sitting down in the rough, a hybrid always comes in super handy. You’ll be glad you have a hybrid in the bag for this situation.

As we know, hybrids have a narrower sole than fairway woods. The sole of a hybrid glides through the rough, while the wider sole of a fairway wood bounces off it.

Windy Conditions

When the wind blows strong, put your trust in the fairway wood. The lower launch keeps your ball down and out of the wind.

Also, fairway woods give you lower spin. Too much spin can lead to the ball getting swept badly off course in windy conditions, especially if you put too much side spin on it.

Trouble

A hybrid often comes to the rescue when you get in trouble on the golf course. Sometimes we find ourselves in the trees with a terrible lie – think damp leaves or pine needles.

Get your hybrid out if you’re ever in that situation. It’ll help you make contact with the ball and knock it back into play.

Fairway Woods vs. Hybrids: Who Should Use Them?

To give you an idea of who should use fairway woods vs. hybrids, we should separate golfers into groups. Let’s look at beginners, high handicappers, mid handicappers, and low handicappers separately.

Beginners

It can be a good idea for beginners to substitute fairway woods with hybrids. That’s because hybrids are so much easier to hit.

Beginners often struggle to hit the ball into the air. Fairway woods can make that problem worse and lead to frustration with the game.

However, hybrids are easy to launch and will help beginners get the ball airborne. Using hybrids can make the game much more enjoyable for beginners.

Beginners may want to put a lot of hybrids in the bag. They could even go as high as a 7-hybrid to make their golfing lives easier.

If beginners did want to keep a fairway wood, we’d recommend keeping a 3-wood. They could even have this in place of a driver because it’s easier to hit off the tee than a driver.

High Handicappers

High handicappers are likely best served by carrying one fairway wood. A 3-wood is a good option because high handicappers often need some extra distance.

Also, a 3-wood off the tee is a good option for high handicappers. If they need to find the fairway on a particular hole, they can use it instead of the driver.

Related: 5 Best Fairway Woods For High Handicappers In 2022

Mid Handicappers

We’re coming into the average players when speaking of mid-handicappers. Most of these players can hit fairway woods quite well.

However, hybrids still make things easier for them. It’s a good idea for these players to carry around two hybrids.

That way, they have the fairway woods for longer shots on the course but can use the hybrids when needed. The hybrids will come in handy for a long approach shot when they need to get the ball to stop quickly.

Related: 5 Best Hybrid Golf Clubs for High Handicappers in 2022

Low Handicappers

Now we’re getting into the better players. Many of these players have fast swings and will launch the hybrid too high with too much spin.

Also, the fast swing speeds mean they’ll have no trouble launching fairway woods. They’ll be able to get the ball landing softly on the greens even from long approach shots.

However, it’s still a good idea for these players to carry a hybrid. It’s worth having one in the bag just for its versatility in different situations.

Conclusion

When it comes to fairway woods vs. hybrids, these clubs have noticeable differences in construction. These differences give the clubs different characteristics that make them good for various situations.

Fairway woods give you a lower ball flight and offer more distance. That makes them good for long approach shots and windy conditions.

Hybrids launch high with more spin, making them easy to hit for beginners and high handicappers. That also makes it easier for you to stop the ball on the green.

The hybrid’s versatility really sets it apart. You can use it in many situations on the course, and it’s super handy for getting you out of trouble.

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Joe Morelli

Joe Morelli is the founder of TopRankGolf, a passionate golfer with 25 years of experience playing and coaching golfers around the world. He's dedicated to helping golfers learn and enjoy the game of golf.