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How To Buy A Driver/Fairway Wood

Woods or metal woods are mainly used for longer shots in golf. Drivers are most often used off the tee, although more advanced players may choose to use a driver off the fairway when extra distance is required. A fairway or metal wood can also be used off the tee if the hole is narrow and requires a little more of a precision shot, or if the hole is shorter and you don't need all the distance that a driver may provide. Fairway and metal woods also are used for a wide variety of "utility" shots, including tight lies in the rough, or in fairway bunkers where you need more distance to get to the green, but need enough loft to get the ball in the air quickly.

Determining your ability level

Players can be divided into 3 basic ability levels: low-handicaps, mid-handicaps and high-handicaps. A handicap is the golfer's way of measuring their performance against the par on a course, usually in relation to a par 72-regulation course.

The low-handicap golfer

A low-handicap player has a single-digit handicap, meaning he or she generally scores less than 10 strokes over par, or an 82 or less on a par-72 course.

  • Woods
    • The low handicap player should carry a driver and at least 1 fairway wood, most likely the 3-wood
  • Irons
    • The low handicap player will benefit from lower irons in his bag, because the 3- or 4-iron is a difficult club to hit but can be very useful if it can be controlled
  • Wedges
    • A minimum of 3 wedges--pitching wedge, sand wedge, and either a lob wedge or approach wedge--in their bags, with a maximum 4-degree difference between each one

The mid-handicap golfer

The mid-handicap golfer plays "bogey golf," meaning his or her score averages out to 1 over par on each hole, or somewhere in the 11-20 handicap range.

  • Woods
    • In addition to the driver and a 3-wood and a 5-wood, consider adding a 7-wood or even a 9-wood. These fairway woods give much better control and consistency than the harder to hit long irons.
  • Irons
    • Usually only a 3 through 9 are recommended, since the 2- iron is very difficult to hit consistently
  • Wedges
    • Three different wedges are recommended - pitching wedge, sand wedge, and either a lob wedge or approach wedge

The high-handicap golfer

The high-handicap golfer is either a beginner or has not had the time to hone his game to reach the mid-handicap level. The high-handicapper usually shoots close to or over 100.

  • Woods
    • You may not even want to have a driver in your bag. Instead, go with the 3-wood as your off-the-tee wood and add the easier-to-hit 7- and 9-woods.
  • Wedges
    • Up to 3 wedges-- pitching wedge, sand wedge, and either a lob wedge or approach wedge--should be carried

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Choosing the right driver

Various club head and shaft compositions and designs make it possible to select the right driver to suit your golf game.

Choosing the right club head

  • Size
    • There are 3 general club head sizes for woods
      • Standard
        • Measures about 150-155 cubic centimeters
        • Provides better control but a smaller sweet spot
      • Midsize
        • Sized between standard and oversized
        • Measures about 195 cubic centimeters
        • Offers a combination of benefits with a medium-sized sweet spot and lighter weight than an oversized head
      • Oversized
        • The largest club head size, (up to 250 cubic centimeters)
        • Offers largest sweet spot of any head size
        • More difficult to control and slightly heavier than the smaller club head variations
    • Materials
      • There are now 2 basic choices in the materials woods are made of. The choice is really one of an individual golfer's preference for look and feel.
        • Stainless steal
          • Less expensive, but slightly heavier than the more modern titanium and other alloys
          • A more traditional look and feel because of the slightly smaller head (necessary because of the heavier weight)
        • Titanium
          • Lighter weight allows for the creation of even larger club heads
          • Larger sweet spot
          • More forgiving on mishits

Choosing the right shaft

  • Materials
    • Golf club shafts now primarily come in 2 materials
      • Steel shafts
        • Stronger, more durable and generally less expensive
        • Offer consistency from shaft to shaft because of a more advanced manufacturing process
        • Steel offers more control on shots, but requires a faster swing speed to generate the same distance as graphite
        • Recommended for stronger players who could use a little extra control in their game
      • Graphite shafts
        • Generally lighter than steel and can be made in many more variations, making it easier to select a shaft best suited to your game
        • Generally more expensive than steel and less durable
        • Lighter weight allows for greater swing speed for more power, but it sacrifices control
        • Absorbs shock in a swing
  • Flex
    • Flex is the amount of "bend" in a shaft
      • Your shaft flex needs to match with the speed of your golf swing. A shaft with more flex helps the ball fly farther.
      • There are five general levels of flex in shafts: L (or Ladies), A (or Senior), Regular, Stiff, Extra Stiff.
      • Beginners and players with less powerful swings will benefit from a more flexible shaft
      • An average player with a swing speed of 75-90 mph, and should look for a regular shaft
      • Players with powerful swings - in the 90 -110 mph range - should purchase a stiff or firm shaft. This will provide a stiffer club for more control.
      • Many shafts are also available in a uniflex that will fit most any golf swing

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Choosing the right loft

  • Loft is the measure of the angle of the club head
  • The greater the loft, the greater the angle on the face of the head and the more control but less distance
  • The less loft, the greater distance, but at the risk of less control
  • Generally, a club head loft is between 8-12 degrees. The slower you swing the club, the higher loft you will need.
    • Slow swing - 10.5-12 degree loft
    • Average swing - 9.5-10.5 degree loft
    • Fast swing - 8-9.5 degree loft

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Choosing the right weight

  • The lighter the club, the faster the swing speed and the longer the ball can be hit
  • Mid- and high-handicap player who do not have strong swings will benefit from a lighter driver
  • Low-handicap golfers, or any golfer with a high swing speed, should choose a slightly heavier club to provide slightly more control

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Choosing the right length

There are 3 basic club lengths on the market today.

  • Traditional
    • An average length of 43-44 inches, comparable to more traditional clubs
  • Mid-length
    • Generally 45 or 46 inches long. Slightly longer distance potential and weight is comparable to older clubs because of lighter weight shaft materials.
  • Long
    • At lengths of more than 46 inches, these clubs provide the potential for longer shots, but at the risk of substantially less control

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Choosing the right fairway woods

Fairway woods are increasingly popular as an alternative to both drivers off the tee and to hard-to-hit long irons such as the 2-, 3- or 4-iron. Three factors are involved that make fairway woods a preferred club for many golfers.

  • The average player feels better standing over a long fairway shot with a longer, lower profile wood rather than the harder-to-hit long iron
  • A lower center of gravity makes it easier to get the ball in the air out of the fairway, rough or sand
  • The larger club head compared to a long iron provides more distance without overswinging, increasing control as well as length

Fairway woods vs. long irons

Here is a simple guide to replacing a long iron with a fairway wood.

  • 5-wood = 2-iron
  • 7-wood = 3- or 4-iron
  • 9-wood = 5-iron

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