All shafts for woods are created equally – right? Well not so fast my friend. What was the common practice of using the same shaft for your drivers as you do the fairways may become a thing of the past. One of the more recent trends in club fitting is the use of fairway-specific shafts.
Evolution of the Fairway Wood shaft
Over the years drivers have evolved to be bigger, longer and lighter all in attempts to provide you more distance off of the tee. The fairway wood had undergone changes as well, but not as dramatically. One of the reasons is the fairway wood doesn’t always have the assistance of a tee as golfers are still required to hit the ball as it lie from less than ideal conditions. Therefore the fairway woods need to maintain their smaller and shallow appearance to ensure a low center of gravity capable of extracting the ball from a variety of lies.
By being smaller – about a 1/3 the size of a driver – it is difficult to make the fairways as proportionally as long as the driver and still allow the golfer to make solid contact. Today there is 2” or more difference in the length of a driver and a matching #3 wood. For many years this difference was only 1” regardless of the manufacturer. The majority of driver shafts today are approximately 60g. To take that same shaft and cut another 2 inches or more now makes the shaft pretty darn light. When you think about it, a premium on a fairway wood is more toward a nice balance of accuracy and distance than it is raw distance for the driver.
Weight is one of the biggest differences of the fairway-specific shaft. A fairway wood shaft is typically 10g heavier than the driver shaft. When you think about it, it is still light and not that much heavier, especially when you factor in the reduced length can reduce the weight differential by a couple more grams.
Many of the name brand manufacturers are now using shafts specifically designed for their fairway woods, but as clubmakers and consumer, you have choices from component suppliers like Hireko. For example the True Ace Cadence Red and Orange have fairway specific shafts. There are also some available in the Grafalloy ProLaunch Red and Blue lines. In many cases, the fairway wood shaft is less expensive than the corresponding driver shaft which is always an added bonus.
Here’s some of the selection of graphite fairway wood shafts that Hireko stocks:
Companion Fairway Wood shafts
While we mentioned specific fairway specific shafts, there are groups of shafts in which I like to call companion shafts. That is, these shafts make excellent fairway wood choices and follow the same characteristics of a fairway-specific shaft without being called one.
Some of these companion shafts would be the SK Fiber Tour Trac 80 to the Pure Energy or the New Image Emerald or Silver to the New Image Red Image and lastly the Apollo Shadow graphite to the Shadow UL.
There is also another type of companion shaft – the heavier version of a particular shaft line. For example you might be using an Aldila NV 65. You could use the heavier NV 75 for your fairway woods. Just remember, whatever weight shaft you might be using for your driver, just add another 10g if you goal is a little bit more control.
There are many other examples of a shaft line being available in heavier
options for the fairway woods. UST Mamiya offers many, one being the AxivCore Blue 69 to match the AxivCore Blue 59 for the driver. Fujikura’s Fit-On series has many options to mix a lighter shaft for a driver and have the heavier companion shaft for the fairways.
Don’t be too technical
Don’t read into the specifications too literally. Shaft torque is less of a consideration in a fairway wood as the distance between the axis of the shaft and the club head’s center of gravity is much less than a driver. So don’t be surprised in some cases the fairway-specific version of a certain series may be higher than the driver and show no ill-effects in ball flight or dispersion. Many shafts end up being pigeon-holed as better fairway wood shafts rather than driver shaft for a good reason – they simply work!
But don’t forget, you can still use the same shaft for a driver for the fairways if you have a nice grooved swing tempo and / or you goal is greater distance for an overall lighter club. Not all the major manufacturers use a different shaft for their fairway than their driver. Plus, many golfers are perfectly content with the same shaft for their fairways as they are using in their driver. However, if you are in the market for a new fairway wood because you struggle with your current one, you may want to look at trend to a slight heavier shaft in your fairways.