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Ask an Equipment Expert: Should I play a fairway wood or driver off the tee?

November 28, 2018

Each month, we tap experts from the equipment industry to answer your most commonly asked questions. In this installment, Marty Jertson, VP of Fitting and Performance at Ping, discusses whether or not some people would be better off hitting a fairway wood off the tee instead of a driver.

Q. As a slower swinger, should I play a fairway wood or driver off the tee?

We’ve looked into this question quite a bit at Ping and found that regardless of swing speed, the vast majority of players are clearly better off with a higher-lofted driver than a fairway wood. In fact, we tested a 43-inch driver with 13.5 degrees of loft against a 43-inch fairway wood, and players got about a four times tighter dispersion pattern with the driver.

In the past, we’ve seen moderate-speed swingers enjoy better success with a 15-degree fairway wood, though this could be attributed to the shorter shaft length.

Truth be told, with the advent of 460cc high-MOI drivers with adjustable lofts (to say nothing about how easy it is to find a qualified fitter), there’s really no reason to hit a fairway wood off the tee unless the shot calls for it. Just make sure you have enough loft and the right shaft and shaft length. With the help of a launch monitor and a fitter, you’ll be glad you have a longer, friendlier option off the tee.

— Marty Jertson, VP of Fitting and Performance/Ping