Genesis Invitational

Riviera Country Club



Hot List

Best Fairway Woods: Innovation

The best clubs in each category of the Hot List reflect excellence in an array of criteria. That’s not limited to our player testing. For Innovation in fairway woods, our editors and academic panel spend months in meetings with manufacturer R&D teams to understand how companies are innovating. For fairway woods that often means designs driven by artificial intelligence, face designs using technology that has trickled down from drivers, and lofts and lengths designed to fit any player type. These individual lists provide a way to identify the innovation within the category. Here you’ll see how our editors evaluated specific fairway woods, based on their interpretation of the criterion of Innovation, with each achieving a minimum of 4.5 stars from our players in that area. 

Callaway Paradym Ai Smoke Max
$350 | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$350

This comprehensive model (seven lofts, including six with adjustable hosels) targets most golfers looking for a neutral shot shape with a shallow face that makes it easier to get the ball up in the air. The face’s variable thicknesses are designed based on tens of thousands of representative swings to uncover the most important spots to add extra spring at impact. Those “microdeflections” in the face are intended to improve distance and downrange dispersion. The head uses a balance of forward weight to lower spin and rear weight to improve stability.

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Callaway Paradym Ai Smoke Max D
$350 | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$350

This head targets players who need to launch their fairway woods higher and who fight a slice with their long clubs. The shallow face, designed with thick and thin sections to address the needs of this type of player, enhances mis-hits that tend to be lower on the face and range from heel to toe. The carbon-composite crown and sole free up mass that is redistributed heavily to the rear perimeter. This back weight makes for the highest launching model in the family.

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Callaway Paradym Ai Smoke Max Fast
$350 | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$350

This model helps players struggling to produce more clubhead speed by reducing the overall weight and offering higher lofts (like a 16-degree standard 3-wood). Built on a similar footprint as the Max D, the Max Fast offers a built-in draw bias to help players square the clubface at impact. Furthering the draw bias is a more upright lie angle, and a fixed hosel saves weight to redistribute to the perimeter. A 40-gram shaft offers the potential for more swing speed with shots likely to launch higher with mid-spin.

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Callaway Paradym Ai Smoke Triple Diamond
$350 | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$350

With the most compact head in the series, this model features a slightly taller face designed to accentuate speed, spin and launch on center hits. In other words, this is a head designed for players who consistently make solid contact. The carbon-composite crown saves weight, but unlike the other models this one features a steel sole plate that adds a bit more spin for optimal control. An additional screw weight at the front further helps elite players to customize swing weight.

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Cobra Darkspeed LS
$430 | Golf Galaxy
4.5
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$430

This clubhead’s lightweight titanium construction (compared to traditional stainless steel) provides more discretionary mass to move the center of gravity as low and as far forward as possible. That makes this compact head ideal for better ball strikers looking to maximize distance through low spin. The titanium face might not generate more ball speed, but by lowering the CG and raising the launch angle, the head creates more distance. Also enhancing distance is the L-shaped face that wraps under the sole with 15 thickness regions for better ball speed across a wider area.

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Cobra Darkspeed Max
$330 | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$330

Designed with the shallowest face and deepest front-to-back measurement, the Max is built for easy launch and stability on off-center hits (the two things average golfers need the most for a club that’s hard to hit off the ground). Thanks to the weight saved by the carbon-composite crown, there’s room for two sole weights, one in the deep center and one in the heel. Placing the heavier weight back boosts forgiveness, and moving it to the heel adds a draw bias to fight a slice.

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Cobra Darkspeed X
$330 | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$330

The standard model in the lineup produces a neutral flight with a lower and more forward center of gravity than the Darkspeed Max. This should result in faster ball speed, less spin and a slightly lower flight. An internal weight bar is closer to the face and sole on this year’s model to push that CG even lower and forward. A carbon-composite crown saves as much as 17 grams to provide extra perimeter weighting and lower internal weighting.

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Ping G430 Max
$350 | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$350

The most complete lineup in the G430 family of fairway woods, the Max includes four adjustable heads that encompass a loft range from 13.5 to 25.5 degrees. The carbon-composite crown allows the center of gravity to be lower, and a face that wraps around the crown and sole improves ball speed and helps with loft. The face has less curvature (or “roll”) on its lower half where most fairway-wood impacts occur. With less roll, those lower-face hits launch with less spin and more velocity.

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Ping G430 SFT
$350 | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$350

Because the tendency to slice doesn’t necessarily go away when switching to a fairway wood, this model has features to minimize that weak fade. Heel-side weighting adds draw spin and helps players square the face at impact. The SFT heads are a little larger, feature an extra degree of loft, use more upright lie angles and are a little lighter compared to the G430 Max. Those elements help shots launch higher and straighter.

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TaylorMade Qi10
$350 | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$350

The workhorse of the TaylorMade fairway-wood family, this model makes increasing playability for average golfers a directive. Making the club more playable involved taking everything from the hottest part of the face to the center of gravity and shifting them lower. Overall, these heads have a taller face and more volume, and they are stretched a little longer front to back to improve the way the face flexes and how stable the head is on off-center hits.

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TaylorMade Qi10 Max
$350 | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$350

TaylorMade’s team increased the overall volume of this model to improve forgiveness yet kept the shallow face to give average golfers more confidence that they can get the ball up in the air. To further lower spin, TaylorMade reduced lofts on the Qi10 Max compared to the Stealth HD from last year.

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TaylorMade Qi10 Tour
$450 | Golf Galaxy
4.5
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$450

Its compact size and the 50-gram weight in the sole might have you thinking this is only a low-spin fairway wood, but that misses the variability of that weight in the sole. It slides from a very forward (and low spin) position to a much deeper spot for higher launch with more forgiveness and slightly higher spin. Still, the titanium construction is built for speed, thanks to a special alloy in the face. The carbon-composite crown flows directly to the top of the face for more saved weight.

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Titleist TSR1
$350 | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$350

Targeting players who swing less than 90 miles per hour, this fairway wood focuses on weight but not how you might think. The TSR1 is 30 grams heavier that it used to be. Much of that extra mass helps to keep the center of gravity low and farther back for launching the ball higher. The extra mass also improves stability on mis-hits. Forgiveness and making it easier to launch the ball are two things this type of player needs.

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Titleist TSR2
$350 | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$350

This all-around user-friendly design should fit most golfers with its focus on forgiveness, ease of launch and maximum ball speed. The head’s internal weighting results in the lowest center of gravity in a Titleist steel fairway wood ever. Freeing up the interior space around the hosel provided more mass that’s positioned in a flat weight that sits slightly forward in the lowest part of the head. This provides better energy transfer by lining up the CG with the center of the face. It also helps to reduce spin.

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Titleist TSR2+
$350 | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$350

The problem with looking for a fairway wood to serve as your alternative driver is compromising its playability off the ground. This fairway wood doesn’t stray too far from its mission as a backup club for those shorter, tighter driving holes. First, its 190-cubic-centimeter size and the deepest center of gravity of any Titleist fairway wood automatically establish stability. Its taller face also makes for a bigger trampoline for tee shots. Still, its size and easier launch make it a more effective choice than driver off the deck.

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Titleist TSR3
$350 | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$350

Titleist’s most adjustable fairway wood combines the 16-way loft- and lie-tweaking hosel with a weight pad in the sole that lets users choose from five center-of-gravity locations from the heel to the toe. The weight pad has more settings across a wider range, and its placement is deeper within the head to provide more forgiveness and a higher launch. The weight pad is also lower and more in line with the center of the face so that shots launch with less spin and more speed.

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Srixon ZX Mk II
$280 | Golf Galaxy
4.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Silver
$280

Spring-like faces matter only if they produce fast ball speeds. That’s why these fairway woods use stiff and flexing regions immediately around the face to create better energy transfer for more distance. They also have a thin, high-strength steel alloy in the face to create more rebound at impact. The final ingredient lies inside the clubhead: A low and forward weight pad lowers the center of gravity to reduce spin.

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