In golf terms, the “longest” woods or irons are the clubs that typically hit the ball the farthest. In both cases, the longer clubs have lower numbers, so a 3-wood, for example, will hit the ball farther than a 7-wood, all other things being equal. The driver is technically a 1-wood, although the numerical designation is almost never used. A driver is used almost exclusively off the tee, except by pros and amateurs who are skilled enough to hit driver in the fairway. The longest fairway wood commonly used by most golfers is the 3-wood.
A 2-wood generally has a loft of between 11 and 13 degrees and is 44 inches long. A typical 3-wood features 13 to 15 degrees of loft and is 43 inches long. All else being equal, 2-wood shots should travel about 10 yards farther than 3-wood shots. But the 3-wood’s greater loft makes it a more reliably accurate club. In the days before clubs were designated by numbers, the 2-wood was called a “brassie” and a 3-wood was called a “spoon.”
As with the 2-iron, the 2-wood has disappeared from most golf bags, in part because comparable hybrids are more forgiving of mishits. But even PGA Tour players who don’t use hybrids rarely swing 2-woods. As of April 2012, Tiger Woods uses a 3-wood as his longest fairway wood, according to his website.
Hitting Fairway Woods
When hitting a fairway wood, conventional wisdom is that you place the ball in a forward position in your stance and use a shallow downswing to sweep the ball off the fairway, rather than striking down at it as you would with an iron. Canadian PGA pro Ted Stonehouse recommends setting up with the ball a bit behind your front heel, then placing a tee in the ground 6 inches behind the ball during practice. You should hit the tee during your takeaway to insure you establish a wide enough swing arc.
Gaining Height with a Long Fairway Wood
Many golfers have difficulty hitting the ball in the air with a less-lofted fairway wood, whether it’s a 2 or a 3. To gain greater height with those clubs, golf legend Byron Nelson suggested players stand closer to the ball than normal, keep their weight back during the backswing and employ an upright swing plane. In Nelson’s ideal fairway wood swing, a player moves the club straight back from the ball on the takeaway, then raises his hands above his shoulders, while keeping the club head on the target line. The player then returns the club along the same path and strikes the ball on a downward angle, rather than using the sweeping motion that’s otherwise standard for fairway woods.