When we consider the design of woods and hybrids, much like irons, they vary significantly allowing for different types of golf shots. A typical set of woods and hybrids nowadays may include a driver, 3-wood, maybe a 5-wood, along with perhaps a hybrid club or two, depending on the preference of the player.
The club that is designed to hit the ball the longest is the driver. The driver presents the least amount of loft of all, perhaps between 9 and 12° and has the largest club head size. Unless you play with a long putter, the driver is the longest shaft that you’ll have in the bag, and you’ll need to stand the furthest away from the ball when setting up to your driver. This club is designed to be hit off a tee.
A 3-wood, 5-wood, and higher numbered fairway woods, have more loft than the driver, perhaps approximately 15°, 21° and greater respectively. These clubs have smaller head sizes, which means a lower center of gravity, and are designed to hit shots either from a tee or off of the ground. Shaft lengths are slightly shorter than your driver lending more control and precision, yet are still designed to hit the ball a long distance.
Hybrid clubs are intended to replace the longer, more difficult to hit irons in your bag. The name hybrid stems from blended design characteristics between a fairway wood and an iron. These clubs generally have shorter shafts and more loft than your fairway woods, lending more control and playability like an iron. At the same time, the club head is designed with a lower center of gravity like a wood and are built to facilitate getting the ball up into the air to travel longer distances.
I highly recommend beginners consider using fairway woods or hybrids off the tee…for most players, they will be much easier to hit consistently than your driver.
In summary, your driver is designed to hit the ball long distances off of a tee. It is normally the longest shaft in your bag, has the least amount of loft, and has a large club head designed for forgiveness in off-center hits. Fairway woods are slightly shorter in length, yet still designed to advance the ball long distances. They have more loft, smaller club heads, and a low center of gravity enabling shots off of a tee or the fairway. Hybrid clubs get their name from their blended design characteristics between woods and irons. They present more loft, and shorter shafts than fairway woods, but remain more versatile and playable than long irons for most players.