2012 Buyer’s Guide Woods

Are the new fairway woods as long as your driver?

TEE IT DOWN! By Brad Sherfy, PGA

Teeing your ball the right height with your metalwoods and hybrids determines what kind of contact you make.

With drivers, you want to tee the ball up so you catch it high on the clubface and take advantage of the clubface's trampoline effect. However, with a fairway wood or hybrid, teeing it low is the way to go.

Consider the two photos you see at left. The top photo shows the correct height. The ball barely sits above the ground, because when struck, you want to take advantage of the club's natural loft. (Note how angled my clubface is.) Now look at the bottom photo. If my club were to bottom out, I'd barely catch the top of the face. At best, I'd hit a knuckle ball, which wouldn't go very far; at worst, I'd "sky it" and damage my club's crown.

THIS YEAR MARKS THE FIRST YEAR that we've seen fairway woods truly marketed as driver alternatives. 2012's models promise huge distance and forgiveness, almost to the point where you may think twice as to whether you need both a 3-wood and a driver. Look for new geometric features that push the boundaries of fairway and hybrid designs, each promising more power and forgiveness. And speaking of hybrids, they, too, remain popular for serving as long-iron replacements. If you still don't have one, we have our favorites right here.

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WOODS Adams Speedline Fast 12

Key Feature: The Velocity Slot on the Fast 12 is visible from the crown and the sole, and when combined, enables the ball to compress against the face much as it does off a driver. This means more power in what Adams considers the longest fairway ever made by Adams Golf. And hey, we love the retro satin finish, too. It has power and style. Who It's For: Gluttons for reaching par-5s in two and also those who want a viable driver alternative. Specs: 3+, 3-, 5-wood models, as well as draw and women's. Stock shaft is Grafalloy ProLaunch Blue graphite. adamsgolf.com | $249 Adams Speedline Super XTD

Key Feature: A titanium build with Velocity Slot Technology? This is as close as you can get to a driver without being one. The club is even designed to hit the ball high and with little spin, just like a driver is supposed to. Really, this is all the power anyone needs from the fairway. Heck, who said you need a driver anymore? Not us... Who It's For: Golfers looking to hit some real bombs not only from the tee, but from 275 yards out in the fairway. Specs: Comes in three strong lofts (13_¡, 14.5_¡, 18_¡) with Fubuki AX graphite shafts. (LH available) adamsgolf.com | $349 Boccieri Golf Heavy Fairway

Key Feature: Like the Heavy Driver, the Heavy Fairway has a unique backweighting system. The 50g weight beneath the grip offsets the added mass in the clubhead, resulting in a balanced club that promotes better rhythm, tempo and control. By the way, the Heavy Fairway actually produced hits that flew longer and farther than we expected! Who It's For: Golfers who want to make a smooth swing from the fairway and want a shorter shaft in their woods. Specs: Comes in two lofts (15_¡, 19_¡) with Aldila NVS graphite shafts. boccierigolf.com | $199 Callaway RAZR Fit

Key Feature: Three clubface positions (open, square, closed) make these woods ideal for fine-tuning just about anyone's preferred ballflight. Tack on Callaway's Variable Face Technology and a shape that was designed with input from Tour players and you have a set of woods primed for scoring from just about anywhere on the course. And hey, they're quite forgiving, too. Who It's For: Golfers who want a customizable fit for their woods, i.e., shotmakers from the fairway. Specs: Two lofts (15_¡, 18_¡) with RAZR Fit gr. shafts. (LH) callawaygolf.com | $249 Callaway RAZR X Black

Key Feature: A stealthy black finish and a stainless-steel construction that's durable, powerful and forgiving. Variable Face Technology makes the sweet spot huge, resulting in a healthy dose of forgiveness. Who It's For: Callaway's fairway woods have long been popular because they're so forgiving. The RAZR X Black woods are no different, so we suspect all golfers who want a forgiving set of woods to gobble these up. Specs: Five models/lofts with RAZR X Black graphite shafts. (LH available) callawaygolf.com | $199 Cleveland CG Black

Key Feature: The CG Black woods are a lot like the driver bearing the same name, replete with a lightweight, Speed Crown Design. The low CG launches the ball up in a hurry, resulting in longer and straighter shots both off the fairway and from a tee. And who wouldn't love a Limited Edition Miyazaki C. Kua graphite shaft? We sure do! Who It's For: Fans of the CG Black driver, and those who want a handsome fairway wood that's a top performer. Specs: Comes in three lofts (16_¡, 19_¡, 22_¡), with a Miyazaki C. Kua graphite shaft. (LH available) clevelandgolf.com | $229 Cleveland Mashie Fairway

Key Feature: We've been smitten with the Mashie's Retro-Raw finish and superior performance, and can't help but be thrilled to see it in a new fairway wood design. The Gliderail sole sweeps across the turf with minimal drag, and the Ultralite shaft/grip combo really adds power. Who It's For: Aggressive players who want a long, rugged and versatile fairway wood that gets the job done from tough lies once reserved for hybrids. Sweet! Specs: Comes in a variety of lofts with a Miyazaki C. Kua 59 graphite shaft. (LH available) clevelandgolf.com | $179 Cobra AMP Fairway

Key Feature: Advanced Material Placement (AMP) that places weight low and away from the face, and Adjustable Flight Technology for a custom-fit trajectory. The high-strength titanium face has a huge sweet spot, meaning shots fly high and far, even off the center spot. Who It's For: Look, Cobra is back in a big way, and the creative looks and colors in these woods further cement that fact. They're a breeze to hit. Specs: Comes in three lofts (15_¡, 16.5_¡, 18_¡) with Adila RIP graphite shafts. By the way, we love that orange grip! cobragolf.com | $199 Cobra Baffler T-Rail

Key Feature: The Tungsten Rail Sole glides across the turf with ease, making it a cinch to get the ball airborne from the fairway and light rough. The shallow face design effectively lowers the CG, making the ball pop off the face and get airborne quickly, with plenty of distance to boot. Who It's For: Golfers who like low-profile fairway-wood designs and who occasionally like to go for the green in two from not just the fairway, but also the light rough. Specs: Comes in four lofts (13_¡, 16_¡, 18_¡, 20_¡) with Graphite Design Tour AD graphite shafts. (LH available) cobragolf.com | $179 Dynacraft Prophet ICT

Key Feature: The Prophet ICT's interchangeable head has an 8-position adapter for different lie angles and face angles, depending on the shot shape you're looking for. Who It's For: Dynacraft clubs aren't new, but often they're overlooked because of their extremely affordable prices. Trust us, these clubs are solid performers, and the Prophet ICT is worth trying if you want shot customization from the fairway. And at that low price, it's worth a shot. Specs: Comes in three lofts (15_¡, 18_¡, 21_¡) with a variety of shafts to choose from. hirekogolf.com | $54 Fourteen Golf SF-511

Key Feature: Key Feature: Designed for better players who tend to prefer lower-lofted fairway woods, the SF-511 has a compact shape and U-shape sole that handles shots fired off uneven lies just as well as from the fairway. The thin-cupface design ensures solid contact across a greater area of the face, and even though it's made for better players, it still retains a high level of forgiveness. Who It's For: Better players who want lower lofts. Specs: Comes in two lofts (14_¡, 17_¡) with MD-350gf graphite shafts. fourteengolf.com | $329 Mizuno MP-650

Key Feature: Like the driver bearing the same name, these titanium fairway woods are made to be long and versatile to help better players control their shotmaking. That said, Mizuno couldn't help but make it an exceptionally long club as well. Who It's For: Golfers who don't want any draw bias in their fairway woods and who want Mizuno's best blend of distance and control in a pear-shaped wood. Specs: Comes in three lofts (13.5_¡, 15_¡, 18_¡) with Fujikura Orochi 75 FW graphite shafts. mizunogolf.com | $249 Nike VR Pro

Key Feature: The VR Pro fairway woods use a variable-compression channel that runs along the sole behind the clubface. This adds more distance across more points on the clubface. Also, the compact design allows better players some real shotmaking opportunities. It's a cinch to hit high or low shots, including the infamous "stinger." Who It's For: Good to better players who want a long-hitting fairway wood that also has some maneuverability. Specs: Four lofts (13_¡, 15_¡, 17_¡, 19_¡) with Project X graphite shafts. (LH available) nikegolf.com | $229 Ping G20

Key Feature: These woods are designed like the driver, in that they help golfers hit it higher and farther. Again, the external weight toward the lower back region of the sole deepens and lowers the CG, resulting in extreme forgiveness and distance, especially on off-center hits. Who It's For: Golfers who want a long, high-hitting fairway wood with a low profile. Also, they do a great job at reducing sliced shots, as well. Specs: Comes in four lofts (15_¡, 16.5_¡, 18_¡, 21_¡) with a PING TFC 169F (169F Tour for a flatter launch) gr. shaft. (LH) ping.com | $299 Ping i20

Key Feature: These compact stainless-steel woods have a handsome matte-black finish (like the driver), and were engineered to give better golfers control over their shot trajectories and shapes. They're so pretty we wanted to hang them on our wall"until we hit them. Now we can't get them out of our golf bags. They're just too cool. Who It's For: The smaller head, square address and neutral weighting are ideal for better players. Specs: Comes in three lofts (14_¡, 15_¡, 18_¡) with PING TFC 707F or Project X Black graphite shafts. (LH available) ping.com | $220 Power Play Caiman X2 Raw Power

Key Feature: Designed to be a 3-wood that's as easy to hit as a 5-wood, the X2 Raw Power has a shorter shaft and a heavier headweight that makes hitting shots from the fairway a simpler task. And in case you're wondering, the strategy works. Expect long, consistent hits with this awesome club. We couldn't have been more pleased. Who It's For: Golfers who want an easy-to-hit fairway wood that, again, is one of golf's best club bargains. Specs: Comes only in a 3-wood with a stock graphite shaft. Custom options are always available. hirekogolf.com | $55 Taylormade R11S

Key Feature: The classically shaped fairway woods feature an adjustable sole plate and boast improved sound, an optimized CG and a 1.5_¡ FCT sleeve that allows golfers to make an adjustment range of 3_¡ of lie and 3_¡ loft/6_¡ face angle. Holy adjustability, Batman! Who It's For: Tinkerers and golfers who want the kind of adjustability normally reserved for Tour players. There are 24 different settings here, so have at it! Specs: Five lofts, Aldila RIP Phenom 70 shaft. Comes in a TP version, too. (LH available) taylormadegolf.com | $249/$349 Taylormade RocketBallz

Key Feature: Wait a minute, did TM just build a driver replacement"in a 3-wood? The company claims you can add 17 yards to your shots. How? A speed pocket moved the CG forward and below the center axis of the clubface, resulting in explosive, game-changing power. Who It's For: Golfers who want the distance of a 3+ wood and the accuracy of a fairway metal. Dustin Johnson hit one over 330 yards. Yowza. We bombed 'em, too. Specs: Comes in five lofts (15_¡, 17_¡, 19_¡, 21_¡ and 24_¡) and a stock Matrix Ozik XCon-5 50g shaft. (TP and LH available) taylormadegolf.com | $329/$329 Titleist 910F

Key Feature: No big change from Titleist this year except a loft and shaft addition. Its SureFit Tour technology yields dual-angle hosel technology for a custom, precise loft and lie angle fitting. We love the classic shaping, and no doubt some Tour professionals feel the same way. Who It's For: Low- to middle handicappers. There's also a 910Fd model with a deep face design that will appeal to golfers who want a more penetrating ballflight. Specs: Five lofts (13.5_¡, 15_¡, 17_¡, 19_¡, 21_¡) in three shafts, including a new, lightweight Bassara from Mitsubishi. titleist.com | $279 Tour Edge Exotics XCG-5

Key Feature: A titanium cupface and crown and special beta-titanium face insert that, when added up, equal a huge distance gain. (The heavy tungsten sole plate weighs a healthy 151 grams.) To optimize the CG location and enhance the feel of the face, the cupface and sole are combo-brazed, and the insert is plasma-welded. Who It's For: People who want to bomb it but can't control their driver. You may never need your driver again. Specs: Six lofts (including a 3+ at 11.5_¡) and three standard shafts. Comes in ultra light and super ultra light versions. touredge.com | $299 Tour Edge CB4 Tour

Key Feature: The compact CB4 Tour was designed to allow better players the opportunity to hit a variety of golf shots, all the while, retaining the power and forgiveness you'd expect from

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