The driver is the star of the golf club world, and as such, gets seemingly all the attention, all the kudos and all the technological advancements. As a result, for a lot of golfers fairway woods have become nothing more than afterthoughts that are needed simply to fill out their collection of clubs. This approach is a definite mistake, and one that should be immediately exchanged for one that views fairway clubs as critical members of every golfer's arsenal.
In fact, modern fairway woods now feature many of the same technologies found in drivers, including movable weights, ultra-thin clubfaces, low CG placement, premium-quality, high-tech shafts, innovative materials and a wide variety of loft choices. If you're the type of player who prefers to use your 3-wood as a driver alternative off the tee, you'll be happy to find that many of today's fairway woods perform like mini drivers, providing significantly greater ball speed, distance and forgiveness than ever before. And for those who like to use fairway woods to reach long par-4s and attack par-5s, the array of modern sole designs and loft choices will make your life, and your golf game, a lot easier. So don't take your fairway woods for granted. Explore the choices that are now available, and experiment with a few different models. You'll be surprised how great these clubs really are.
Take a look at a sampling of premium-quality woods and you'll notice a variety of sole rails, sizes, weights and geometries, all of which play a part in not only how the club performs when it's in motion, but how it sits at address and, in the case of hybrids, how it might work on greenside chips. Of course, the best way to find out which of these design elements work best is to demo some different models and observe the results. Keep in mind that the type of courses you play should also be a consideration, as certain types of sole designs will work better in soft conditions and others on firm turf.
Got Sole? When it comes to fairway wood design, the sole is a major point of focus, and for good reason. Obviously, a significant part of a fairway wood's job is to be functional from the fairway and rough, and the design of the sole–and how it interacts with different lies and types of turf–is critical to its overall performance.
Face The Facts When oversized titanium drivers began boasting high COR (trampoline effect) due largely to thin, strong, flexible titanium faces, most golfers eagerly anticipated the day when the same technology would be available in fairway woods. Unfortunately, due to the smaller size of fairway woods, that development didn't come right away, and many players figured it never would. Well, the day is finally here, as club designers and engineers have found ways to raise the COR of fairway woods through the use of new steel alloys that can be made extremely thin and flexible. As a result, many strong-lofted 3-woods can now produce driver-like distance with ample forgiveness.Our Pro's Take On: Woods You'll find a good fairway wood to be very useful, especially in long-carry situations where extra loft or height is necessary. In general, the fairway wood has a lower CG than an iron, which helps it more easily produce higher loft. In addition, the basic fairway wood design allows the club to slide nicely through rough, making even the toughest lies a breeze. Remember that a fairway wood, when played from the ground, needs a slight descending blow–just like an iron. Play the ball a few inches inside the left heel. Your goal is to brush the grass firmly without allowing the club to dig or take a divot. –Jeff Ritter, PGA ASU/Karsten Learning Center, Tempe, Ariz. Tech Talk Au Revoir, Fairway Wood? By John B. Hoeflich Senior Vice President Nickent Golf
Without a doubt, the current status of fairway woods is quite vulnerable. This state of flux is due to the rise in popularity of hybrid clubs. Many people are taking the more-lofted fairway woods out of the bag and replacing them with the hybrid clubs. That's because most golfers–PGA Tour pros included–find hybrids much easier to hit from various lies than traditional fairway woods. Two or three years from now, I really think that there will be fewer fairway woods on the market and more hybrids out there. That's going to influence what you'll see from manufacturers. Look for 12- to 16-degree 3-woods that are designed to perform more like drivers.
Understanding Our Charts Features: The primary design elements that make the wood noteworthy. Advantages: How the primary design elements are meant to elevate the wood's performance. Benefits: A general recommendation as to which skill level or player type would best be served by the wood model in question. What We Like: We have our preferences, too. A quick description of what impressed us in our review and testing. Lineup: The other wood models available from the manufacturer. Clubhead: The primary material from which the club is either forged or cast, usually a form of steel. There are titanium models, but steel dominates the wood market, as the smaller head size mandates the use of heavier materials. Clubface: Indicates the material used for the strike area. Check out the prevalent use of maraging steel for the face. Loft(s): Lists all of the lofts available in the line as well as left-hand availability. Shaft(s): Stock graphite offerings as well as steel options. Custom models often available.Bobby Jones Player Series www.bobbyjonesgolf.net (866) 858-5522 | $230
Jess Ortiz takes his vast knowledge of both traditional and modern wood design and creates a unique club with an elegant look. Features: An eye-catching shape and low-profile design that utilizes a forged maraging-steel crown insert to move more weight into low and deep areas of the clubhead for a low and deep CG. That means higher-flying shots. Advantages: Playability from the tee, fairway and rough, as well as higher launch angles and greater overall distance. Benefits: Higher overall trajectory for greater distance, forgiveness and accuracy. What We Like: Unusual but classy look combined with modern performance. The Bobby Jones and Jesse Ortiz combo is a plus. Lineup: Player Series Clubhead: Maraging steel Clubface: Same Loft(s): 13_¡, 15_¡, 17_¡, 19_¡ (no LH) Shaft(s): Graphite Design JS graphite (X, S, R)
Bridgestone J33 www.bridgestonegolf.com (800) 358-6319 | $249
Traditional profile designed for more accomplished players, but with the addition of some modern technological advantages. Features: Constructed from responsive 17-4 stainless steel for increased ball speed, the J33 fairway woods also feature an elastomer compound insert within the clubhead for reduced vibration at impact and a more efficient energy transfer for greater distance. Tungsten weighting in the sole effectively lowers and deepens the CG location. Advantages: Penetrating trajectory with added distance and forgiveness. Benefits: Provides accuracy as well as shotmaking versatility, making it a wood for everyone. What We Like: The impressive blend of traditional looks and modern performance. Lineup: J33 Clubhead: Stainless steel Clubface: Same Loft(s): 15_¡, 18_¡, 21_¡, (no LH) Shaft(s): Aldila NV 75 graphite (X, S, R)Callaway X www.callawaygolf.com (800) 818-5117 | $250 ($225 steel) Callaway has long been a stalwart in fairway-wood design, and the X is the company's latest and possibly best yet. Features: A three-piece stainless-steel clubhead and dual-keel sole as well as strategically placed perimeter weighting create a high MOI and consistent trajectory and ballflight. Advantages: Unique sole design stabilizes the clubhead both at address and through contact. Benefits: Any golfer who ultimately needs forgiveness from a 3-wood, look no further. What We Like: Slightly smaller Tour models with stronger lofts. Lineup: Fusion, X, Big Bertha Titanium, Big Bertha Clubhead: Stainless steel Clubface: Same Loft(s): X–15__, 17__, 19__, 21__, 23__ (15__, 19__, 21__ available LH); X Tour–13__, 15__ (no LH) Shaft(s): Proprietary Fujikura graphite (X, S, R, A); Callaway steel (uniflex) Cleveland Launcher Steel www.clevelandgolf.com (800) 999-6263 | $200
Cleveland continues its run at the top with outstanding new steel woods. Features: The low-profile clubhead is built using Thin Crown Technology, which takes approximately 15% more weight out of the top so it can be redistributed to low and deep areas. A Carpenter-steel face increases effective hitting area. Advantages: The profile of the clubhead makes it easy to slide under the ball from a variety of lies, while the Carpenter-steel face adds ball speed. Benefits: Those who are looking for a hot-faced fairway wood with a traditional look. What We Like: Offset models are a nice touch. Lineup: Launcher Comp, Launcher Steel, Launcher Steel Offset Clubhead: Stainless steel Clubface: Carpenter steel Loft(s): 13__, 15__, 15__ o/s, 17__, 19__, 19__ o/s, 22__, 22__ o/s, 25__ (15__, 15__ o/s, 19__, 19__ o/s, 22__, 22__ o/s, 25__ available LH) Shaft(s): Cleveland Silver graphite (X, S, R, A)
Golfworks Maltby KE4 www.golfworks.com (800) 848-8358 | $150 Maltby/Golfworks' new fairway woods feature a unique weight-adjustment system. Features: A classic head shape and consistent face heights of 1.375 inches throughout the set provide a low and deep CG in the lower-lofted woods to promote a high ballflight. The higher-lofted models have face heights deep enough to provide solid performance from a variety of lies. Advantages: Golfworks' Screw-Within-A-Screw adjustable-weight system (14 grams) allows golfers to self-customize feel and CG location without negatively affecting performance. Benefits: If you like to tinker with your fairway woods, the KE4s are a good option. What We Like: Maintaining consistent face heights throughout the set is an innovative idea. Lineup: KE4, CT250, Peak Velocity FST Clubhead: Stainless steel Clubface: Same Loft(s): 14_¡, 18_¡, 21_¡, 24_¡, 27_¡ (no LH) Shaft(s): KE4 Graphite (X, S, R)HiPPO XXL www.hippo-golf.com (800) 204-2807 | $99
This Euro-based company offers solid performance at attractive prices. Features: Unique energy cell system locates two polymer chambers in the back of the clubhead to lower and deepen the CG while also minimizing energy loss at impact. A deep-face design made of maraging steel and a power-channel soleplate round out the design features of this distance-oriented club. Advantages: Distance–HiPPO designers have geared this club to produce long, high shots for the average player. Benefits: A solid club for golfers who place a premium on distance, and those who favor their fairway woods off the tee. What We Like: A really long wood, like the XXL. Lineup: ITX2, XXL Clubhead: Stainless steel Clubface: Maraging steel Loft(s): 15_¡, 17_¡, 19_¡, (no LH) Shaft(s): HiPPO XXL graphite (S,R)
MacGregor MACTEC NVG2 www.macgregorgolf.com (800) 841-4358 | $249
The NVG2 fairway wood is jam-packed with technology that makes a difference. Features: Cup Face 360_¡ design that plasma-welds high-quality beta-titanium to the clubhead for maximum rebound properties and distance. Quadra Tungsten Weighting is employed to stabilize the clubhead and lower and deepen the CG for higher launch angles. Advantages: Every technology applied to the NVG2 fairway wood is designed to improve both distance and forgiveness. Benefits: Any golfer who wants to create driver-like distance with his or her 3-wood. What We Like: Fujikura Triple Action Shaft really does what it's supposed to do. Lineup: MACTEC NVG2 Clubhead: Beta-titanium Clubface: Same Loft(s): 12.5_¡, 15_¡, 18_¡, 21_¡, 24_¡ (no LH) Shaft(s): Quadra Action graphite by Fujikura (X, S, R, A)
Mizuno F-50 www.mizunousa.com (800) 966-1211 | $200 ($180 steel)
Mizuno applies composite-crown technology to fairway wood design. Features: A composite crown combines with a steel body to produce a low and deep CG. Speed Plate sole design and Mizuno's own Exsar graphite shaft round out the features of this top-notch fairway wood line. Advantages: The use of carbon-composite crown technology moves weight away from the top of the club and toward the bottom, making it easier to get the ball airborne. Benefits: Golfers who want a technological advantage (and extra distance and accuracy). What We Like: Use of visible carbon-composite crown without taking away from the classy look. Lineup: F-50 Clubhead: Stainless steel, Carbon Clubface: Stainless steel Loft(s): 13.5_¡, 15_¡, 16.5_¡, 18_¡, 21_¡ (15_¡, 18_¡ available LH) Shaft(s): Mizuno Exsar FS2 graphite (S, R); Dynamic Gold (S, R)Nike Golf SasQuatch www.nikegolf.com $240 ($215 steel)
Nike's PowerBow technology and unique geometry, which features a very deep head and a shallow clubface, are applied to fairway woods. Features: Unusual clubhead geometry, which moves the center of gravity lower and deeper than is usually the case in fairway woods. Advantages: Everything about the design of the SasQuatch says game improvement. A deep and low CG, as well as a high MOI for resistance to twisting, make it easy to hit high and straight. Benefits: Golfers who are particularly accuracy-challenged would do well to give the SasQuatch a try–it's designed to hit the ball straight. What We Like: Extremely high-quality shafts. Lineup: SasQuatch, Ignite T60 Clubhead: Stainless steel Clubface: Same Loft(s): 13_¡, 15_¡, 17_¡, 19_¡, 21_¡ (13_¡, 15_¡, 17_¡, 19_¡ available LH) Shaft(s): SasQuatch Diamana by Mitsubishi graphite (X, S, R, A); Nike Speed Step Lite by True Temper steel (X, S, R) Perfect Club Collection www.theperfectclub.com (866) 843-0260 | $100
The original Perfect Club was designed to replace the long irons. Now, the company has developed an easy-to-hit alternative to almost every long iron and fairway wood in your bag. Features: The Perfect Club collection of woods are designed with shorter shaft lengths, which always means more control. Furthermore, each club features offset to help golfers make square contact more consistently and minimize sidespin. Advantages: The head has rear weighting for a deep and low CG, promoting a high trajectory and a lot of forgiveness. Benefits: High-handicappers will appreciate the extra help Perfect Clubs deliver. What We Like: The ease of use. Lineup: Accuracy, Original, Plus, Spoon Clubhead: Stainless steel Clubface: Same Loft(s): Spoon–15_¡; Plus–18_¡; Original–21_¡; Accuracy–24_¡ (available LH) Shaft(s): Perfect Club graphite (S, R, A, L)
PING G5 www.pinggolf.com (800) 4-PING-FIT | $225 ($180 steel)
PING continues its rise in the wood category with the new G5. Features: The G5 offers a larger head size than most traditional fairway woods, a welcome development for many golfers. The strength of the steel used in the clubface allows for a thinner, more powerful hitting area, while internal weight pads optimize CG location and spin rates. Advantages: The large head size provides confidence and added forgiveness. The thin clubface enhances feel and ball speed. Benefits: Golfers who like to hit their 3-wood off the tee will like the larger size. What We Like: Unobtrusive alignment aid. Lineup: G5 Clubhead: Stainless steel Clubface: Same Loft(s): 13__, 15__, 18__, 21__, 24__ (available LH) Shaft(s): PING TFC100, Aldila NV 75 or Grafalloy ProLaunch 75 graphite (X, S, R); PING JZ steel (X, S, R)
Precept EZ www.preceptgolf.com (800) 358-6319 | $200
As the name suggests, these woods, and the entire EZ line, are designed to make the game of golf easier and more fun to play for recreational golfers. Features: Low-profile head with increased offset as well as a low and deep CG location. High MOI design made to help intermediate golfers hit shots higher and straighter. Advantages: Low CG helps get the ball in the air, while offset and high MOI help reduce slicing and promote straighter shots. Benefits: Less-accomplished players who need extra help getting the ball in the air and in the general direction of the target. A good choice for anyone who desires a player-friendly club. What We Like: No-nonsense design with premium components (Aldila shaft, Winn grip). Lineup: EZ, EC Fuel Clubhead: Stainless steel Clubface: Same Loft(s): 15__ (no LH) Shaft(s): EZ by Aldila graphite (S, R)
Sonartec SS-2.5/SS-3.5 www.sonartec.com (760) 930-2454 | $250
Sonartec's Driving Cavity design lives on in the company's two standard offerings, both of which provide explosive power at impact. Features: Driving Cavity technology creates a CG that provides low spin rates and a powerful, boring trajectory. A Fujikura Tour Platform shaft is standard. Advantages: The weighting scheme and compact head size make for one of the most powerful fairway woods ever made. The SS-2.5 features a more low-profile design and lower CG, while the SS-3.5 has a deeper face for more boring shots. Benefits: Accomplished players can really make the most of Sonartec's technology. What We Like: Subtle technologies that provide impressive power and distance. Lineup: SS-2.5, SS-3.5, LS-99 Clubhead: Stainless steel Clubface: Same Loft(s): 13__, 14__, 15__, 17__, 19__, 21__ (2.5 only), 22__ (3.5 only) (no LH) Shaft(s): Fujikura Tour Platform graphite (X, S, R, A)
Srixon W-403AD www.srixon.com (888) 4-SRIXON | $225
Srixon's solid attempt to bring a traditional yet technologically advanced fairway wood to the mass market. Features: Elliptical high-COR area that extends from high toe to low heel, as well as a low CG placement and thin and strong maraging-steel clubface. Advantages: The W-403AD is designed to provide forgiveness on heel and toe strikes, as well as a powerful, driving shot trajectory due to the use of maraging steel in the clubface. Benefits: For those who prefer a traditional-looking clubhead, the W-403AD fits the bill and also provides top-notch performance with solid distance for a relatively wide range of golfers. What We Like: The hot maraging-steel clubface and powerful feel. Lineup: W-403AD Clubhead: Stainless steel Clubface: Maraging steel Loft(s): 14.5__, 18.5__, 20__ (available LH) Shaft(s): Srixon SV3000 graphite (X, S, R, A)TaylorMade r7 Ti www.taylormadegolf.com (800) 888-CLUB | $400
TaylorMade brings the company's Movable Weight Technology and titanium Pull-Face construction to fairway wood design. Features: Two TLC ports that house 16 grams of movable weight consisting of a two-gram cartridge and a 14-gram cartridge. Pull-Face titanium construction and cold rolled, very thin titanium clubface. Advantages: Movable Weight Technology allows for customized feel and performance, while perimeter-positioned TLC ports increase MOI for greater stability. Ultra-thin titanium clubface provides increased ball speed and distance. Benefits: Golfers who like to hit 3-wood off the tee, or anyone who likes to tinker. What We Like: Advanced technology. Lineup: r7 steel, r7 ti, r7 TP, V steel Clubhead: Titanium Clubface: Same Loft(s): 15__, 18__, 21__ (no LH) Shaft(s): TaylorMade RE*AX 60 graphite (X, S, R, M, L); Custom shafts available upon request Tour Edge Exotics www.touredge.com (800) 515-3343 | $399
High-end Exotics line from Tour Edge offers a 3-wood with tons of technology and lots of pop. Features: Hot-forged, beta-titanium cupface and a body that's precision-cast from hyper steel, all of which are fused by a Combo-Brazing process that reduces the need for extra welding. Advantages: The cupface, hyper-steel clubface and Combo-Brazing process makes for a club that produces extremely high ball speed and tons of distance, both from the tee and the fairway. Benefits: Any golfer looking primarily for distance from a fairway wood. The Exotics are as hot as they come. What We Like: The distance–the Exotics really flies. Lineup: Bazooka JMAX QL, Exotics Clubhead: Hyper steel, Titanium Clubface: Titanium Loft(s): 13__, 15__, 16.5__, 18__, 21__ (15__, 18__ available LH) Shaft(s): Tour Edge Exotics graphite by Fujikura (X, S, R, A)
Wilson Staff Df6 www.wilsonstaff.com (800) 469-4576 | $130 (graphite)
Wilson's new Staff line of fairway woods features a load of technology and a traditional look. Features: Designed with ETF (Energy Transfer Frame) Technology, which harnesses lost energy at impact and redirects it to the clubface to create a larger effective hitting area. This is accomplished by structurally reinforcing the area behind and around the clubface without adding weight. Advantages: The ETF Technology is designed to produce greater ball speed and distance, while the addition of the nickel-tungsten screws is meant to help golfers produce higher trajectory shots on a consistent basis. Benefits: Those who want a large sweet spot and a hot face. What We Like: Wilson's dedication to innovation. Lineup: FwC, Df6 Clubhead: Stainless steel Clubface: Same Loft(s): 15__, 19__, 22__, 25__ (available LH) Shaft(s): Staff Nano Tech graphite (S, R, A)Wishon 515GRT www.twgolftech.com (800) 470-0072 | $229