Should You Join The 3-Wood Revival?

They're long...really long

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A DRIVER ALTERNATIVE?
The tee box is another controversial area for the new 3-woods. "Hitting it well off the ground is probably more important than hitting it well off the tee," admits Marty Jertson, a senior design engineer at PING. "But many golfers consider their 3-wood to be a versatile tweener club that they can use off the fairway and tee."

So will you necessarily benefit from the latest models on the tee box? Perhaps, depending on the level to which you struggle with a driver. They're definitely confidence builders for those of you in a tee-shot slump. "They're great for anyone who has control issues, anyone who has maxed out on driver loft and is still hitting too low for their needs, and anyone who may need a slightly shorter-length driving club," says Glaser.

DiJulia agrees, recognizing that "a player who struggles off of the tee stands to benefit a great deal from a switch to a more forgiving, strong 3-wood as a driving club. While that player may be concerned about losing distance, he may very well have a longer driving average with the strong 3-wood, based on hitting more shots solid and based on the reduction in curve from the higher-lofted 3-wood. He'll give up yards on the longest drive versus the longest 3-wood, but the average will have a lot more impact on getting the ball in the hole in less shots."

Some new models will no doubt tempt you to leave your driver in the car trunk. For instance, Tour Edge's new XCG5 3-wood has one of the lowest lofts around—11.5 degrees, reminiscent of 2-woods from years past. "It's great off the grass, but it can be used as a driver replacement off the tee for extra control on tightly lined fairways—compliments of the shorter shaft," says Jay Hubbard, vice president of marketing for the company. "And its weighting makes it easy to get the ball airborne."

It's great off the grass, but it can be used as a driver replacement off the tee for extra control on tightly lined fairways... —Jay Hubbard, Vice President of Marketing, Tour Edge
But even the latest 3-woods probably still aren't adequate all-out replacements for drivers. It boils down to the fact that by its sheer size, the driver is physically more forgiving than the 3-wood, says Nike's Moody. "That said, many players feel more comfortable swinging a shorter-length fairway wood than a driver on the tee box," says Moody. "Our fairway woods are very forgiving, the large face area and low CG make it a perfect combination for getting the ball up into the air with control and power on off-center hits. A possible drawback is the shallower face height; when hitting a ball off of the tee, some players may find it easy to get under the ball and 'sky' the shot."

For 2012, TaylorMade debuted the much-hyped RocketBallz 3-wood, with promise that the 15-degree version will surpass your old 3-wood by at least 17 yards. "We think most people will hit their driver 20-30 yards farther than their 3-wood off the tee," says Tom Olsavsky, senior director of product creation at TaylorMade. "Like always though, if you have low launch conditions, the 3-wood gets closer to the driver. For shots off the tee, a driver is much better than a fairway wood, though, given that it's fitted properly to your swing. The driver's face area and head inertia is huge compared to even a larger-faced RocketBallz 3-wood."

The company truly hopes and expects you to hit its RocketBallz 3-wood farther, as it may well cause a ripple effect on your purchase decisions. "In many cases, we think people will want a new driver after they get the RocketBallz 3-wood," says Olsavsky, who adds that TaylorMade is prepared for that predicament. "Our new R11S and RocketBallz drivers will help produce more distance than your old driver by 10+ yards."


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