Fairway woods might not touch the soul and stir the passions like drivers do, but as more and more innovation and technology comes to the category, perhaps a little more passion is there than you might think. Remember last year’s Phrankenwood – Phil Mickelson’s beefed up 3-wood? He used it off the tee and won at least one tournament with it in the bag. This year’s crop of 3-woods feature a lot of new features too. They might not be Phrankenwoods, but they pack a lot of punch, tons of forgiveness, and a lot of versatility – give these a look.
Callaway Big Bertha Fairway
The Callaway Big Bertha fairway wood comes in a 3-, 5-, and 7-wood configuration with lofts of 15, 18, and 21 degrees, respectively. As part of the return of the Big Bertha brand, these clubs are anything but a throwback. It delivers a lot of forgiveness via a super thin and light carpenter steel face engineered to deliver more consistent distance across all areas of the face. Testers confirmed that mis-hits seem to hold their distance and line. The adjustable hosel allows for changes in loft and draw bias. The club is truly versatile with performance off the tee or from the fairway.
Cobra’s BiO Cell Fairway
Cobra’s BiO Cell fairway wood is most notable for the degree to which it can be adjusted for loft. They only sell two versions: a 3-4 wood and a 5-7 wood. The former can be adjusted from a strong 13 degrees all the way in half-inch increments to 16 degrees. The latter adjusts from 17 degrees up to 20 degrees. That’s 8 setting for each wood giving the technology its MyFly8 name. Its driver-like construction blends in Cobra’s E9 face technology (forgiveness across nine points throughout the face) and a thin face to deliver maximum distance. The club has a definite draw bias, all but eliminating slices for most golfers.
Players who come at the ball hard and tend to turn the ball over might find it too biased and risk a snap hook. It can be ordered in a number of color finishes as well – perfect for the college alum who needs to represent his school colors.
Mizuno JPX EZ Fairway
The Mizuno JPX EZ has perhaps more driver-like features than those already covered. Its large face provides plenty of forgiveness and it works well from the tee as well as the fairway. The large head and deep face that works so well off the tee can labor through rough though, perhaps limiting its use somewhat. The club packs tons of distance in a colorful orange and black package with a flame design on the stock shaft that adds to its appeal. It comes in a 15 degree and an 18 degree version (essentially a 3 and 5-wood).
Ping has a pair of fairway woods in the G25 and i25. Both are great clubs with the i25 aimed at slightly better players who desire a certain ball flight and workability to their shots. The i25 has a compact head that performs well from all kinds of lies, including the rough. It does offer the ability to work the ball, drawing or fading as needed to reach greens from considerable distances. For some golfers, this might translate into trouble. It also has some degree of adjustability, allowing the addition or subtraction of a half degree. The G25, on the other hand, is more suited to most typical golfers. With a broad appeal for good and aspiring golfers, it is exceptionally long, straight, and feels good doing it. It has a low profile with a wide, shallow face that helps it through the turf while also performing well off a tee. It doesn’t have the adjustability that the i25 sports, but it doesn’t seem needed either. Both clubs come in a variety of lofts.
TaylorMade SLDR Fairway
The TaylorMade SLDR fairway wood is the younger brother of the very popular driver by the same name. While it doesn’t have the adjustable, sliding weight along the rear of the sole, it does have TaylorMade’s SpeedPocket just behind the face. The slot or cavity behind the face is filled with polymer to keep it clean while still allowing the face to flex and rebound, providing incredible distance. With a somewhat compact head, it performs well from turf, including rough. But it really shines off the tee with a boring flight and a lot of distance. Like the driver, it is important to “loft up” – add loft to complement the forward center of gravity. With enough loft, shots should fly hard and with little spin meaning it will stay in the air for a long way. Finally, the club comes with an adjustable hosel as well. The “Loft-Sleeve” allows for a 1.5 degree addition or reduction as needed.
These aren’t all the fairway woods on the market, but certainly some of the best. And while they may not be as intense as something named the “Phrankenwood” they pack a lot of technology in a smaller package than their driver siblings. Give them a try and enjoy the confidence and capability to go for it more often.
By Tim Carrigan, KC Golfer Magazine Equipment Editor