Regardless of handicap, when you ask a golfer what club in their bag is their biggest nemesis, they usually respond with either a long iron of some type or their 3 wood. Hitting a wood off the turf or a tight lie is one the most difficult shots to master in the game of golf. There is little to no room for error and the technique is a fine line between hitting down on it and sweeping it perfectly. Simple right? Shallow faced heads with a low center of gravity have been touted for years as being easier to get up in the air off the ground. This goes all the way back to the late 90’s and Adams first Tight Lies series of woods. But I’d like to offer just a little more to the equation. Fairway woods have gotten slightly larger over the years which help the brands increase the MOI (moment of inertia), but I prefer a more compact head. My belief is the larger the head (more mass) the more difficult it is to hit it off the ground. I like a more compact fairway wood head. It’s easier to hit out of the rough as well. Less drag and less size to have to manipulate through the higher grass. Now most amateurs shouldn’t even bother hitting a wood out of the rough, especially a bad lie. They should take their medicine with a 7 iron, but that’s a different blog altogether. A positive concerning fairway woods these days is that the USGA doesn’t test the faces for ball speed conformity like they do drivers. The face is smaller and they deem that irrelevant. So you could potentially have a 3 wood with a hotter face than your driver. How many times have you heard someone say they hit their 3 wood so much better off the tee than their driver? Well their driver is 45” in length and their 3 wood is 42”. The loft of their driver is set at 9°. Their 3 wood is 15°. And now I toss in the fact that their 3 wood may have a hotter face? This is bananas. Higher loft + shorter shaft = more forgiveness, higher launch, easier to turn it over. 

You have all heard that one of the biggest guarantees in golf is that most amateur players are playing with shafts to stiff for them. Well most are playing too low of loft in the driver as well; same thing with their 3 wood. I made the switch to a 4 wood years ago and it’s one of the best decisions I ever mad. Unless you boast Tiger, Rory, or Koepka clubhead speed, it is difficult to launch a 14° or 15° 3 wood off the ground. A 4 wood is normally around 16° or 16.5° and maybe a ½” shorter, if at all, than a standard 3 wood. Trust me when I say if you make the switch you will lose zero distance. You actually will probably gain some because the ball is staying in the air longer. And the extra loft is night and day easier to hit off the ground. I spent the last week testing all the best fairway woods on the market for 2020 and I have narrowed down my top 5. I compiled some data and ranked different attributes of each. If you are in the market for a new fairway wood this season, keep this in mind and use it as your guide to help you make a wiser decision. I tested these all in stiff flex with the loft set at 16° or 16.5° depending on the brand. 

  1. Tour Edge Exotics 220 EXS

Look: 6
Feel: 10
Sound: 9
Avg Carry Distance: 239
Ease of hitting off ground: 9

Having played an Exotics 4 wood for the last 4 years, I couldn’t wait to hit the new one, especially since I have last year’s EXS hybrid in the bag as well. I’ll admit, the others I tested looked better at address. The EXS 220 is slightly larger than what I normally prefer, and I’m huge on what a club looks like when I look down at it. But the cons ended there. The more I hit it, the more I liked it. So it definitely grew on me to the point where the size no longer mattered. The feel was soft and explosive and the sound has a nice powerful pitch. Like most Tour Edge Exotics woods and hybrids, it was a blast to hit, and the longest one I tested. Can’t wait to put it in the bag.

  1. Callaway MAVRIK

Look: 9
Feel: 7
Sound: 7
Avg Carry Distance: 236
Ease of hitting off ground: 8

I’m gaming the MAVRIK driver and I absolutely love it, so I figured the fairway edition would finish near the top. It was very close between this and the Exotics. Looks great at address as it is a shorter club from heel to toe, and the sound is solid. The MAVRIK was easy to get up in the air but the Exotics seemed to get up just a hair quicker, and with the same amount of spin, meant a few more yards of carry overall with the Tour Edge.

  1. Mizuno ST200

Look: 10
Feel: 7
Sound: 7
Avg Carry Distance: 230
Ease of hitting off ground: 6

For me this was the best looking model at address as it sat a hair open, which I love because I have a natural draw and a left miss, especially with my woods. Mizuno boasts this line of drivers and woods as “spin-killers” and that’s no lie. A definite fairway finder but would better suit a player with a ton of speed. The TS (tour spoon) model is more compact and launches even lower. 

  1. Taylormade SIM

Look: 9
Feel: 6
Sound: 6
Avg Carry Distance: 234
Ease of hitting off ground: 8

I liked the looks of the SIM at address with the contrast between the light grey top-line and carbon crown, and it had the deepest face of the top 5 models. It also felt the heaviest which made me feel like I could really get down and through the ball. That is why I rated it high when hitting off the ground. However, the sound was dull and it felt like a “thud.” I would have ranked higher if it would have carried a few yards farther as I did hit it higher than the Mizuno. But I just can’t get over how good the Mizuno looked at address. In order to get the 16°, I’d have  to go with the SIM MAX – D, which is draw bias and something I don’t need or like.

  1. Titleist TS2 & TS3

Look: 9
Feel: 7
Sound: 6
Avg Carry Distance: 233
Ease of hitting off ground: 5

Both sit neutral at address with a nice clean look, however neither spun enough for me. The TS2 comes in the loft I prefer and is higher launching and higher spinning than its TS3 brother, but was still not a good fit. I feel like this would have been one of the longest models I tested had it stayed in the air just a hair longer. Was low and penetrating and would be great off the tee to find a fairway, but didn’t launch high enough or land soft enough for me to hold a green on an approach. A shaft change could probably assist in that regard. 

Let’s get it on! Alright, alright…the first edition of “The Match” that took place between Phil and Tiger Thanksgiving week of 2018 was underwhelming, but at this point we would watch Tiger mow Phil’s lawn. And pay to watch it. But this time it’s free, thanks to Turner Sports, and there’s some added star power to the mix. What we know Tiger Woods teams up with Peyton Manning to take on Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady, arguably the 4 GOATS from their respective sports over the last 20 years. The event is to take place sometime in May possibly around Memorial Day, and will air on TNT. Proceeds from the event will be donated to various Covid19 based charities. This does not count the side action between the players of course. Both Manning and Brady carry reported single-digit handicaps. Don’t they all? Peyton is a member at Augusta National and Cherry Hill in Denver, and Brady just joined Seminole with his latest move to Tampa. What we don’t know No course has yet been set in stone but early rumors suggested The Medalist Club where Tiger is a member. A private club such as that could logistically be a good fit, especially since galleries will not be permitted. Social distancing protocols will be put into place as to not make a mockery of the event, so as previously stated, no galleries or even corporate figureheads will be permitted to attend. But will the guys each ride separately in a cart? That will certainly cut down on the time to rib and bust chops. Will they each walk with a caddie? Each player with a caddie and a few cameras will probably exceed the social gathering limit. Will they wear masks? Maybe Peyton and Tom will wear football helmets. We should have more info in the next week or so. 

Enjoy the game and each other,

Written by Seth Zipay – Head Golf Professional
Design and Published by Craig Walton