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Tried & Tested: 3 Woods
March 2012
Carly Frost

The 3-wood - it's one of those clubs you either love or you hate! Many golfers carry one in their bag and hardly use it, finding the low loft and smaller clubhead hard to play. Others use it more than any club in their bag, they would argue that it's a lot more reliable and straighter than a driver, the shorter shaft and extra loft make it easier to use off the tee, and it's a must-hit club if you want to reach those distant greens off the deck. With that in mind we thought we'd help you make your 3-wood purchasing decision by gathering a group of regular club golfers for whom the 3-wood is an essential and important club in the bag. Here are their findings...

THE TEST
Our test took place at Pachesham Park Golf Centre in Surrey: www.pacheshamgolf.co.uk. The impressive facilities at Pachesham include a state-of-the-art indoor studio with a Flightscope launch monitor that tracks the ball flight with absolute precision, giving you invaluable feedback about your shots, from those all-important distance figures to the dispersion (waywardness) of your shots. Our testers hit each 3-wood on the Flightscope first before taking the clubs out onto the range to see their ball flight and then onto the course to take on the ultimate test of their versatility.

MEET THE TESTERS...

CARLY FROST
HCP:
2
Current 3-wood: Cleveland Launcher - I've been using it for 3 years but am looking for something more powerful if possible, ideally a 3-wood that gives me more distance off the fairway so that I can attack par 5s in two. It also needs to be reliable for tee shots on tight par 4s or long par 3s. Most of all it needs to give me confidence that I can use it, as I tend to avoid mine in favour of the easier-to-hit hybrids in my bag.



JACQUES COOKE

HCP: 0

Current 3-wood: Nike VR, stiff flex shaft - I've only had this club about a year but it's powerful and reliable.

The 3-wood has to be a very precise club for me - it's all about finding fairways off the tee and distance off the fairway.

It has to be a very versatile club that I can shape shots with and play with a high or low ball flight depending on the conditions.

I'm interested to see how the latest 3-woods compare in the power stakes.

ANDY DIXON

HCP: 5

Current 3-wood: Titleist 904F fitted with an Aldila NV stiff flex shaft - I've had this club in the bag about seven years and I love it.

It's been my favourite club for a long time, easy to hit off the fairway and straight off the tee.

The only reason I would part with it is if I can find something that betters it in terms of distance, as I'd love to reach more of those long par 5s in two.

PATRICK KELLEY

HCP: 14

Current 3-wood: TaylorMade Burner - standard off the shelf with a regular flex shaft.

I've had this 3-wood in the bag around 3 years and I tend to avoid it as I have a far easier to hit 5-wood and also a handy hybrid.

I'd love to find a 3-wood that is really easy to use and one that can give me the confidence that I've been lacking with mine.

THE RESULTS...

Wilson Staff FYbrid RS
Price: £109

Contact: www.wilsonstaff.com
They say:
The new Wilson Staff FYbrid RS fuses the fairway wood and hybrid into one club designed to simplify the game. There are three key technologies in the club head, all proven to improve performance and make ball-striking easier. 1) The RS 'Rocker Sole' - by removing material near the toe and hosel the club delivers maximum flexibility in a variety of lies, as well as creating minimal turf interaction on uneven surfaces. 2) A Low and Deep Centre of Gravity helps to get the ball airborne and inspire confidence. A dual rail in the sole also provides cleaner turf interaction, a crisper contact and stronger ball flight. 3) Three-Zone Face Technology increases the spring area in the heel and toe of the club face, which optimises the sweet spot for even greater accuracy . The FYbrid RS range comes fitted with a specific UST/Mamiya® Proforce VTS shaft, which has been modeled on the size, centre of gravity and MOI of the clubhead to maximise rotational force and subsequently increase distance.

We say:

Carly Frost: The first thing that strikes you about the FYbrid is how very round the clubhead shape is compared to other clubs on test. This personally didn't suit my eye but I can see the benefits of the sole gliding easily across the fairway turf. The performance was admirable but not stand-out. Shots fired off the face with ease and it launched the ball on a decent high trajectory that will appeal to the typical game improver who struggles to get their fairway shots airborne.
Jacques Cooke:
I'm not a fan of the small deep clubhead shape, it doesn't sit as nicely on the turf as others and I don't feel as though I can really nip shots away with as much precision as the ball striking offered from other smaller heads. There was plenty of power behind the ball but the looks just weren't right for me.
Andy Dixon:
I really took to the FYbrid, the smaller more rounded clubhead shape suited my eye. It offered a nice responsive feel and easy ball flight. The only thing it lacked was that 'wow' factor when you hit it - the power of the strike just wasn't there.
Patrick Kelley:
A fun to use and very forgiving club, perfect for my needs. I like the dark black finish to the clubhead and the smooth shape. I do prefer my fairway wood to have a centre mark on the crown for alignment, but I can see how the simplicity of the paintwork without this adds to the appeal.

MD Golf Superstrong

Price: £69.99
Contact: www.mdgolf.co.uk
They say:
A shallower clubface and a more compact head shape make this the ideal fairway wood from the tee or a tight fairway lie. The fairway wood is aerodynamically styled to ensure maximum performance shape and coupled with striking cosmetics, this is the perfect package. Fitted with a ProForce65 shaft in regular and stiff flex options and a UST Multi Compound yellow and black grip.

We say:

Carly Frost: This fairway wood has a very unusual triangular shape that gives it a stand out factor from the other woods on test. The bright yellow shaft is a bit too bold for me but certainly gives it shelf appeal. The performance was powerful and the feel was solid, but just a little less firey than others I hit.
Jacques Cooke:
A cool looking club, I don't think the style is for everyone but it suits me. I don't personally like the clubhead shape, I prefer the traditional oval shape but this club performed just as well as the big name brands so makes an excellent alternative at a budget price.
Andy Dixon:
The clubhead sits nicely behind the ball and gave me plenty of confidence. It gives a fantastic impact sound and a powerful penetrating ball flight. The style is a bit flashy for me but I'm really only interested in the performance and this was up there with the longest on test.
Patrick Kelley:
I found the Superstrong harder to use as I got a slightly lower trajectory on my ball flight than with other fairway woods on test, which deters me slightly. I'm a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to the look of a golf club so the black and yellow shaft/club combination is a bit too modern for me.

Nike VR Pro Limited Edition

Price: £199.95
Contact:
www.nikegolf.com
They say:
Designed for use from the tee, in the fairway or from the rough. Don't sacrifice distance for workability. By delivering more speed at more spots on the clubface, the VR PRO STR8-FIT Tour fairway wood increases distance on a variety of shot shapes elite players hit. Tour inspired technology and performance are integral to the Nike VR Pro Limited Edition fairway wood.

We say:

Carly Frost: The compact clubhead shape and size will appeal to the discerning golfer with the ability to work shots and who is not reliant on the bigger clubhead for forgiveness. The VR Pro felt really hot off the face and has a no frills appearance that will appeal to a lot of better players.
Jacques Cooke:
This definitely looks like a club a Tour player would carry and I like it. Of course the compromise came in the forgiveness stakes and my mishits were more wayward than other clubs I hit. For pure sleek styling I'd have to give it 10 out of 10.
Andy Dixon:
I really like the look of this club, the shape of the clubhead and the slighter smaller size reminds me of my 5-wood that I love. Unfortunately it wasn't as easy to hit as the other Nike on test and as I'm only influenced by performance I'd leave this one for the Pros.
Patrick Kelley:
I really struggled with the VR Pro. I love the way it looks and can't fault the way it sits at address but it simply didn't offer me the level of forgiveness my handicap requires. I'm sure the fact that it is a Limited Edition model will appeal to the collector regardless of the performance.

Nike VR-S

Price: £199.95
Contact:
www.nikegolf.com
They say:
Accelerate your way to distance with Tour-proven performance. Advanced NexCOR face technology and aerodynamic design delivers more speed off the face for more distance off the fairway.

Carly Frost: Putting the girly hat on I have to say that I love the finish to the clubhead, the shimmering grey makes it look really classy and expensive and co-ordinates perfectly with the silver and black shaft with its distinctive flowery pattern (not sure how the guys will feel about that?!) The big clubhead size made it easy to hit and it packs a punch when you catch it smack out of the middle.
Jacques Cooke:
This is pretty much the same style as the Nike fairway wood I am used to playing so for obvious reasons I immediately took to it. I can't say I noticed any vast difference from last year's model - perhaps just a little more fire off the face but in reality that didn't equate to many more yards in distance.
Andy Dixon:
The simplicity of the design of this club really appeals to me. It's a very classical fairway wood shape and has a no thrills finish. I couldn't fault the performance either, it was powerful and easy to hit. A big thumbs up from me.
Patrick Kelley:
This club looks far more forgiving than the VR Pro I tested earlier and that immediately gives me confidence when I address the ball. The feel was very similar, a powerful ping off the face, and the forgiveness a vast improvement, making it a good all-rounder.

MacGregor M59

Price: £89.99
Contact:
www.macgregor-golf.co.uk
They say:
The MacGregor stainless steel fairway wood heads have been created to offer versatility of performance from the various optional lies. The wide aerodynamic body and shallow CFT face increases the MOI to maintain high ball speeds that are consistent across the hitting area, even on off-centre strikes. The sole contours are designed to reduce drag and improve speed in conjunction with the UST/MacGregor graphite shafts. This shaft delivers an optimum balance between Torque and Flex resulting in a better feel and more accuracy.
We say:
Carly Frost:
This fairway wood has a nice low profile head and sits well behind the ball, it's very easy to hit off the fairway. It has a tiny bit of draw bias which I found great because it produced that nice right-to-left distance inducing shape.
Jacques Cooke:
A good-looking club. I particularly like the simplicity of the clubhead shape and design. I found it easy to strike and offered plenty of shot-making versatility.
Andy Dixon:
A neat and tidy club, the low profile clubhead works particularly well off the deck. It launched the ball into the air quickly, great for getting second shots into par 5s.
Patrick Kelley:
Not as forgiving as other clubs on test. I struggled with the shallow clubface profile; the deeper clubfaces offered me more margin for error. I like the look of the club though.

Callaway Golf RAZR X Black

Price: £169
Contact:
www.callawaygolf.com
They say:
Designed for golfers who like their fairway wood to have some attitude, RAZR X Black fairway woods come with the looks and speed that inspire total confidence and deliver the long distance and pinpoint accuracy needed to attack the course. These fairway woods have a large footprint with a deep face and Aggressive VFT Technology that increases the size of the sweet spot and generates hotter ball speeds. The fairway wood also has traditional inspired styling with dark graphics and a full-length hosel for a strong look at address.

We say:

Carly Frost: The size and shape of the Callaway RAZR X makes it look impossible to miss and that fills me with confidence. The performance matched the looks and impressed me with a pleasing impact sound and easy high launching ball flight.
Jacques Cooke:
Not the prettiest club on test. The bulbous round clubhead shape doesn't really appeal to me. It looks more like a game improver club and not something that I can really work the ball with. That said it offered a solid strike, responsive feel and great flight.
Andy Dixon:
I try not to get influenced by the brand name but I know Callaway make great woods so I wasn't surprised at all how easy to hit the RAZR X was. Lookwise it's not really my cup of tea, but that's because I prefer a slightly smaller clubhead.
Patrick Kelley:
This is a great looking club and I love the styling. The clubhead sits really well behind the ball. The results from the Flightscope were undisputable - it was longer and straighter than my own 3-wood by some margin, so a big thumbs up from me.

Yonex EZONE SD

Price: £149
Contact:
www.yonex.co.uk
They say:
By using the highest grade Carbon Graphite we have been able to produce a fairway wood with a crown that is 20% lighter, allowing us to adjust the centre of gravity to expand the sweetspot. The EZONE SD has been designed to produce a penetrating ball flight from the fairway or off the tee and has a Muscle Power Face that maximises power and distance even on off-centre hits. A new sole design means 30% less of the sole interacts with the turf, reducing drag and in combination with the Nanospeed 200 shaft, increasing clubhead speed.

We say:

Carly Frost: This is a really classy club. The shimmery grey finish looks expensive and is unique. The lack of alignment aid on the crown adds to the simplicity of the finish and that will appeal to the better player. The performance was solid all-round.
Jacques Cooke:
Yonex is not normally a brand I would associate with great woods but I was really impressed with the performance of this fairway wood. I really got some high clubhead speed readings boosting my overall distance. It sits nicely behind the ball and has a classic look.
Andy Dixon:
The clubhead has a very wide shape but I like the shallow face profile, it gives me confidence that I can sweep shots away off the deck. I'm not keen on the bold red shaft, it's a bit too eye-catching for me, but there's something about the shaft-head combination that gives a really powerful feel of added speed and the results back that up.
Patrick Kelley:
I've played a Yonex tennis racquet for years but never hit one of their golf clubs. I like the traditional looks and found it nice and easy to use. I'm not sure it was the best on test for me but there wasn't a lot to fault.

Mizuno MP-650

Price: £199.99
Contact:
www.golf.mizunoeurope.com
They say:
The MP-650 is a Tour-ready all titanium fairway wood engineered to combine high average ball speeds with low spin rates - for a powerful, workable ball flight. The metal heads are made on the same production line as those carried by Mizuno's PGA European Tour professionals so there is limited availability. The MP-650 is a stripped back concept that revels in its simplicity - with high spec materials, ball speed and impact sound prioritised over adjustability. The new Forged 6-4 Ti face produces Mizuno's fastest ever ball speeds, with its multi thickness design taking COR tight to the R&A's legal limits. A deeper traditional face, set up slightly open with and wider pear shaped body creates an efficient powerful flight for workability for consistent ball strikers.

We say:

Carly Frost: A sleek and stylish fairway wood that has 'better player' stamped all over it. You can tell that the components are top quality because of the feel and sound of the club. The smaller clubhead shape makes this fairway wood really versatile and it feels 'hot' off the face.
Jacques Cooke:
What a fantastic club, it sits really well behind the ball and is perfectly weighted. I could hit any type of shot with this fairway wood, really working the ball and with ball flight trajectory control on tap - a must have for any decent player I'd say.
Andy Dixon:
Simple, classic and smart, this is a real golf connoisseurs fairway wood and although I know I'm not quite up to the playing standard of the Tour professionals it's a club I aspire to hit as well as them! The impact sound really leaves a lasting impression and makes you want to come back for more.
Patrick Kelley:
A lack of crown markings makes this fairway wood look very stylish but it's not overly practical from an alignment point of view. The performance was a little hit-and-miss in my unpredictable hands so I'd probably give this club a miss in favour of something a little easier to use.

Cleveland Mashie

Price: £139
Contact:
www.clevelandgolf.com
They say:
The Mashie is a versatile, utility-inspired Ultralite fairway wood that incorporates enhanced Gliderail technology for less turf drag and increased lift and speed at impact. It's engineered for distance and versatile so you're your shots fly longer from any lie. Ultralite technology reduces total club weight by over 20 grams for increased head speed and distance with the same swing effort. A premium Miyazaki C. Kua 59 graphite shaft, engineered for fairway woods, maximises swing speed while maintaining incredible accuracy.

We say:

Carly Frost: Being a fan of hybrids the Mashie is right up my street. The small, neat clubhead shape sits nicely behind the ball and gives me the belief that I can use it from any lie. The performance backed that up. The only thing that I don't like is the 'old-school' mottled grey finish - something a little more modern looking with the same shape and performance would be a winner.
Jacques Cooke:
This fairway wood looks more like a rescue club to me, I'm not keen on the deep clubhead, I like my 3-wood to have a shallow face so that I can sweep shots away. The slightly odd grey finish is retro and looks like it should belong in my Grandad's garage. The one plus was the playability, the clever sole design means that this club performs from any lie.
Andy Dixon:
I have to be honest and say that this is a horrible looking club! The deep clubhead just doesn't work for me, I prefer something with a shallower face, it just doesn't look like a fairway wood should. I also hit it very high, great for getting out of trouble, but not so versatile into the wind.
Patrick Kelley:
There's no distinct differentiation between the clubhead and the clubface, they both have the same grey finish and although this might seem like an odd comment to make, when combined with the lack of crown alignment markings it meant I really struggled to find the middle of the clubface. Plus points are the versatility from any lie and the fantastic impact sound.

Ping i20

Price: £200
Contact:
www.ping.com
They say:
The stainless steel i20 fairway woods are versatile performers helping you launch the ball with ease from all turf conditions and off the tee. When the ball is sitting down, the i20's compact shape ensures the head will glide through heavy grass and launch the ball on a high penetrating trajectory. Head rotation is neutral to promote square impact. A traditional head design creates an address profile that simplifies aiming for confident shot making. A generous hitting surface and low-deep CG creates the conditions for penetrating trajectories. The i20s are engineered to give you complete command of the clubface for controlling trajectory and shot shape.

We say:

Carly Frost: Definitely the most distinctive looking club on test, the jet black matt finish looks fantastic and really does eliminate nasty glare. I love the fact that the i20 sits so squarely behind the ball. It feels very solid and responsive too. I'm not sure I'm a strong enough player to use it consistently but I can't fault the performance I've seen today.
Jacques Cooke:
Nice! A great looking club, I love the matt finish it looks awesome. The design of the clubhead shape is spot on too, it sits perfectly behind the ball and gives me complete shot-making freedom, even off a tight lie I caught shots well.
Andy Dixon:
The i20 is the best-looking club on test in my opinion. The matt finish is really sleek and stylish. I also like the fact that the 3-wood is more like a 5-wood or hybrid in size and shape, it just easier to hit, filling me with confidence. The performance was excellent ticking every box I wanted.
Patrick Kelley:
I personally don't like the look of this club, the dark finish doesn't work for me, I see more sense in white. It was harder to hit too, although my shots flew straighter I didn't get as much power, although the i20 did 'Ping' off the face!

Benross QUAD SPEED

Price: £89.99
Contact:
www.benrossgolf.com
They say:
The QUAD SPEED Fairway's have been designed to harness the same stability technology used in the SPEED drivers. Split Dual Crowns are coupled with a wide modern footprint to lower and deepen the centre of gravity so golfers can be sure of powering shots out of any lie. With four loft options available, square face angles and a clean simple inspiring look at address, golfers of all abilities can be confident of incorporating at least one SPEED Fairway into their set. A specially developed Mid - High Launch Aldila Voodoo Fairway shaft ensures golfers of all abilities can flight shots accurately and consistently from the Tee, Fairway or Rough.

We say:

Carly Frost: If you're after great performance but with a budget price tag then you can't go wrong with this fairway wood. It may not be the prettiest club on test (I'm not keen on the glossy white finish) but it definitely packs a punch and is as easy to use as some of the bigger brands on test.
Jacques Cooke:
I'm a big fan of the white coloured clubheads that are on the market at the moment but for some reason this one doesn't jump out at me - I think that it is a bit too shiny perhaps. The clubhead size is a bit big and bulky, perfect for the game improver but not for me. The performance really surprised me; it was unexpectedly powerful and offered a consistent flight.
Andy Dixon:
This looks like a copycat version of the TaylorMade RBZ but without the classy finish. The clubhead shape is a bit too deep for me, great off the tee but not as good to clip shots away from the fairway. It felt a little awkward to use, not as well balanced as others.
Patrick Kelley:
The clubhead shape is quite unusual with the sweeping curved indent around the back of the head. It felt solid and quite firey off the face but had a tinny impact sound, which I didn't like. The white finish is too high gloss for me and particularly shiny in the sunshine.

TaylorMade R11 S

Price: £249
Contact: www.taylormadegolf.com
They say:
The R11S fairway wood improves on the adjustability established in the R11 fairways. It combines Adjustable Sole Plate technology (ASP) with Flight Control Technology (FCT) in a high-performance steel fairway wood. The combination of ASP and FCT gives the player 24 ways to set up the R11S fairway. You can adjust the face to square, closed or open, adjust the loft up or down. A low and forward CG location promotes faster ball speed and an easier launch. The white crown makes alignment easy and eliminates glare.

We say:

Carly Frost: The R11 was the stand out product for me in 2011 - fantastic looks and the first-class performance to match, so I was dubious as to whether TaylorMade could really improve on that this season? What the R11S offers is that added adjustability that all golfing nerds thrive on - you can tinker and tweak this fairway wood to your heart's content!
Jacques Cooke:
I'm the sort of player who likes to change the set-up of my equipment so the R11S really appeals to me. It's a lot of fun to alter the settings and you really can see a difference in the flight. I love the fact I can knock the ball flight down to a lower trajectory as with most fairway woods I tend to get a flight that balloons too much.
Andy Dixon:
I have to say I've been totally sold on the R11 by the TV ads featuring the 'love' heart - smiling at yourself really does work! The white clubhead works really well as a stand out against the green grass. The performance is strong and will appeal to better players.
Patrick Kelley:
Not as easy to hit as the RBZ and for that reason I wouldn't choose it. It's got great looks and I can see there's a lot of clever technology behind it - I'm a bit of a traditionalist at heart and can't see myself bothering to try and adjust it, so it's wasted on me.

TaylorMade RocketBallz RBZ

Price: £179
Contact:
www.taylormadegolf.com
They say:
The advanced Speed Pocket is the ultimate launching pad. Engineered to dramatically increase ball speed and distance. Matte-white finish and larger head are easy to align and launch - undeniably a lethal combination. The RBZ's sole-positioned Speed Pocket boosts COR and ball speed dramatically for up to 17 yards extra distance. A thick-thin crown design creates a lower CG to promote a higher launch for more distance. A larger, slightly deeper clubface and high MOI makes it easier to launch. A lightweight shaft and grip promotes faster swing speed for increased distance.

We say:

Carly Frost: The RBZ ticks all the boxes for me - it looks fantastic and produces amazing results. I'm not convinced there's 17 yards extra in it for me but there was definitely some added power. The clubhead shape and shallow profile made it easy to use off the fairway.
Jacques Cooke:
I know the RBZ is more targeted at the game improver but I'm going to be the exception to the case and actually say that I preferred it to the R11S. It felt hotter off the face and produced amazing distance. The clubhead shape is great and although a fraction bigger in size, still allowed for shot-making versatility.
Andy Dixon:
I'm not too fussed on the looks, it doesn't make a difference to me whether the club is white or black, all I'm interested in is the performance and in that category this club is a winner. It was incredibly easy to use and very powerful.
Patrick Kelley:
The best phrase to describe this club is easy to use. It was easy to aim, easy to get airborne and offered effortless easy distance. It just feels great in my hands - could it be my new secret weapon? I'd like to think so!

THE VERDICTS...

Carly Frost: The Callaway RAZR was my favourite club and would easily go straight in the bag. It was super forgiving and very easy to use, looks great and added those all-important extra yards to my distance.

Jacques Cooke: Picking a favourite is a tough decision but it would have to be the Ping i20 for me. The sleek black matt styling stood out from the other clubs on test. The performance was powerful and playability impressive.

Andy Dixon : I'm going to sit on the fence and say that I can't pick between the Nike VR-S, TaylorMade RBZ and Ping i20- they were all fantastic clubs and offered exceptional playability.

Patrick Kelley : It has to be the TaylorMade RBZ - RocketBallz by name, flies like a rocket by nature! I'm not normally sold over by marketing 'hype' but in this case it really does what it says on the tin - adding considerable distance and giving you amazing confidence.






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