The technology in drivers has improved exponentially over the past decade, but has that also translated to improved technology in fairway woods? In short, the answer is yes. Fairway woods are precise, long-range weapons used to navigate the toughest shots off the tee and possess incredible stopping power playing into greens with a high ball flight.
Fairway metals come in many sizes and shapes. Some feature a deeper head and shallower face, while others have a deeper face and shallower head. However, the one goal they all have in common is to utilize a low, deep center of gravity to launch the ball high with forgiveness across the face.
Note: Fairways for better players and Tour versions position more weight forward and higher because these players need less help elevating the ball and are instead looking for lower spin rate.
One piece of advice I’d like to give players before jumping into the best fairways of 2018 is that you should not be afraid to mix and match your drivers and fairways. It’s true, we’ve all seen the perfect set ups at the course where all the head covers are a perfect crescendo of one line, but you may find another fairway wood suits your eye or your game better.
And again, like the Best Drivers of 2018 post, I will quickly impress upon the importance of being properly fitted for shafts. Make sure you are going through all the available opportunities and steps to ensure your equipment is properly set up for you.
Tour Edge CBX
I was first introduced to the Tour Edge CBX 3-wood at a manufacturer’s demo day in early 2018. With the all black crown and Tour-profile head, I was instantly drawn to this club. I don’t think it was more than three swings before I demanded to know when I could order it and how long it would take to get to me.
For me, the CBX is the epitome of a 3-wood. The Beta-Ti Cup Face is combo-brazed to the body and creates a seamless connection. The 3-wood is devoid of gimmicks or visual distractions at address, the all-black crown does not even have an alignment aid on the top. Some players may find no alignment aid tough to adjust to, but for me, I love looking down at the ultra-clean club head.
The sound produced is everything I look for in a fairway, which translates into amazing feedback. This club lets you know exactly where the ball struck the face.
Paired in my bag with the Callaway Rogue Sub-Zero driver, the CBX offers a more controllable club off the tee that quite frankly does not lose much distance compared to my driver. The lower launch angle (in large part due to the HZRDUS Black 6.5 shaft) hasn’t been too much of an issue off the tee, but a 10.5° average launch angle off the turf means a lot of shots into greens come in low and hot.
Tour Edge may not be a household name for you, but you should pay attention to what they’re doing. The CBX lineup is one of the most underrated set of woods and hybrids on the market today.
Had I not instantly fell in love with the Tour Edge CBX 3-wood, the Callaway Rogue fairway wood was next in line in terms of my favorite fairways of the year. To start, compared to the Epic fairways, the major improvement Callaway incorporated was the addition of Jailbreak bars.
In essence, the Rogue fairways look like and play like mini-Rogue drivers. Both the standard Rogue and Rogue Sub Zero fairway woods have a nice compact shape and beautiful carbon composite crown. I find the Rogue has a really nice setup at address (especially in the five wood). The shaping and positioning of the weight makes elevating the Rouge fairways an ease.
For a club with a carbon composite crown, the Rogue produces a fairly full sound and the feel is smooth through impact. The addition of the Jailbreak bars makes the ball jump off the face and gives the Rogue fairways a decided leg up on the Epic line.
In my testing, I found both the CBX and Rogue to produce similar ball speeds (151 mph average) and distances (265-275 off the deck). Off the tee, this distance can easily increase by another 15-20 yards.
For players looking for a slightly larger footprint in a fairway wood, the Ping G400 fairway woods are a great option. The G400 fairway has a deeper head and shallower face, which creates a confidence-inspiring appearance at address.
The crown has some turbulators, but like the driver, I do not find them distracting at address. A matte black finish is also very appealing to the eye, and, the fully metal crown produces a fuller richer sound than most carbon composite crown options.
Like the G400 Max driver, I found really tight dispersion and consistent ball speeds across the face during my testing. Strangely though, the club I felt had the most control actually had the highest spin rate. The Rogue and CBX both produced around 2200 rpm, while the G400 came in roughly 1000 rpm higher. Once again, I think some of this result could be due to limited shaft availability during testing.
The last fairway wood I’m going to mention comes from TaylorMade. I’m not sure if my surprise was due to the issues I had with TwistFace and the driver, but the TaylorMade M3 fairway wood impressed me a lot. Actually, both versions of the M-Family fairways and hybrids were exceptional during testing.
The M3 lineup probably features the most carbon fiber of any clubs I tested this year. And, while I will say I am not a huge fan of the sound produced by the M3 lineup, given the results in terms of shape and trajectory with the fairway wood, it is something I could overlook fairly quickly.
During my testing, I hit both the standard M3 3-wood and the 17° HL 3-wood. I found that even with the higher lofted 3-wood, my overall distance did not decline. In fact, I saw further carry with a higher launch angle (16° vs 11°) and still fairly low spin (about 2500 rpm). The added height and carry will have me conducting further testing with the HL version as we approach the rainy, cold season.
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