Long-range 3-woods: Pushing the limits

Trivia question: How many categories of clubs are tested by the U.S. Golf Association and R&A for spring-like effect (coefficient of restitution)?

Answer: Everything from drivers to wedges.

“Yes, we look at all new clubs that are submitted, with the exception of putters,” USGA senior technical director Dick Rugge said. “The limit (.830 COR) is the same for all clubs.”

And the greatest strides recently made by manufacturers trying to reach that limit may be in fairway woods, especially 3-woods. When COR testing was introduced in 1998, 3-woods were nowhere near the limit. “Recently, we’ve had some 3-woods exceed the limit,” Rugge said. Those prototypes must be altered and resubmitted within the .830 COR limit.

Why the evolution? Some players use 3-woods as driving clubs, and they are looking for distance. By combining a hotter clubface with weighting technology that promotes a higher launch angle and substantially reduced spin, manufacturers can build in more yards for players who have enough clubhead speed.

But these 3-woods might not be for everyone. Most touring pros want to hit the ball a prescribed distance, not as far as possible, and they stick with thicker steel faces with lower COR for consistency.

For many amateurs, though, these 3-woods add a new dimension to their games, provided they can achieve the proper trajectory.

“It doesn’t really matter if you can’t get a 3-wood up in the air,” said Tom Wishon of Tom Wishon Golf Technology. “Ask yourself this question: What is your second-longest wood? Be honest about it. For some players, it could be a 7-wood.”

Most of the new fairway woods have stainless-steel bodies with ultra-thin steel faces, although companies such as Tour Edge and Mizuno are combining lightweight titanium construction with strategic sole weighting.

“We found that some highly skilled players substantially increased their ball speed – more than we thought they would,” said David Llewellyn, Mizuno’s manager of golf club research and development.

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TaylorMade Burner SuperFast

The skinny: The philosophy behind the SuperFast is lighter weight and longer length. The 3-wood, for example, is 43.5 inches in length. In the name of forgiveness, the SuperFast is the largest TaylorMade fairway wood head ever.

Cost: $199.99 (15, 18, 21 degrees)

Available: Immediate

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Mizuno MP Titanium

The skinny: Made with multi-piece titanium construction, including a sheet-forged beta titanium face. The compact size and slightly openface are the results of input from Mizuno’s touring pros.

Cost: $249.99 (13.5, 15, 18 degrees)

Available: Immediate

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Cobra Baffler Rail Fairway

The skinny: With its elongated head, low-profile face and four-way rail sole, the oversized Baffler Rail F is designed to create more consistent ball contact and a higher trajectory.

Cost: $169.99 (15.5, 18, 20 degrees)

Available: Immediate

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Tom Wishon Golf Technology 949MC

The skinny: One of the initial wave of hot fairway woods. Wishon’s rule of thumb for fitting: Golfers with swing speeds of 85 mph or lower should use driver, 4-wood, 7-wood; those 90 or above should go driver, 3-wood, 5-wood.

Cost: $175 (14, 16.5, 18, 21.5 degrees)

Available: Immediate

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Callaway Diablo Edge

The skinny: Callaway proclaims the Diablo Edge 3-wood to be 10 to 12 yards longer than the original Big Bertha Diablo. The company says no Callaway fairway wood has had a center of gravity this low and shallow.

Cost: $199.99 (15, 17, 19, 21, 24 degrees for standard model; 13, 15, 18 degrees for tour model, which produces a flatter trajectory)

Available: Immediate

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Adams Speedline Fast 10

The skinny: Sold in standard and draw models, the Fast 10 is designed for versatility off the tee or the turf. The sole curvature is greater than previous Adams fairway woods.

Cost: $199.99 (13, 15, 18 degrees)

Available: Immediate

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Tour Edge Exotics XCG-3

The skinny: Features a titanium body with a tungsten sole. Tungsten, which is twice as heavy as steel, allows the center of gravity to be dramatically lowered, creating more forgiveness and workability.

Cost: $299.99 (13, 15, 16.5, 18, 21 degrees)

Available: Immediate

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