December 28, 2008


STREET PRICE: $180WEBSITE: clevelandgolf.comLOFTS: 13, 15, 17, 19, 22TECH TALK: The crown is a half-millimeter thick, saving weight that has been added to the horseshoe-shape weight pad on the perimeter of the sole. The result: A moment of inertia (MOI) exceeding 3,000 and a center of gravity (CG) that promotes a higher trajectory. The face is 11 percent larger than previous Launcher fairway editions.PLAYER COMMENTS: (M) "The longest one I've hit so far. The ball took off." ... (L) "Has a crispness at impact that is hard to beat. The ball just shoots off the face. A nice surprise."... (L) "Long, straight and high -- who wouldn't like that?"... (M) "Very easy to hit. Doesn't feel like it has a tiny sweet spot -- it has the same feedback all over the face."HOT: The rear weighting seems like a nifty arrangement, and we like a trio of 3-wood lofts. Two versions of R- and S-flexes is a keen idea as well.NOT: We'd like to see a hot-steel face insert.


STREET PRICE: $180WEBSITE: cobragolf.comLOFTS: Pro: 13, 15, 18; F- and M-Speed: 15.5*, 18*, 21*, 24, 27 (*also in offset, seniors only)TECH TALK: Cobra has addressed the needs of three types of golfers: fairway woods for better players (the Pro) and two versions -- a regular-hosel configuration and an offset model--for those who need a higher launch. The standard model has a weight-saving shaft and a wide, shallow-face profile.PLAYER COMMENTS: (M) "They got it right. Solid at impact, and the ball leaps off the club." ... (T) "The regular version flies high, and the pro version penetrates. Nice management of game-improvement and player trajectories." ... (L) "Standard in terms of looks, but there's nothing standard about its performance. There's that hot Cobra 'crack' off the face."HOT: A solid entry with MOI benefits that are readily apparent. We especially like the confidence provided by the shallow face.NOT: Check the number on the sole. That 7-wood looks as big as a 3-wood.


STREET PRICE: $220WEBSITE: pinggolf.comLOFTS/BOUNCE: 14, 15.5, 17, 18.5, 21.5, 24.5; draw: 15.5, 17, 18.5, 21.5TECH TALK: Weight taken from the crown, face and hosel is redeployed in an internal weight pad that positions the CG in an optimal location to increase ball speed and reduce spin. A shallow face and increased heel-to-toe length provide a larger effective hitting area and promote forgiveness.PLAYER COMMENTS: (M) "Just perfect. It's what a fairway wood should look like." ... (L) "After having the same fairway wood for five years, I have a new date. Send me an invoice. This thing is amazing." ... (T) "A great, solid club. Hard to mis-hit." ... (M) "Came off the face with a lot of heat."HOT: Ping has covered all areas technologically and otherwise, including a 17-degree 4-wood with a 43-inch shaft for players who need more loft than a 3-wood offers.NOT: The shallow face requires an adjustment for those who like a 3-wood as a backup driver.


STREET PRICE: $200WEBSITE: taylormadegolf.comLOFTS: 15, 18, 21; tour: 13, 14.5, 17.5TECH TALK: Each model comes with "dual-crown" technology, which features a wide base beneath a more compact and thin top section. In addition, weight-saving thin-wall casting techniques reduce wall thicknesses to 0.6 millimeters. The weight saved allows for a lower and deeper CG, thus improving launch conditions.PLAYER COMMENTS: (L) "It feels and reacts just like a fairway wood should, and the trajectory was the same all the time." ... (M) "Probably the best of the bunch. Extremely solid feel, closest to an old persimmon. Jumps off the face with tight dispersion." ... (T) "I get all warm and fuzzy inside hitting it."HOT: An impressive tour-player solid feel, even if you're not a pro. The technology provides a high-launch antidote to hitting low-spin balls off the fairway.NOT: The standard lofts all feature a slight draw bias that not everyone needs.


STREET PRICE: $200WEBSITE: titleist.comLOFTS: F2: 13.5, 15.5, 18.5; F3: 13, 15, 18TECH TALK: These are modestly different designs that accommodate the needs of different players. F2 lofts are a half-degree higher, and the CG is lower to produce a higher launch angle. Also, its face is longer and wider. The F3 is designed to produce a lower, boring trajectory, and its face is smaller and deeper. Each comes with a sole weight screw to customize swingweight.PLAYER COMMENTS: (L) "Has that 'wow' factor." ... (T) "Attention to detail everywhere." ... (M) "It feels great and gets the ball up nicely." ... (M) "I've always been intimidated by Titleist, but the company has made a move toward players like me."HOT: It has the traditional look that everyone likes. Those who think Titleist targets only better players need to reconsider, given efforts here.NOT: Where's the 21-degree 7-wood that some middle-handicappers would want?


STREET PRICE: $370WEBSITE: touredge.comLOFTS: 13, 15, 16.5, 18, 21TECH TALK: A lightweight titanium V-shape cupface, crown and hosel allow 60 percent of the total weight of the head to be concentrated in a high-density steel soleplate, improving MOI and launch characteristics. The titanium hosel saves 30 grams and has the benefit of enhancing feel.PLAYER COMMENTS: (T) "Simple and traditional, and it performs. If that's your thing, look no further." ... (L) "The ball goes long, long." ... (M) "Solid impact. Nice, traditional look. It's almost perfect." ... (T) "Toe hits went just as far. Hot face, high trajectory. I'd put this in my bag in a minute."HOT: This is where the future meets the past, a high-tech club in a traditional shape. No idle mixing of materials, this is a technology high-wire act that delivers.NOT: The $370 price tag is borderline offensive, and tacking on $20 for a shaft upgrade is like charging us for tees.


STREET PRICE: $270WEBSITE: adamsgolf.comLOFTS: a4: 13, 15, 18; a4OS: 16, 19TECH TALK: These clubs combine the qualities of a fairway wood (distance) with a hybrid (ease of use). Each model features pull-face construction and a maraging-steel face insert. The a4 has an adjustable weight port in the sole. The a4OS has tungsten inserts in the rear perimeter and a lightweight magnesium crown that allows weight to be relocated low and deep.PLAYER COMMENTS: (M) "Everything about this club inspires confidence for a player like me." ... (T) "Looks more like a hybrid, which has got to be a bonus if you have more confidence in hitting a hybrid." ... (M) "Looks a little like a blob on a stick, but the trajectory was perfect and extremely long."HOT: Adams continues to change the paradigm with an improvement in shape (especially the sole radius) and ball flight.NOT: The a4's weight screw clogs with dirt; the a4OS might be too new wave for some.


STREET PRICE: $200WEBSITE: bobbyjonesgolf.comLOFT: Workshop: 15, 18; tour: 13, 15TECH TALK: The lightweight magnesium crown is used to save weight, which is redistributed to create a CG that is low and back. This results in a higher trajectory. Weight also is taken from the hosel and the 1.6-millimeter-thick face and moved to the rear sole to help with ball flight.PLAYER COMMENTS: (L) "Get out the flight plan -- this thing is a rocket ship." ... (M) "Funkiest look of the bunch, but the sound and the feel are fantastic." ... (L) "Not my look with the triangle stuff, but the Jones woods continue to get my attention with how sweet they are at impact. 'Solid' just doesn't seem to do it justice." ... (T) "I don't know the idea behind the shape, but it works."HOT: The low profile and relatively small size inspire confidence along with the solid performance the club delivers.NOT: It's so easy to hit for so many players that we'd like to see some higher lofts.


STREET PRICE: $200WEBSITE: callawaygolf.comLOFTS: 13, 15, 18; draw: 16, 18.5, 21, 23.5TECH TALK: The unusual shape of the stainless-steel head is what Callaway calls "edge technology." It allows designers to place weight deep behind the face to help improve stability on off-center hits and to optimize the CG and trajectory for a neutral or draw ball flight. The traditional Callaway short, straight hollow-hosel design saves weight to be distributed on the perimeter.PLAYER COMMENTS: (M) "The look takes some getting used to, but it still has that classic Callaway feel. Pretty forgiving."... (T) "Get these to my pro shop." ... (M) "I like this shape; it encourages you to take it back on an inside path. The ball goes very straight."HOT: Not a typical fairway wood in looks, but its functional geometry is refreshing. Many middle- and higher-handicap players will like the less-than-60-gram shaft.NOT: Ugly? Maybe. And why not offer a neutral 21-degree model?


STREET PRICE: $250WEBSITE: callawaygolf.comLOFTS: 15*, 17*, 19*, 21†, 23†(*also in draw, †draw only); tour: 13, 15TECH TALK: Fusion technology is the foundation of Callaway's research and development. TheFT features a stainless-steel face and body fused to a soleplate featuring heavy tungsten.This gave company engineers the ability to situate the CG where they wanted to improve launchand ball flight. Dual runners on the sole help with turf interaction.PLAYER COMMENTS: (M) "I feel like it straightened out some of my mis-hits." ... (L) "I had a big mis-hit off a tee, and it still went a long way." ... (T) "If you need to hit it in the fairway on a tight hole and not lose distance, this is the club." ... (T) "Stands out. Must have its goodies in the right places inside the head."HOT: Inspired technology finds a way to look classic. The tungsten soleplate serves as a launching pad for long, high shots.NOT: All 7-woods are draw versions? Maybe it makes sense, but it doesn't look right.


STREET PRICE: $230WEBSITE: nikegolf.comLOFTS: Dymo: 13; Dymo2: 15, 17, 19, 21TECH TALK: Its Quad Keel sole design results in only four points of the club interacting with the ground, diminishing the likelihood of turf interference with the swing. The back of the sole is elevated, reducing friction with the turf. Like in its big brother, the DYMO driver, its characteristics (CG, MOI, lie angle) are adjusted as lofts and head styles change.PLAYER COMMENTS: (M) "Wait out that first impression, because this thing works. Even fat shots were going 200 yards." ... (L) "I love this club, even though it looks like a shovel to me. The ball flight was exactly what I look for, and it might be the straightest of the bunch." ... (T) "Great club off the tee and the fairway."HOT: This club delivers a punch, but its real strength is a sole design that's a Ginty-like throwback. Add some 21st-century horsepower and thinking, and you have a genuine winner.NOT: Square look of Dymo2 is still a tough sell.


STREET PRICE: $250WEBSITE: pinggolf.comLOFTS: 16, 17.5, 19, 22TECH TALK: The 61-gram tungsten soleplate on the 17-4 stainless-steel head moves the CG low and deep, reducing spin and encouraging a higher launch. The wide sole and steeply tapered crown are designed to improve forgiveness. The variable-thickness face is intended to help enhance ball speed even on off-center strikes.PLAYER COMMENTS: (T) "Looks Martian-y, and I hit it off the planet, too." ...(L) "Its traditional look instills confidence at setup. I felt like the club was made precisely for me." ... (T) "Great sound. If you get used to hearing the sound of a great shot, psychologically you're more apt to hit one." ... (M) "This is really long despite being a degree weaker."HOT: There's a lot of technical expertise in the mixing of materials, and isn't a 16-degree 3-wood an idea whose time has come?NOT: The six-piece alignment decal is at least five pieces too many.

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