About a year ago, Phil Mickelson made the driver seem as vital for competitive golf as knickers and a necktie. In the span of five weeks, he nearly won twice, and then he won the Scottish and British Opens back-to-back, all without hitting a driver. Instead, Mickelson relied on a souped-up 3-wood off the tee. "It's much easier to get the ball up off the ground with optimal launch conditions," he said. Why? Because today's metalwoods launch the ball with less spin. Combine this with the higher launch of a fairway wood, and you have a recipe for distance. Here are three driver alternatives for players interested in trying life Mickelson-style.
Here's a 3-wood bigger than yesterday's drivers. Extra speed and low spin come from a sole slot and low-forward center of gravity.LOFTS: 12, 14, 16 degreesVOLUME: 260 cubic centimetersPRICE: $280taylormadegolf.com
Your driver's made of fast-flexing titanium, so why not your 3-wood? The tungsten sole plate helps you launch the ball high with less spin.LOFTS: 13 degrees (adjustable)VOLUME: 219ccPRICE: $450ping.com
X2 HOT DEEP
Do shallow-face 3-woods give you the willies on the tee? The high-strength steel face on the X2 Hot Deep is 10 to 20 percent taller than on the X2 Hot Pro.LOFTS: 12.5, 14.5, 18.5 degreesVOLUME: 203cc (on 12.5-degree)PRICE: $230callawaygolf.com
You say your handicap still hasn't dropped below the drinking age? Even if the only golf you've played involved windmills and a clown's mouth, there's new technology that can make your misses manageable. Some things beginners and high-handicappers need to remember: Clubs that use offset, a closed face angle or heel weighting to help you draw the ball, will solve more problems than they cause. And wide soles? They make impact—with the turf and the ball—more forgiving. Finally, don't be afraid of more loft, even in your irons. You can add distance by launching the ball higher.
See the cross braces on the back? They make the head more stable so toe hits launch with draw spin instead of hanging out to the right.SET: 4-iron through PWPRICE: $600adamsgolf.com
SMART SOLE WEDGE
This wedge's wide sole and high bounce help it muscle through sand or glide across the turf so you leave fewer shots at your feet.LOFTS: 58, 42PRICE: $100clevelandgolf.com
Believe it or not this is a 6-iron. The wide sole keeps you from hitting it fat, and the extra size minimizes mis-hits.SET: Three hybrids, five ironsPRICE: $700callawaygolf.com
BAFFLER XL DRIVER
This driver features slice-fighting offset, which gives you more time to square the club at impact.LOFTS: 9.5, 10.5, 11.5 degreesPRICE: $250cobragolf.com