'OK, this is easy, go time'

The ingenious and (now) famous club you have to get your hands on

November 10, 2023

Hector Vivas

When Erik van Rooyen, the South African pro who won last week's World Wide Championship on the PGA Tour, reflected on the approach shot he hit into the final green that set up his winning eagle putt, he immediately pointed to the club he used.

“Yeah, that shot will be with me forever,” he said. “It's a hybrid, but it's like my 3-wood. It goes like 268 [yards] in the air. We had 272 to the front, and I was thinking 2-iron, the same club I'd hit off the tee, but there was no chance it would get to the green. You're trying to win a golf tournament, so you've got to step up and hit a golf shot. [My caddie] told me, ‘Dude, you've hit this shot a million times, right?’ . . . When he said that, I was like, OK, this is easy, go time, and I flushed it.”

What van Rooyen flushed was a 17-degree Callaway Apex UW with a Fujikura Ventus Blue 8X shaft. The Apex UW is a club that combines the best features of hybrids and fairway woods. Its compact head shape and neutral center of gravity appeals to good players, and the distance boost caused by the maraging steel cupface, designed through artificial intelligence, gives a yardage bump to golfers of all skill levels.

The UW is the only “fairway wood” in van Rooyen’s bag. Ditto for two-time LPGA major winner Lilia Vu, who carries two of them. The takeaway for everyday golfers is, don’t be tied to conventional fairway woods or hybrids. Although they might be right for you, something more in the middle might be a better option, for increased versatility on shots from the fairway.

There are several reasons why. First, the lack of draw bias is often found in hybrids. Second, the shaft is shorter than a fairway wood, meaning center contact is easier to achieve. Third, the clubhead is more compact than a fairway wood, providing better playability. Finally, this club might take the place of two clubs in your bag, as is the case with van Rooyen, letting you add another wedge or other club you might find useful.

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A pair of Golf Digest’s Hot List testers were impressed by the Apex UW. “It has a mid-to-low piercing ball flight, especially compared to fairway woods,” said B.K. Suhr, a scratch player from Orlando. “It’s very forgiving but still workable. You can truly hit this club from anywhere—off a tee, off the ground, maybe even out of a fairway bunker. Players who struggle with hybrids and woods will find this a nice compromise.”

A utility club like this is not only for the better player, however. Wei Mao, a 13-handicapper from Sacramento, Calif., also found it a valuable tool. “I like the simplicity of the look at address,” he said. “It looks like a very easy club to hit . . . maybe because visually it seems more like a hybrid than a wood. You lose that intimidation factor. It's got the best of both worlds: It's incredibly easy to hit, like a hybrid, but you get the distance of a wood.”

It just might be a difference-maker in your bag. As Suhr put it, “I’ve been looking for a club like this for the last 10 years.”