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OUR JOB IS YOUR GAME
Are you ready? The most comprehensive fairway wood test of 2021 is officially here!
This year’s test features 30 fairway woods. Let’s step up to the tee to see which fairway woods claimed the Most Wanted crown.
At MyGolfSpy, our job is to provide independent, unbiased and objective testing so you can make more confident purchasing decisions. Our 2021 Most Wanted Fairway Wood Test is an indispensable guide for the off-the-rack buyer or for anyone looking for insight before their next fitting.
Here are this season’s best fairway woods.
2021 Most Wanted Fairway Wood: Srixon ZX
With an emphatic Strokes Gained result, the Srixon ZX is the 2021 Most Wanted Fairway Wood. Let’s take a look at the highlights.
- 1st in Strokes Gained
- The longest fairway wood we tested
Offering a compelling mix of low spin and high ball speed, the Srixon ZX ranked as the best fairway wood for distance. Not only did this propel it to the top of the Strokes Gained chart, it also finished in the top half for forgiveness. The combination of these attributes makes it the Most Wanted Fairway Wood for 2021.
Also Consider …
- Golfers looking to maximize distance should consider the Srixon ZX, TaylorMade SIM2 and Callaway Epic Speed.
- If forgiveness is your priority, our top performers are the TaylorMade SIM2 Max D, Cleveland Launcher XL Halo and Tour Edge Exotics C721.
- The straightest performers in the test were the TaylorMade SIM2 Max D, Wilson Staff Launch Pad and Wilson Staff D9.
- Golfers looking to reduce spin should consider the Srixon ZX, TaylorMade SIM2 and TaylorMade SIM2 Max.
Fairway Wood Buying Considerations
Performance should be your primary concern when buying a new fairway wood but, within that, there are some additional considerations.
It Has To Work
For many, fairway woods are the most difficult club to hit consistently. That can make finding the best fairway wood for your game a daunting task. It explains why golfers typically replace their fairway woods less often than any other club.
If you’re already striping your fairway woods, there’s an argument to be made for keeping them. If you have a 3-wood in your bag you can’t hit, it’s time to move on. If you’re going to put a club in your bag, it has to work.
For golfers who struggle with fairway woods, it’s almost certainly worth trading a few yards in favor of something you can get in the air and keep in the fairway. It’s also worth mentioning that there’s no rule that says you have to carry a fairway wood at all.
The definition of a 3-wood has evolved. The models we tested ranged from 14.5 to 16 degrees. While there is an allowance to be made for modern designs launching a bit higher, lower-lofted models are typically lower spinning and longer overall. These designs can be ideal for golfers who think of their 3-wood as a smaller (though perhaps not a “mini”) driver and are looking for pure distance from that spot in the bag.
Conversely, higher-lofted options are designed for golfers who struggle to hit their 3-woods high enough. In addition to launching higher, these weaker lofted options spin more as well. This can be beneficial if you find yourself hitting 3-wood into the green or if you’re simply looking to hit the ball straighter. There’s a strong correlation between higher backspin rates and straighter shots.
If higher launch and more control are at the top of your wish list, in addition to stronger lofted 3-woods, you may also want to consider a 4-wood or skipping right to a 5-wood.
For most manufacturers, fairway wood length is driven by driver length. That means the 3-wood is typically two inches shorter than the driver. While longer clubs can be great for speed and distance, they’re not always the best for control. We believe the typical 3-wood is too long for most golfers—call it common sense lost in the battle for distance. As always, we recommend getting fitted to find out if a shorter shaft could be the solution to your fairway wood woes.
Tour Versus Standard
Although the number of “Tour” labeled fairway woods is minimal in this year’s test, we tested several models that share the characteristics often associated with “Tour” or “Pro” models. These clubs typically have more compact heads and lower, more forward centers of gravity. While designs like the COBRA RADSPEED Big Tour (an exception to the notion that “Tour” means “compact”), PING G425 LST, TaylorMade SIM2, Titleist TSi3, PXG 0341 X Gen4 and Callaway Epic Speed have some characteristics that speak to the better player, they’re almost invariably less forgiving than their non-“Tour” counterparts.
While not absolutely necessary, adjustability is inarguably beneficial from a fitting standpoint—especially in a club that many golfers struggle to hit. Adding loft at the hosel can help mitigate a slice by adding spin and closing the face. Golfers who want a flatter trajectory can decrease loft and, in some cases, move weight forward. You can get outstanding performance from a glued head but adjustability offers fitters the ability to fine-tune your club for optimal results.
Optimal Numbers Versus Keeping It In Play
Rounds of golf are won by the player who shoots the lowest score. This simple truth sometimes gets lost in a technology-driven era where optimization is sometimes prioritized over basic results. The best fairway wood for your game may very likely not provide “optimal numbers.” Don’t sweat it. Your top priority should be to hit good shots. If that means sacrificing some distance, so be it.
During each test, we look for trends that provide insight into where the market as a whole is moving as well as what noteworthy changes manufacturers have made to improve year-to-year performance. Additionally, we solicit feedback from our testers. We want to understand what they liked, what they didn’t like and why. Although we obtain their feedback, their subjective opinions do not influence, dictate or determine our testing rankings.
Trends and Tweaks
- Lightweight fairway woods have become increasingly common. While they can be difficult for faster swing speed players to control, clubs like XXIO Eleven, XXIO X Series, Wilson Staff Launch Pad, Titleist TSi1 and Honma T//World GS create opportunities for moderate speed players to generate a bit more clubhead speed.
- In the test, 13 models feature adjustability. That is slightly less than half of the testing pool. It’s not unusual for manufacturers to move adjustability in or out of the lineup from one year to the next or only offer adjustability in some models.
- Seventeen of the models tested were bonded heads (glued). Although they do lack adjustability, the weight saved by removing it can sometimes have performance benefits. It’s also true that bonded heads are less expensive to manufacture and the decision not to include adjustability is often driven by cost.
Notes From the Testing Pool
The following section details subjective feedback from our pool of 20 testers. Gathering feedback is an important aspect of any test. We use their feedback as a representation of what golfers like and dislike about the product we test. That being said, the feedback is strictly subjective. It does not play a factor in the rankings.
- In addition to claiming Most Wanted status, our testers commented that the Srixon ZX offers a superb look at address and pleasing feel on impact.
- The Cleveland Launcher XL Halo was a pleasant surprise. With a matte black finish and an appealing head shape, it received plenty of positive feedback from the testing pool.
- For looks, additional standouts are the Titleist TSi2, COBRA RADSPEED, TaylorMade SIM2, SIM2 Max and PXG 0211.
- With its traditional, simple look, the Ben Hogan GS53 was a welcome bit of nostalgia for some of the testers.
BEST FORGIVENESS - TAYLORMADE SIM2 MAX D
The TaylorMade SIM2 Max D provides fantastic consistency and accuracy - finding the fairway more often than any club in the test. Non-slicers shouldn't be scared off by the draw-biased designation, while the TaylorMade SIM2 Max D is inarguably straight, it's definitely not exclusively for slicers.
2021 Most Wanted Fairway Wood Data
How We Test
Our mission is to help you find the best fairway wood for your game.
About our Testers
Over the course of several sessions, each golfer is required to hit 10 to 12 "good" shots with each club. Club order is randomized on a per-tester basis.
Limiting Variables and Gathering Data Reliably
Crunching the Numbers
To determine our rankings, we collect key performance metrics with Foresight GCQuad. After eliminating outliers, we utilize a proprietary methodology to calculate strokes-gained values for each combination of tester and golf club. The iron that produces the highest strokes-gained values relative to the field average is our Most Wanted.
2021 Most Wanted Fairway Wood Product Specs
2021 Most Wanted Fairway Wood Product Specs
|Product||Stated Loft||Measured Loft*||Length||Swingweight|
|Callaway Big Bertha B21|
|Callaway Epic Max|
|Callaway Epic Speed|
|Cleveland Launcher XL Halo|
|Cobra RADSPEED Big Tour|
|Cobra RADSPEED Draw|
|Ben Hogan GS53|
|Honma T//World GS|
|PING G425 Max|
|PING G425 LST|
|PING G425 SFT|
|PXG 0341 X Gen4|
|TaylorMade SIM2 Max|
|TaylorMade SIM2 Max D|
|Tour Edge C521|
|Tour Edge Exotics C721|
|Tour Edge Exotics EXS Pro|
|Wilson Staff D9|
|Wilson Staff Launch Pad|
|XXIO X Series|
* denotes measured value versus manufacturer’s stated spec
BUYING A NEW FAIRWAY WOOD
Q: How often should I buy a new fairway wood?
A: While on rare occasions there are quantifiable year-over-year breakthroughs, typically it takes three to five years for manufacturers to make any significant performance gains. With the USGA further tightening restrictions on manufacturers, it’s possible, even likely, that it will take longer still moving forward. Our recommendation is to buy a new fairway wood only when it appreciably outperforms what is already in your bag. Of course, if you want new fairway wood because you want a new fairway wood, that’s fine, too.
Q: How do I determine the right fairway wood for me?
A: A proper club fitting with a professional will help determine what fairway wood will suit your unique game. However, you can assess your own needs by determining what kind of shots you need to hit with your fairway wood. Do you take hit the 3-wood primarily off the tee or off the turf? If you primarily use the fairway wood off the tee, a deeper face can help promote solid contact on the tee. Conversely, shallower-faced, slightly elongated fairway woods can help with turf interaction, allowing you the best chance at solid contact off the fairway or out of the rough. Make sure to fully evaluate your game in advance of a professional fitting to help the fitter understand what you’re looking for in a fairway wood.
Q: Does the shaft matter?
A: Absolutely. While changes to spin and launch and spin differences are rarely massive, shaft changes frequently lead to improved accuracy, tighter dispersion and greater overall consistency.
Q: What should I look for when testing fairway woods?
A: While golfers have been conditioned to consider distance to the exclusion of nearly everything else, we recommended looking at the little numbers and looking for small circles. When comparing metrics like distance and ball speed, be sure to look at your standard deviations (the small numbers usually found under the big ones on the data screen). Smaller numbers mean better consistency which will usually mean more than an extra yard or two on the golf course. Similarly, look for tighter dispersion ellipses (small circles). We can’t overstate the importance of consistency with fairway woods.
Q: How are the fairway woods in the test fitted to each golfer?
A: We use a fitting process that we call fit from stock. Fairway woods are fitted to each tester using the stock, no up-charge options from each manufacturer. Our 2021 Fairway Wood Test included fairway woods with stamped lofts ranging from 14.5 to 16 degrees. Some offer adjustability features (loft and CG) and we make use of all available adjustability options to optimize trajectory. Furthermore, we fit to flex for each tester in the pool. Occasionally, manufacturers will send multiple sets with different stock shafts that we can utilize to improve launch conditions.
Q: How is the “Most Wanted Fairway Wood” determined?
A: After eliminating outliers, we calculate the average Strokes Gained values for each combination of tester and golf club. The club that produces the highest Strokes Gained values relative to the field average is our Most Wanted.
Q: How is the “Longest Fairway Wood” determined?
A: Our total distance metric determines the Longest fairway wood.
Q: How is the “Most Forgiving Fairway Wood” determined?
A: To determine our Most Forgiving fairway wood, we compare Strokes Gained values for the best and worst shots each tester hits. The club that produces the narrowest gap in strokes gained values is our Most Forgiving.
Q: How much does subjective feedback like looks, sound and feel factor into your rankings?
A: ZERO. Our rankings are based purely on launch monitor data and quantifiable performance metrics.