Chicks Dig The Straight Ball. . .Don’t They?
In Part 1 of our “2012 ULTIMATE FAIRWAY WOOD” test we looked at distance. Let’s face it, distance is, and probably always will be king. People want more yards, whether it’s 2, 5, 10, or 17, people want more of them.
Nobody is going to market a fairway wood (or anything else longer than a putter) with the promise that it’s 17 Yards Straighter (Closer to the Target). Incidentally, if you’re missing by 17 yards with your putter, you’ve got a huge problem (blindness perhaps), but I digress.
The thing is accuracy matters…or at least it should.
The sad little other thing is that golfers aren’t rational creatures. Why would we want to play from the fairway more often if it’s going to cost us 5 or 10 yards on those 2 or 3 balls we hit nearly perfect every round? Screw that, I want to hit it far. If that means the deep stuff, so be it.
And so it goes. But good golfers…better golfers, they seek out the clubs that help them put the ball in the fairway. The rest of us…while we ain’t exactly brilliant, we’re smart enough to know that 300 yards into the woods is still 300 yards. Chicks don’t dig the straight ball.
So with all of that said, it’s for the small population of rational golfers – the guys who care about finding fairways – that we decided to take a closer look at how well our group of 9 fairway woods performs when we stop talking about distance, and get real about fairways.
But before we get to that:
truAccuracy - The New Way to Consider Accuracy
Very often when we (the industry) discuss the accuracy of fairway woods and drivers we talk exclusively about yards offline. That’s fine when the discussion is limited to a single club, but when comparing multiple clubs for accuracy, yards offline doesn’t tell the whole story.
Rarely does a golf ball travel directly down the centerline. In many cases, the farther the ball travels down the fairway, the further it moves from that line. As a result, we expect longer drives will be more offline than shorter ones. Because of this reality, we’ve found that a simple yards offline number doesn’t paint a complete picture of accuracy. We need to look at distance as it relates to accuracy (or in simple math terms total distance / distance offline)
A drive that is 10 yards offline and travels a total distance of 250 yards is actually more accurate than a drive that travels 200 yards and is 9 yards offline. It basically boils down to figuring out how many yards up the fairway the ball traveled for every yard it moved offline.
We call that number truAccuracy and it’s what levels the playing field between longer clubs and shorter clubs, and it’s what we use to determine the accuracy rankings for each of the fairway woods in our test.
* For those struggling to keep up, just remember the higher the truAccuracy value, the more accurate the club.
TourEdge XCG 5 – 1st Place Overall Accuracy
As you might remember from yesterday, the TourEdge wasn’t exactly the distance king, but even the guys who struggled to hit it far, had very little issue hitting it straight – and we think that’s important.
3 testers missed the centerline by less than 10 yards, and the least accurate tester missed by just over 14 yards. As a group, our 5 testers missed the centerline by less than 10 yards (9.98 actually) on average. The TourEdge XCG5 was the only club in the test to crack the 10 yard barrier.
Those number sound good right? But what about that truAccuracy number I told you about not 30 seconds ago? As it turns out, not only was the average yards offline number the lowest (that’s good), at 27.05 (or 27.05 yards up the fairway for every yard from the centerline), the TourEdge XCG5 proved to be the most accurate fairway wood in our test.
We certainly believe that with a more hands-on fitting there’s likely some more distance to be gained. That fact coupled with the accuracy numbers suggests to us that you might want to take a seriously look at the XCG5.
The 5 Wood – When hitting to a target, our testers proved to be as accurate with the 5 wood as they were with the 3 wood. Like the 3 wood, the majority of our testers got comparatively less distance out of the 5 woods, and as a result, our target distances were often set shorter.
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Mizuno MP-650 – 2nd Place Overall Accuracy
There are hundreds (well…a handful anyway) reasons why the Mizuno was an unlikely candidate to finish in the 2nd spot for accuracy. The traditionally-shaped head doesn’t scream forgiveness. It’s got an open face, and a fade bias. All of these things suggest that some golfers might struggle to hit it straight, and yet that’s exactly what our golfers did (hit it straight, not struggle).
As a group our testers missed the centerline by an average of only 11.8 yards. Like the TourEdge XCG5, 3 of our testers posted sub-2-digit averages for accuracy. All of that works out to a truAccuracy value of 24.08, which while good enough for 2nd, is quite a bit behind the XCG5.
Not surprising considering the design of the MP-650, the accuracy breakdown followed handicap almost exactly with our two highest handicap golfers missing by the largest margin (15.27 and 17.06 yards). When you consider, however, that better golfer missed by more with clubs that are, on-paper anyway, more forgiving; it’s hard to not walk away impressed…and just as we were with the distance portion of this review, extremely surprised.
The 5 Wood – In addition to being less accurate (left to right) than they were with some other clubs in our test, our higher handicap golfers sometimes struggled with distance control with the MP-650. As you’d expect, slight mis-hits would end up short, while purely struck shots would exceed the target distance than more than we’d probably like in a real world scenario (although I personally never get upset about hitting a ball too well).
Our better golfers, more specifically – the guys who hit the MP-650 well, however; found it pleasantly easy to put the ball close to the pin shot after shot after shot.
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Cobra AMP - 3rd Place Overall Accuracy
When it comes to accuracy the Cobra AMP finished just slightly more offline than the PING G20. Today’s math fun fact is that with an average miss of 13.46 yards from the centerline, the AMP was a mere 1.8” less accurate than the PING G20…or so it would seem.
We’ve all been there. Sometimes a lousy 1.8” is in fact the difference between the fairway and the rough, but if we’re being totally honest, more often than not, 1.8” doesn’t matter.
But again, yards offline only tells half the story. When we look at that number as it relates to overall distance, what we get is a truAccuracy value of 23.37 yards, which despite similar averages, actually places the Cobra AMP 2 places above the PING G20 for accuracy.
More compelling perhaps; the AMP’s accuracy numbers might be deflated as a result of one guy (me) who couldn’t hit the damn thing straight. While the AMP’s most accurate tester only missed the centerline by an average of 6.69 yards, yours truly was missing by 24.19 (whoops).
When you consider the other guys did pretty damn well (9.15, 11.64 and 16.63 yards), you could argue that if the Cobra AMP got screwed, I’m the one holding the shaft. From an accuracy perspective, the AMP is almost certainly better than our averages suggest.
The 5 Wood – As with the PING G20, our testers told us they felt a tremendous disconnect between the Cobra AMP 3 and 5 Woods. The numbers suggest they probably shouldn’t have. They both performed reasonably well for us, and there certainly isn’t an unreasonable distance gap between the two. But…for reasons I can’t comprehend, our testers (almost to a man) told us they didn’t love the 3 –and yet, not only did they lust after the 5, they wanted her to spend the night, and stay for breakfast. And here I am left confused, staring at a bunch of googly-eyed golfers.
What any of that means, I really don’t know. It looks (and feels) like the same club to me.
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Callaway RAZR FIT
Here it is again…that quiet little fairway from Callaway that absolutely refuses to go away. It’s like my 2 year old. She’s in your face, and won’t give you a moment’s peace until you acknowledge her. Daddy. Daddy. Daddy. Fine…consider the RAZR Fit acknowledged. Now go watch Doc McStuffins. Daddy needs to write about golf clubs.
Like the MP-650, we loved what we saw from a distance perspective, and we’re positively enamored with it now that we’ve seen how straight most of our testers hit it.
With the Callaway RAZR Fit our testers missed the target line by an average of 12.5 yards. Like the first and 2nd place finishers in the accuracy category, nobody really struggled with the club (everybody finished below 20 yards offline on average). In fact, as with the RAZR Fit, only a single tester missed by more than 15 yards on average, and even he did it just barely (15.2 yards).
I know what you’re wondering…what’s that work out to for truAccuracy? It works out to 23.37, and that’s good enough for 4th overall in the accuracy category.
The 5 Wood – Anecdotally, the Callaway RAZR Fit was the single most accurate 5 wood that our testers hit. We had 3 separate shots (from 3 testers) miss the target (a pin 225-250 depending on the tester) by less than 3 feet, and more often than not, shots hit the green.
Simply put, our testers love the damn thing.
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Steady. That’s how I would describe the accuracy element of PING’s G20 Fairway Wood.
While only a single tester truly lit it up so to speak, nobody lost his lunch either. As a group, our testers missed the centerline by 13.41 yards (less than 3 feet away from the Callaway RAZR Fit). As with the other top performers in the accuracy category, not a single tester missed the target by more than 20 yards on average.
All of that works out to a truAccuracy value of 20.57, and spoiler alert – it’s the last we’ll see above 20.
When you’re looking for standouts (or outliers, depending on your perspective), you’ll see that like the XCG5, one of our testers managed an average of less than 19 feet from the centerline. If you’re not happy with those kinds of numbers you should probably be playing golf on TV. On Sunday. Very late in the afternoon.
The 5 Wood – Call it a curiosity, but the PING G20 was one of two clubs in our test where some of our golfers drew a clear distinction between the 3-wood and the 5-wood. Given that the PING wasn’t among the longest of the 3 woods we tested, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to hear that our golfers weren’t exactly blown away by it.
When they hit the 5-wood, however; their perceptions changed. Some felt they could actually hit the 5-wood consistently longer (in one case the numbers are dangerously close), and most felt they could hit it straighter too (that part makes sense).
While our testers weren’t throwing darts like they were with some of the other 5 woods in the test, big misses with the PING G20 5-wood were few and far between.
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While many expected the TaylorMade to be the longest club in the test (it was), accuracy was a bit of a question mark going in. And truthfully, if you look at the raw accuracy (yards offline) numbers alone, you might start thinking that the extra distance might not be worth it.
With an average distance offline of 16.33 yards, at first glance, the RBZ looks to be one of the least accurate clubs in the test. A closer look at the numbers, however; reveals some interesting details.
At just a tick over 10 yards offline each, our two best golfers had very little trouble keeping the RBZ in reasonable proximity to the centerline. Our middle handicappers were average at best (15.18 and 15.48), while our biggest hitter was basically a disaster. His average of 28.98 yards was the 2nd worst number in the entire test.
When we look at truAccuracy, however; things don’t look quite as bad. Just shy of 30 yards offline for a guy hitting the ball 271 yards isn’t nearly as horrific as a guy missing by the same margin, but only hitting the ball 240 yards.
When the math is done, the truAccuracy value comes out a reasonable, though far from stellar, 19.38. That’s good enough for 6th overall in the accuracy category.
The 5-Wood: I won’t sugar coat it. Our guys didn’t love the 5 wood. While nobody complained –actually most said nice things – about the 3 wood, 4 testers (me included) thought the RBZ 5-wood felt heavy.
On the swing weight scale the 5-woods came out slightly (imperceptibly probably to most) heavier than the 3-woods, however; the RBZ is actually a couple of points heavier than some other 5 woods in the test. So maybe we’re not all completely crazy.
From an accuracy standpoint, nothing really stood out. Hitting to targets that were 5 yards farther from the tee box than for most of the clubs in the test, our testers, while not precise, did a decent job of keeping the ball in the vicinity of the target.
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Given what we saw yesterday, it’s probably not any real surprise that the Bridgestone J40 didn’t prove to be among the most accurate fairway woods in our test.
Our testers as a group posted a truAccuracy number of 17.52. That’s based on more conventional accuracy numbers that were just shy of 16 yards (15.96 to be precise) offline. Unlike with the distance piece, the results for accuracy weren’t as cut and dry. While our lowest handicap golfer did prove to be the most accurate of the bunch (11.56 yards offline), our other single digit golfer actually missed the centerline by more than 20 yards (23.16).
Our middle handicap golfers posted numbers slightly better than the overall average for the club, while our highest handicap golfer actually rated near the low end.
With all of that on the table, what really matters is truAccuracy. With a value of 17.52, Bridgestone’s J40 finished as the best of the bottom 3.
The 5 Wood: Unlike the RBZ and for some, the Titleist 910, several of our testers commented that they loved the weight (presumably swing weight) of the Bridgestone J40. Most telling, perhaps more than any club in our test, our golfers told us they liked the way the 3 wood and the 5 wood complimented each other.
It’s difficult to conceptualize I suppose, but basically, our testers told us that Bridgestone’s 3 and 5 wood combo were better matched than any other pair of clubs in the test.
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The Titleist 910 is an interesting case. While nobody missed by an obscene margin (more than 20 yards), nobody was what you might call precise either.
As a group our testers missed by an average of 15.64 yards, which is 2 plus yards less accurate than the G20 and Cobra AMP. While the most accurate tester missed by an average of 11.71 yards (not bad), or least accurate tester missed by 18.96. The other guys hovered between 14 and 15 yards offline each.
When we look at the truAccuracy number, however; things look a bit less rosy. Yesterday we learned that the Titleist 910 wasn’t quite as long as some others, and when distance is considered alongside accuracy we arrive at a truAccuracy value of 16.86; the 2nd lowest in the test.
Somewhat surprisingly, the accuracy breakdown was nearly the opposite of what handicap might suggest. Our low handicap golfers actually accounted for 2 of the 3 least accurate tests. Unlike some of the other clubs, there isn’t any indication of a single outlier that dramatically shifted the results.
The numbers suggest the Titleist 910 isn’t among the most accurate clubs in our test, and given the reputation as a club for better players, we’re not completely surprised.
The 5 Wood: One tester told us he thought the 910 5 wood felt a little heavy (stay tuned, we’re just getting started with that line), while another said that while the ball absolutely explodes of the face, the 910 just isn’t as forgiving as some others.
In fairness, I don’t think it’s supposed to be among the most forgiving, but that’s something all but the best ballstrikers among us need to consider.
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Man…I just don’t know what happened here. As you may recall from the review, the VR_S driver tested out extremely well for us. The fairway woods…clearly our guys are struggling.
As with the PING G20, and the TourEdge XCG5, we’re starting to wonder if perhaps last season’s VR Limited might have been the better fit from the Nike lineup.
As a group our testers missed the target line by an average of 18.51 yards. That’s not great, and neither is the truAccuracy score of 16.11.
If there’s a brightside…and I honestly think there is, it’s that the numbers are influenced heavily by the two lowest individual truAccuracy results in the entire test (9.32 and 8.09). Basically 2 guys (23.33 and 30.96 yards offline) totally screwed the pooch with the VR_S fairway.
Just like the TourEdge yesterday, results for the VR_S are perhaps unfairly skewed by a couple of probably outliers in our tests. The remaining 3 testers actually fared much better (one average, 2 in the 10 yards offline/ 20+ truAccuracy Score). Unfortunately, the other 2 guys dragged everything down and disproportionally so, I believe.
The guys who hit it straight, hit it very straight and we think that’s reason enough to find out if the VR_S might do the same for you.
The 5 Wood: Yeah…some guys struggled just like they did with the 3, but a couple of guys were scary good with it as well. Granted, we set our pins 5 yards closer than we did with most, but if you can litter the green the way a two of our testers did with the 5 wood, you wouldn’t think twice about it.
Like the 3-wood, it’s an if it fits you it’s awesome, but if it doesn’t… kinda club.
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By The Numbers – (For Easy Reading)
By The Numbers – (For The Data Heads)
In the chart below you’ll find all of the relevant accuracy-related data for the 9 fairway woods in the test. The first tab shows you individual numbers for truAccuracy (the new meaningful way to consider wood distance), and the traditional yards offline results. The 2nd tab (Group Averages) provides the same information for the group as a whole.
Just like we did yesterday, we’ve provided you the ability to sort the data and to filter by club and golfer. The dotted gray line represents the average for each data point in the charts. When you filter (remove testers or clubs), the average is dynamically updated based on which clubs and golfers are left in the filter set.
Now that distance and accuracy are out of the way, we can spend tomorrow focusing on the subjective test, and more importantly, naming our #1 Overall Fairway Wood.
Be sure to check the “Official Ultimate Fairway Wood Test” Discussion Thread in the MyGolfSpy Forum. We’ll provide more detailed information about the challenges we faced during the test, and more in depth details about the test themselves. You can also use the thread as Q&A forum. The thread will be continuously updated as we publish each of the 3 parts in this series.