Our system is robust, but it is neither all-encompassing nor absolute. It is a damn good guide. Please treat it as such.
So with that said, having tested each of the clubs myself, and having been present for every moment of testing by our other golfers; my own personal conclusion is that if we repeated this test 100 times, and very likely if we did it with 100 different golfers (assuming we continue to pull from a broad range of abilities), the order might change, but the top 4 would remain as they are.
I personally believe that the top 4, in any order, represent the best fairway woods that 2012 has to offer.
Mizuno MP-650 - #1 Overall Fairway Wood
I know. I’m as shocked as you are…as shocked as anyone. Of course given that the MP-650 was one of only two clubs to finish in the top 3 for both distance and accuracy, I suppose by this point we probably shouldn't be.
Detractors will point out that the Mizuno (like the untested Adams XTD) has a titanium face, and consequently, it should be longer. Accuracy is a just a bonus. That’s probably true, but most golfers don’t give any consideration to what the face is made of. They just want it to perform, and for our testers, the Mizuno did…repeatedly.
I watched it happen. I crunched the numbers. I wrote all of this up, and I’m still amazed.
Miuzno's MP-650…winner, winner, chicken dinner.
Subjective Notes: While the Mizuno MP-650 didn't finish #1 in any category, it finished tied second for looks, tied 4th for sound and feel, and tied 2nd in our Likelihood of Purchase Category.
Out testers loved the traditional and relatively compact shape. Sound and feel scores were mixed. Some rated it very highly; others (myself included) didn't love it. My take…it’s just different, and I’m more of a Titleist/TaylorMade kinda guy when it comes to feel.
Curiously despite the fact that our testers consistently hit the ball long and straight, they rated the Mizuno MP-650 near the bottom for forgiveness. Some results, you just can’t explain.
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TaylorMade RocketBallz - #2 Overall Fairway Wood
What the RBZ lacked in accuracy it more than made up for in distance, and that basically accounts for how the RocketBallz found its way into the #2 spot overall. The yards offline number is misleadingly high, and when we factored in our truAccuracy number we found the RBZ, while well behind the MP-650, wasn't far off from the AMP and RAZR Fit.
Overall we think the RocketBallz is an outstanding fairway wood, and is easily well deserving of a spot in the Top 3. Guys who want options off the tee, particularly for those looking for a viable alternative to the driver need look no further. If you want long, you want RocketBallz.
Subjective Notes: When we look at how our testers rated the TaylorMade RocketBallz across the board, a single word springs to mind; average. In fact, the average subjective point total for all the clubs in the test is 33.72. The TaylorMade RocketBallz scored 33.9.
Some testers rated it highly (9s and 10s), while others rated it a bit lower (7s and 8s). Like TaylorMade itself there’s a polarizing quality to the club. If you like the white it’s great. If you don’t, well... Some guys loved the size and shape; others preferred the more compact Titleist, Mizuno, or Callaway.
We’re fine with too each his own, and with the RBZ we didn't find much for middle ground.
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Callaway RAZR Fit - #3 Overall Fairway Wood
Under our scoring system, Callaway’s RAZR Fit got nipped by TaylorMade’s RocketBallz by 2 tenths of a point. That’s point two zero. Not bad for a club that wasn't really on much of anybody’s radar. Hell, if I’m being honest, it’s got me thinking differently about Callaway Fairway Woods (I’m already a solid believer in the drivers).
If this kind of club can’t bring you back to Callaway, I’m not sure what could.
While our testers performed better overall with the MP-650 and the RocketBallz, if you’re for the most popular club in the test, you just found it. Almost to a man, the RAZR Fit was a favorite.
Subjective Notes: If we counted subjective scores as part of this test, the RAZR Fit most definitely would have hopped past the RBZ, and might have even challenged the MP-650. It’s not simply that the RAZR Fit finished with the highest subjective score in the test; it finished #1 overall in every category. There wasn't a single tie.
Testers loved the compact shape, the outstanding (dare I say Titleist-like sound and feel). Forgiveness was undeniable, and when all was said and done, our testers wanted to take the RAZR Fit home with them.
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If you’re asking (and let’s pretend you are), this is the last spot on this list for which I think you can make a legitimate argument that the club could be the best overall fairway. This is where I draw the line for most golfers.
Carry distance was the Cobra AMP was exceptional (2nd overall), which was good enough to keep it in the top 4 for total distance. The accuracy numbers didn't disappoint either. Our test group found the AMP to be in the top 3 for accuracy. As we mentioned in Part 1, with some additional shafts for us to play with the AMP probably would have scored even higher.
Subjective Notes: As you might imagine, feelings on the silver crown were mixed. After that, things get really confusing (this stuff doesn't always make sense – even to me). Our testers didn't care for the AMP 3 wood. They rated it low in just about every category.
When they rated the 5 wood, however, things changed dramatically, in almost every case, the numbers went up (nearly 2 points across the board). Essentially our testers thought very differently about the 5 than they did the 3. The explanations were similar in every case. Guys told me they felt like they couldn't hit the 3, and couldn't miss with the 5. Weird, right?
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Riding a wave of stellar accuracy to the middle of the pack, that’s what the TourEdge XCG5 did. For a company basically known for producing exceptionally long fairway woods, the lack of distance caught us by surprise.
At the same time, so did the near pinpoint accuracy as tester after tester peppered the middle of the fairway. Take the bad with the great, and move on.
Guys placing the emphasis on fairway wood distance are probably going to want to look elsewhere. Guys willing to sacrifice a bit of yardage in order to play more consistently from the fairway, look no further.
The XCG5 was far and away the most accurate club in our test, and we think that’s reason enough to give it a serious look.
Subjective Notes: If you exclude the one guy who basically hated everything about the XCG5 – and we should – it’s best to ignore malcontents, the XCG5 was actually among the most popular clubs with our testers (tied 2nd overall).
While reaction to the looks of the club were mixed (it does have a larger head), testers loved the sound and feel, and the forgiveness. Our lowest handicap golfer told us the XCG5 was his favorite club in the entire test. Fair enough…he’s the one guy who hit it exceptionally well.
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No doubt the Titleist loyalists are going to be fuming that the 910 didn't finish higher. Hey, I get it. I still have a 905 series driver and a 585H that still find their way into the bag from time to time. All these years later, and I’ll be the first guy to tell you nothing feels like a Titleist.
I love the fitting options too (and I think for better players, having the ability to tweak the loft and lie independently is awesome). But the ball speed... man. Despite some of the most promising launch numbers in the entire test; our testers had trouble getting the ball speed to the same level as the clubs higher up the list.
Whether it’s simply an issue of finding the so-called sweet spot, or if there’s something else…we really can’t say. However you want to spin it, we feel the Titleist 910 is better suited for the guy who is more concerned with shaping shots, and hitting narrower targets than bombing it straight (or straight into the rough).
For those of us who remain satisfied with whatever small piece of the fairway we can find, there are probably better choices.
Subjective Notes: Titleist clubs always do very well with our testers when it comes to looks (2nd overall), as well as sound and feel (near the top). Just one guy talking here, but as I said, nothing feels like a Titleist, and not much looks as good either. Forgiveness, yeah…it’s not the greatest, but there’s absolutely something about the 910 series that really makes you consider dropping it in your bag.
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The Bridgestone probably would have been better served by a narrower testing pool. Our high handicap golfer, and arguably the guys in the middle too, had a hard time getting the most out of the J40. And that’s a shame considering we’re talking about a club I personally love.
While the J40 finished out of the money, for pure ballstrikers, I don’t think there’s a better fairway wood out there – certainly not that we tested. Not only did our better golfers hit it well (long anyway), they basically bested nearly everything else in the test with it.
If you’re an inconsistent fairway wood player, I’d advise you stay away. If you've some game with your woods, the J40 might give you even more.
Subjective Notes: Near the top for looks (one tester called it “sexy”), as well as sound and feel; our testers found plenty to love about the J40. Not surprisingly, I suppose, the J40 dipped a bit in the forgiveness category, and ultimately in the likelihood of purchase category as well.
While just about everyone who hit it will tell you they had a blast doing it, the double-digit handicappers seemed to recognize it’s probably not the best fit for their games.
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The results for the PING G20 stem from a few variables being just a little bit off for our test group. Launch angle and spin numbers were probably both a tad high (based on where other clubs finished), and ball speed came out a little low.
While the G20 driver outperformed our tester’s expectations, the fairway wood probably didn't. Unlike some of the other clubs in the bottom half of the list, it’s hard to point to a single thing and say, “if not for this guy…”. I just don’t think the G20 was a great fit for anyone in our testing pool.
That’s not to suggest the G20 is a bad club, but like a few of the others, we think it’s a “for the right guy” kind of fit. In this case, the right guy is a perhaps the typical game improvement player. If you’re a guy who struggles to get your fairway woods in the air, and keep them there, the G20 is absolutely worth a look…probably a long look.
For guys who tend to be more like the majority of our testers (faster swingers, mid-high spin players), my god…you absolutely must look into the PING’s i20 and Anser offerings. We thought the i20 driver was low spin…and then we hit the Anser.
For a company who built a rep on game-improvement it’s amazing that PING has been able to continue that traditional and then produce the low-spinning woods we've seen to date.
Subjective Notes: Where looks are concerned; to me…and probably to my testers there’s a clear line between old PING and new PING, and that line is directly between the G20 and i20 series. The G20 fairway finished at or near the bottom in every subjective category.
This is anything but surprising considering pre-i20 clubs often scored very low on our subjective surveys. Any time a club doesn't go as far as our testers would like, forgiveness and Likelihood of Purchase scores suffer as a result.
Is it fair? Probably not, but at least this time around the scores don't count.
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“If not for 2 guys…”. That’s how the story of the VR_S and how it fared in this test should begin. It was never going to win on distance…not with the spin numbers being as high as they were for some of the guys, but the VR_S almost unquestionably got a raw deal on the accuracy piece.
One guy struggling…we account for that in our scoring, but two guys, well…it is what it is, and that’s too bad because on an individual level, we saw a couple of really solid results out of the VR_S.
As they did for the G20, the J40, and the 910, our test results would suggest there’s a narrower audience for the VR_S than some of the other clubs. It’s not a bad club…not by any means, but there’s little doubt that the head produces more spin than most.
That’s great if you’re a low spin guy to begin with (in which case, try this club NOW), but guys who need to cut some spin are probably going to need to look at something else.
Subjective Notes: How’s this for a slight disconnect; the Nike VR_S was rated #2 overall by our testers for the subjective “stuff”. Most of the guys were happy to overlook the slightly odd crown graphics, while at the same time loving the sound and feel. That’s right, a Nike wood rated near the top for both sound and feel. It's different at Nike now…they really have figured something out.
Forgiveness scores were very high overall, and Likelihood of purchase was no worse than average. What this tells me is that guys who hit it reasonably well aren't going to find much of anything to nitpick over.
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We're keeping the data simple today. If you want more information about distance, and accuracy, or launch or spin, please check out the charts in Part 1 and Part 2. Today we're giving you the final scores for each club; both individually and as a group (be sure to check both tabs). The dotted line always represents the average, and as you remove testers or clubs, that average will update dynamically.
How We Calculated Overall Scores
To calculate overall scores and put them in that nice out of 100 format people like to see, we looked at every shot our testers hit for the duration of the test. We then used the best shots of that bunch (best defined as a point value resulting from an equation of Total Distance minus Yards Offline (230 yard and 10 yards offline = 220 points) to determine what each individual tester’s potential was (again, in terms of points). We call this number Maximum Point Value (or MPV).
It’s important to note that MPV is different for every tester. Brian’s is not the same as Sid’s, who is not the same as Mark’s, and so on.
For each club in the test, we did the same thing on a shot by shot basis (distance minus accuracy to determine how many points a given shot was worth). We added all the shots for a given club together and that gives us the total point value for the individual club.
To arrive at the individual score for each club in the test we determined what percentage of MPV the total point value of each club represents.
For example: Assume the MPV for tester A is 100 (that number is impossibly low, but it makes the math easy to understand). We determine that, after subtracting yards offline from total distance for each shot hit with a specific club, tester A has achieved a total of 88 points.
Since in this very easy math scenario, 88 is well…88 percent of 100, the individual score for the test would be 88.
In a slightly more complex version, if MPV is 1200 for a given tester (still very low), and we calculate his point total for a given club to be 1053, all we have to do is divide 1053 by 1200. That gives us .8775, which translates to an individual score of 87.75.
Once we have all 5 scores for each club, we drop the lowest, and calculate the average of the remaining 4. That average is the Total/Final (the one that counts) score for each club in the test.
Why do we score this way?
In 3 years of testing clubs we looked at a lot of different scenarios and results. For us, this proved to be the most efficient, meaningful, and reliable way to score distance (essentially normalize the data) in a scenario where the abilities of your testers (both in terms of distance and accuracy) vary tremendously. 100% is different for everyone, and this MPV-based scoring system allows us to account for that.