Don’t Fear the Fairway

Today’s long-hitting fairway woods are engineered to hit clean on everything from hardpan to long grass.
As a young golfer way back when, I was afraid to take the 3-wood out of my bag. That club was the golf equivalent of the monster under the bed. The very thought of trying to push it through the long grass on the public links where I played was enough to bring nightmares.
I’ve outgrown my fear of fairway woods, but some golfers never have, and that’s unfortunate, because today’s clubs are far easier to hit than even those of a generation ago, let alone those of the primeval epoch of which I speak.
New Designs, New Confidence
Hybrid clubs that combine features of fairway woods and irons have been the subject of more attention than fairway woods in recent years, but changes in the design of the woods promise to bring these long-hitting clubs out of the bag and back into the forefront of the game.
Taking a cue from hybrid technology, many of today’s new-design fairway woods feature a shallow face and low center of gravity, making them easier to hit. While the 43-inch length of a 3-wood makes it a challenge for many golfers, some makers offer what one might call a fairway/hybrid combo with a somewhat shorter shaft. Others market 4-woods, which have a shorter shaft and a bit more loft – again making them easier to hit. Models designed to produce draw can add a bit more length to fairway shots and a bit of additional loft can make any fairway wood easier to hit. And as with drivers, clubs with adjustable loft are becoming available.
Most of today’s best fairway woods claim a high CT or characteristic time, which is a measurement of the trampoline effect that a club produces when contacting the ball. The USGA places limits on CT, and the longest hitting fairway woods all come close to that limit.
Fabulous for the Fairway
The Adams’ Super S Fairway stainless steel wood features that maker’s cut-thru sole slot, which works with the crown slot to generate a spring-like effect that optimizes energy transferred to the ball. According to the maker, the club’s CT is just barely within the limits set by the USGA. In addition, a refined crown slot generates a higher launch angle without increasing spin. The result is long carry distance.
In keeping with what seems to be a trend for both fairway woods and drivers, the Super S is styled in a way that increases the perceived size of the clubhead to instill confidence and make alignment easy.
TalyorMade’s RocketBallz Stage 2 fairway woods are manufactured with special steel that enables a thinner face. In combination with TaylorMade’s speed pocket design, that thin face causes the contact area to flex faster, resulting in a high CT, increased ball speed and more distance. Ball speed is further enhanced by a low and forward center of gravity.
The Tour version of the Stage 2 fairway wood features adjustable loft. The 3-wood base loft is 14.5°, and it can be adjusted up to 16° or down to 13°.
Clubface styling and graphics of all TaylorMade fairway woods promote easy alignment.
Nike’s VRS Covert fairway woods feature a higher CT than previous models. The VRS Covert Tour has a deep face height for mid-trajectory ball travel. Loft can be varied by means of Nike’s Flex Loft adjustment system. The VRS Covert has a fixed loft angle and a standard face height for high-trajectory ball travel. speed through aerodynamic efficiency.
Adams says the new driver is the first with a VST expanding sweet spot that enables consistently longer drives. It’s also the most aerodynamic driver Adams has ever produced. Because the clubhead slips smoothly through the air, speed is optimized. The company has even given thought to clubhead color and says that the matte white crown and contrasting faceplate make the head appear larger, which helps with alignment while inspiring confidence.
Cobra’s adjustable driver is called the Amp Cell. The drivers MyFly™ technology provides six different loft settings over a range of 3°. The manufacturer says that its SmartPad technology squares the face at every loft setting.
A 12% larger face shape is said to deliver faster ball speed even on miss-hits. The titanium head is available in four dramatic colors.
The Amp Cell Pro model has a 440 cc head with a lower, more neutral center of gravity and is available in two colors.
-Par Shooter
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The New Old-Fashioned Way

Pete Browning got the first finely crafted Hillerich & Bradsby hardwood bat in 1884, and ever since, many super stars of major league baseball have made that manufacturer’s Louisville Slugger their weapon of choice.
H & B Louisville Sluggers are still carefully made from fine hardwood, but the process has evolved over the years. It frequently begins in H & B’s own timberland in Pennsylvania and New York. There, northern white ash and maple trees that have reached the age of 60 or more are harvested. The finest logs are then selected at the mill. After hand sawing into square billets, the wood is vacuum dried.
A proprietary machine, built for the sole purpose of making Louisville Sluggers, compresses the grain of the barrel to achieve optimum hardness. Next, filler is applied to close the grain. The filler is topped with several layers of a topcoat seal. The resulting finish is said to be the hardest of any wood bat on the market.
Over the years a variety of hardwoods have been used to make Louisville Sluggers. At one time, hickory was very popular, but it’s too heavy for today’s players who emphasize bat speed. Ash was the most popular wood through most of the modern era, but in recent years, maple has achieved equal status, as many players experienced success with maple bats in the 1990s.
Babe Ruth swung a mammoth hunk of H & B timber. It was 36 inches long and weighed a whopping 42 ounces. Mickey Mantle’s Louisville Slugger was considerably lighter at 32 ounces. While Major League Baseball rules allow bats up to 42 inches in length, no one has ever used an H & B bat of that size. The longest was a 38-inch stick used by Al Simmons in the 1940s.
“Wee” Willie Keeler, a right fielder of the 1890s, stepped to the plate with a Louisville Slugger that measured 30½ inches. That’s the length prescribed today for a 120-pound little leaguer who stands just over 4-feet tall. Willy, who had a .341 career batting average, wasn’t a lot bigger at 5 foot, 4 inches and 140 pounds. He is said to have been the first to say, “Hit ‘em where they ain’t.”
Both that strategy and the Louisville slugger Wee Willie swung remain key parts of the game.
-Home Run Hitter
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