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Top 10 “modern classic” fairway woods of all time

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This could be one of the most hotly contested topics in golf club history: What are the best fairway woods of all time?

Originally, this list was going to be a “top 5,” but after a lengthy discussion with a lot of golfers, it quickly became way too difficult to get the list to only five, unless I wanted to deal with civil unrest. So instead, we’re going bigger and giving you the top 10 modern classic fairways woods of all time—along with a few noted additions.

From a fitting perspective, what makes a great fairway wood is a debated topic is because they have to be endlessly versatile. A single fairway wood can play so many different roles to an individual player. What is a unicorn perfect fit to one might be an un-hittable nightmare to another, depending on swing dynamics. From a fairway finder, to a par-5 killer, to a perfect yardage club on a tough par 3, whatever reason you have to hold onto your favorite fairway wood is personal, and like a good friend you truly never want to let it go.

In no particular order, here are the top 10 greatest “modern classic” fairway woods.

TaylorMade V Steel

It is impossible to have a discussion about the top modern fairway woods of all time without having the TaylorMade V Steel come up within seconds. The V Steel was released around the time of another classic early 2000s era TaylorMade—the 200 Steel, but as far as staying power the V Steel is still found in golf bags thanks to its design and versatility.

The V-shaped sole greatly improved turf interaction (TaylorMade’s take on the Warbird sole), and at the time it was introduced, it was a fairly large head that went all the way to a 9-wood. It was offered in both a steel shaft and stock M.A.S. 2 fairway-specific graphite shaft, which some golfers still swear by.

Titleist PT (970)

At one point in time, years after its initial release, the Titleist PT was still the most sought after fairway woods on the planet for one reason: Tiger Woods. The PT (Pro Trajectory) was not a club designed for the less-skilled player. It was a low MOI, workable little beast that allowed you to curve a ball to your heart’s content.

Beyond his famous Scotty Cameron, the Titleist PT was one of the last holdouts in Tiger’s bag until the Nike Ignite T60 came along. There were multiple variations of the PT fairway wood, including the bore through from my personal collection (pictured), the non-bore through, and the 970. Each one slightly different, but all unmistakably Titleist PT.

Ping TisI Tec

The TisI Tec was “the” titanium fairway wood before titanium was really a thing in fairway woods. The TisI Tec woods incorporated a lot of the same technology as the driver, including a multi-material head, adjustable (from factory) hosel sleeve, and thin casting technology to get it as hot as possible. Just like the driver, it came with a steep price tag when it was initially released ($499), but that didn’t stop a lot of players from putting them in the bag—and once they found their way in, they didn’t leave.

Famous professional holdouts of the TisI Tec fairway woods were Miguel Ángel Jiménez and Angel Cabrera, who had one in the bag when he won the 2007 U.S. Open 5 years after the Tec was initially released and Ping was already at the V1 Rapture and G5 series. It was by no means a traditional-looking club, but when you want to break barriers, you have to break the mold, and Ping did that with the TisI Tec Titanium.

Sonartec SS-07

Sonartec was the little fairway wood company with a big following. Originally brought to North America with licensed technology from Royal Collection, the original SS Series woods with the Driving Cavity changed the way golfers looked at how a fairway wood could perform. You could argue over which Sonartec model was truly the best, since they were all so good, but the SS-03 and the SS-07 with the longer bendable hosel were the two most players gravitated towards. There was even a Nick Price “signature” model named the NP-99 that had a cult-like following too. (On a side note, there isn’t a tour player on the planet that played more doomed company equipment that Nick Price)

In the late 90s and early 2000s, the initial era of “full-bag” OEM sponsorship, the fairway wood was still the one club most players could negotiate. The most famous players beyond Price with the Sonartec would have been David Duval who used one to win the Open Championship, among many others victories.

Callaway Original S2H2, Big Bertha Warbird

These clubs were so hard to compare for different reasons I had to put them together. The Original S2H2 stood for Short Straight Hollow Hosel and was one of the very first “forgiving” fairways woods—forgiving being a relative term now. It was a hollow cast steel clubhead with a bore through design. By eliminating the top part of the hosel, weight was saved and the CG was lowered to make it easier to hit.

The most notable player to ever use the S2H2 was Fred Couples, who played one for more than a decade and only finally replaced it with a Callaway FT-i Tour Squareway wood—talk about a tech jump!

The follow-up Warbird fairway wood offered the same S2H2 hosel, but in a much shallower head shape to further lower CG and improve ball flight. To help improve ground contact with the larger head, the Warbird had concave heel and toe pockets to reduce resistance. The warbird sole design was a mainstay in Callaway’s line for decades, and its lineage can still be seen to this day. It even made a full comeback with the V-series a few years ago, which was another underrated club.

Olimar TriMetal

A multi-material head with a maraging steel face, you would have thought the Olimar TriMetal was a club that debuted in the mid-2000s, but instead it was right out of the 90s. The brainchild of legendary club designer Jesse Ortiz (aka the guy who brought us the Bobby Jones Hybrids), the TriMetal was ahead of the game in technology.

It was the first fairway wood to use a strong maraging steel face that saved weight and allowed for repositioning of mass to bump up forgiveness. The TriMetal was an extremely shallow clubhead that was easy to elevate. It came in a huge variety of lofts all the way down to 9 degrees—yes 9 degrees in a fairway wood! For many golfers, this shallow design was a game saver, and like many on the list, you can still find these now at very reasonable prices.

Tour Edge Exotics CB1

The CB1 fairway wood was one of the first mainstream clubs to introduce the world to combo brazing, which is where the CB1 name originates. Brazing is the process of joining two metals with a filler material at a lower temperature (lower than the other two metal’s melting points) to creating one piece. It’s similar to welding but is a lot cleaner, saves weight and is an inherently more expensive process.

The CB1 had a thin titanium cup face brazed to a heavier steel body to maximize forgiveness and remove any unnecessary weight away from the clubface. This resulted in an extremely fast, extremely forgiving design that launched the Exotics line to where it is today. Like other clubs that pushed the boundaries of technology, it was close to 30 percent more expensive than other fairway wood at the time, but for those who hit it and still play them, the price was more than justifiable.

Adams Tight Lies 

The fairway wood that turned fairway woods upside down (obligatory eye roll) and forever linked Adams with being a leader in fairway design! Adams Golf was just a tiny startup when it introduced the very first Tight Lies fairway wood in 1996 to the golfing world with infomercials.

The “upside-down” head design offered a very low CG and gave amateurs who struggled with hitting shots off the deck renewed confidence. The design and shape were so popular that almost 20 years later, Adams reintroduced the Tight Lies to a whole new generation of golfers with crown and sole slots that made it twice as fast (CT Measurement ) as the original but with the same classic shape.

TaylorMade RBZ

As much as you may have doubted the “17 yards longer claim,” I can say almost, without doubt, you went out and tried the TaylorMade RBZ to find out for yourself—I know I did. Introduced at a time when people wondered “what else can you possibly do to a driver?” TaylorMade pivoted and said, “watch what we can do with a fairway wood!”

The RBZ did everything it said it did by offering more ball speed and more distance to players of all abilities. The RBZ fairway woods were not just faster but notoriously stronger-lofted than stated loft by about a degree (I worked in a shop that measured hundreds of these), which also lead to lower launch and spin to also increase distance. As much as you could say the name RBZ (RocketBallz) was cheesy, which it was, this was the fairway wood that reenergized the entire category of clubs for every OEM.

It can also be noted for being the fairway wood that eventually lead TaylorMade to buy Adams Golf and all of its remaining design patents, including the sole slot.

Nike Ignite T60

This was the club that finally got Mr. Woods away from his beloved Titleist PT and into something with some modern technology. The Nike T60 followed the T40 by adding an additional 20g of Tungsten equalling (you guessed it) 60 total grams of tungsten in the sole of the club to create a low-spinning, fast fairway wood.  It was a deeper-faced design that offered a lot of workability and had a 455 carpenter steel face to do everything it could to push ball speeds.

Nike took a lot of unfounded heat early on for its metal woods, but this club really helped change people’s minds about what Nike could achieve, and like I said Tiger hit some pretty great shots with it (Thanks, Johnny Miller, for the 3-wood mention).

What do you think GolfWRXers? Are there any fairway woods you think belong in the top 10 that aren’t included? Any that are included you don’t think should be? Have your say below!

 

 

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Ryan Barath is part of the Digital Content Creation Team for GolfWRX. He hosts the "On Spec" Podcast on the GolfWRX Radio Network which focuses on discussing everything golf, including gear, technology, fitting, and course architecture. He is a club-fitter & master club builder with more than 17 years of experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour players. He is the former Build Shop Manager & Social Media Coordinator for Modern Golf. He now works independently from his home shop and is a member of advisory panels to a select number of golf equipment manufacturers. You can find Ryan on Twitter and Instagram where he's always willing to chat golf, and share his passion for club building, course architecture and wedge grinding.

39 Comments

39 Comments

  1. MarcB11

    Dec 10, 2019 at 9:49 am

    Great list! I still game the TM V-Steel 3 & 5.

  2. Chris Aucoin

    Nov 13, 2019 at 12:53 am

    I’ve got the exact same Adams Tight Lies Strong 7 as in the picture above (And I got it for $1 at a thrift store).It’s my goto club for 150-170 yds

  3. Brian

    Nov 12, 2019 at 2:29 pm

    Still have and use my Titleist PT 15* with a True Temper X100 shaft. Got it around 2000-2001. Wont get rid of, I still hit it too good and love the look of it. Plus I love all of the looks I get from people that I play golf with! My 14 yr old sons buddies are amazed when they see it! They’re like, “how do you hit that thing”!!!

  4. John

    Nov 11, 2019 at 9:24 pm

    No Burner Tour Spoon????

    • Old Man

      Nov 17, 2019 at 8:12 pm

      The Tour Spoon was great! It could be used off the tee, off the fairway, and even to run up a chip. Wish someone had not stole mine.

  5. BC Golf

    Nov 11, 2019 at 3:35 pm

    KIng Cobra Hyper Steel, Alfie Tour shaft, game changer shot shaper

  6. GolferSrew

    Nov 11, 2019 at 9:55 am

    This is a really good list.

  7. Pelling

    Nov 5, 2019 at 10:06 am

    The Mizuno F50, F60, with Graffaloy Pro Launch Blue shaft, is an especially good club that’s easy to hit and feels solid!

    • Broomsticker

      Nov 20, 2019 at 9:45 am

      I would argue the T-Zoid Forged over the F50 or F60.

  8. Tom

    Nov 2, 2019 at 6:36 pm

    In between the two s2h2 models was the pre warbird but with about the same head as the warbird in size. Only stopped playing mine with a steel shaft after realizing I had flattened out the face. Bought used in ‘97 removed in ‘09. Replaced with a used 906f4 15.5 With a blue graphite design shaft that I had So many sky marks I gave it paint job. Still in the bag.

  9. Ryan trish

    Nov 1, 2019 at 6:31 pm

    Burner 07 TP. Wtf

  10. Andy

    Nov 1, 2019 at 10:43 am

    The Sonartec and V-Steel are all time. I would’ve voted for the Nike SQ2 over the ignite.

  11. Steve

    Nov 1, 2019 at 7:24 am

    I still game an RBZ2 3 wood, it makes me wonder why I carry a driver at all.

    • Rick Kostka

      Feb 12, 2020 at 8:05 am

      The taylormade 3 wood is a fantastic club. I loved it enough to buy a 5 wood also.

  12. Jim

    Oct 31, 2019 at 8:45 pm

    I, at one time, had about 7 Ping Tisi Tec 3wds!! Loved them. Think I still have a couple. I also had/tried just about everyone on this list. ????????????????

  13. Jim

    Oct 31, 2019 at 8:44 pm

    I, at one time, had about 7 Ping Tisi Tec 3wds!! Loved them. Think I still have a couple. I also had/tried just about everyone on this list. ????????????????

  14. Samuel Navarro

    Oct 31, 2019 at 7:16 pm

    wonder what is today’s value of the pt woods , i have driver 3 and 5 wood

  15. paul rooney

    Oct 31, 2019 at 5:23 pm

    sonartec NP99 14 degree aldila nv 75 gm shaft it was great but only for a few weeks quite unforgiving but cult cos of tod Hamilton at troon and he had the hybrid
    mine is in the cellar if any body wants it

  16. Anserman

    Oct 31, 2019 at 3:05 pm

    No 200 smoothie? crazy talk!

  17. John Segursky

    Oct 31, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    Still game my Nike T60 with the stock xstiff shaft.

    For me it is an absolute cannon. No reason to replace it. Love it is the turf and the tee.

  18. Kevbot

    Oct 31, 2019 at 1:28 pm

    I’m surprised the Steelhead or Steelhead Plus didn’t make this list. Man, EVERYONE had at least one in their bag.

  19. Jon

    Oct 31, 2019 at 11:45 am

    King Cobra SZ. I might have to stick a new shaft in my old one and give it another run.

  20. Robert

    Oct 31, 2019 at 11:43 am

    I vote for the Callaway Warbird.

  21. Brandon Reeves

    Oct 31, 2019 at 9:54 am

    As someone said above, Adams Speedline Super and F11 should be on this list. The XTD was a bomber. Personally as good as the RBZ is the Speedline should be there just because it was the first face slot line and it delivered on the distance. JMO

  22. Pat

    Oct 31, 2019 at 8:58 am

    Adams should have been on again with the speedline series. It featured the speedslot tech Taylor Made stole for the Rocketballs. Utimately led to Taylor Made buying and destroying Adams golf. RIP

    S2h2 fairway woods were amazingly pure for such a small clubhead.

  23. Steve

    Oct 31, 2019 at 8:09 am

    Honestly, you could have made it a top 25 list and not had arguments. the list itself is really good, but i think a few that deserve at least a mention are:

    Titleist 906
    Adams 4060 (and really, that whole era of Adams tour heads)
    Cleveland Laucher Titanium
    Callaway Diablo Octane Tour (long Swedish sigh)

  24. Joe

    Oct 31, 2019 at 7:34 am

    11th on the list should be an Adams BTY… that thing was a tiny CANNON…

    • Ryan Barath

      Oct 31, 2019 at 9:16 am

      That was a great head, I had quite a few. The BTY and the BUL also both utilized Combo Brazing to get a Ti cup face.

  25. Joel

    Oct 31, 2019 at 6:21 am

    I had a PT13 as a 25 handicapper. Was hard going. Rick Shiels would be mortified that the Cobra Baffler didn’t get in there. I’ve attempted a few changes but keep reverting back to my Callaway X Type. Nice list.

  26. Justin Wheeler

    Oct 31, 2019 at 1:26 am

    I still game the Exotics CB1. It just works.

  27. Cody

    Oct 30, 2019 at 11:24 pm

    I think you just about nailed this list.

  28. TacklingDummy

    Oct 30, 2019 at 11:13 pm

    The TM V-Steel, Big Bertha, and RBZ are my favorites from the list. I would still play the RBZ fairway wood. I recently hit a RBZ driver paired with a Motare shaft and it was great.

  29. Mark M

    Oct 30, 2019 at 10:26 pm

    The Titleist PT was an amazing club when you hit it well. Punishing when you didn’t.
    My all time favorite was the TaylorMade Burner Bubble Tour Spoon (also 13°). Played it for about 10 years.

  30. loowaters

    Oct 30, 2019 at 9:07 pm

    I still have a Sonartec 5w in the bag.

    I tender playing the PT when it was originally released in the early 90s. Had the original, the bore thru re-release in ’01 (which may have been the last use of TT DG taper tip wood shafts) and I had a long line low 970 (steel shaft model). All so good.

    That Tour Edge CB 1 was the real deal, too.

  31. Elvis Presley

    Oct 30, 2019 at 8:20 pm

    @Dan! So true about the PT 13! My vote is with the V Steel, that was an awesome piece of equipment!

  32. DukeOfChinoHills

    Oct 30, 2019 at 7:38 pm

    The only upside for Nick Price is that he always had a fresh supply of hats.

  33. moses

    Oct 30, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    Wow some really great fwy woods listed. I played with most of them. My favorites were the V Steel Tour and RBZ.

  34. Dan

    Oct 30, 2019 at 5:13 pm

    Great calls on the Callaways and the Tight Lies. In 2003 I tried a PT 13 identical to Tigers specs and my elbows still hurt.

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Equipment

GolfWRX Spotlight: Titleist Vokey SM8 wedges

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What Titleist tells us:  “SM8 features a reimagined progressive center of gravity, which produces the most accurate and forgiving Vokey wedge yet. Using tungsten weights and varied hosel lengths, the Vokey R&D team has moved the CG outside of the wedge head and placed it in front of the face, resulting in increased MOI and exceptional feel.” 

“For the golfer, this means an optimized ball flight and a clubface that simply wants to square up at impact. SM8 accomplishes all of this while preserving the classic Vokey head shape players demand.”

In simple terms, what Bob Vokey and his team have done is gone even further with CG placement and dialed it in to make sure each unique wedge has its own flight DNA. Since most players go with a four wedge system—46, 52, 56, 60, for example—it is essential that full shot wedges do full shot things and higher lofted wedges do their duty around the greens. 

Spin Milled grooves to ensure maximum spin and consistency is also a trademark of Vokey wedges. All OEMs have their version of this, they all work effectively and the SM8 is no different.

Vokey SM8 wedges: Specs and grinds

The grind I was most taken with was the M Grind, which, according to Titleist, is the most versatile of all the grinds. It’s got plenty of bounce squared up and has just the right amount of heel and toe give when opened up.

Overall thoughts

I had the opportunity to test the SM8. My biggest takeaways: the feel, which is solid, the flight on the gap and sand wedges was lower with a ton of spin and the higher-lofted wedges were extremely stable on mishits, especially off of a tight lie.

Do you know that shot that comes out at the toe and floats a bit? Maybe not getting to the top of a slope or carrying some rough? Those shots hold their line a lot better which ultimately could be the difference between a six-footer for par or another chip.

In simple terms, this one was kind of a layup. Of course, Vokey is going to make a fantastic wedge line. It’s the most played wedge on Tour by a bajillion and for good reason. They always have a clean simple look, there are enough grinds to satisfy any golfer—and you can’t argue with legacy.

Truth is, there are a ridiculous amount of good wedges out there by all the big OEMs. I know. I’ve tried em all. But there is something about the golfing public and Bob Vokey that just won’t stop. That’s a great thing. 

 

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Today from the Forums: “Recommend me a 14th club…”

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Today from the Forums showcases our members helping out ewe8523 who is on the hunt for a 14th club. Per ewe8523:

“My home course is fairly short 6050 yards, so I’m not really in a position where I have to hit a lot of long fairway shots. There is one par 5 on each side – 548 and 449 respectively.

Open to other options as well.

Including current specs and avg distance.

  1. Driver – Cobra F9 – 250 yards
  2. 3-Wood – Cobra F7 – 220 yards
  3. Hybrid – Callaway Epic – 200 yards
  4. 5 Iron – Callaway Apex CF16 – 175 yards
  5. 6 Iron – Callaway Apex CF16 – 165 yards
  6. 7 Iron – Callaway Apex CF16 – 155 yards
  7. 8 Iron – Callaway Apex CF16 – 145 yards
  8. 9 Iron – Callaway Apex CF16 – 130 yards
  9. PW – Callaway Apex CF16 – 115 yards
  10. 50 Degree – Vokey SM6 – 100 yards
  11. 56 Degree – Vokey SM6 – 75 yards
  12. 60 Degree – Cleveland CBX – Bunker Only
  13. Putter – Scotty Cameron Newport 2
  14. ?”

WRXers have been giving their suggestions on what could work best for ewe8523, and also discussing what they have found most useful from a 14th club standpoint.

Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

  • heathpitts: “Very similar setup and gapping to my setup. Although my wedge lofts are a bit different. I have wedges at 50, 54, 58, and 62 but generally, only carry 3 per round. I adjust the 54-62 based on where I’m gonna play. I do also have a graphite shafted 3 utility iron that I play around with as a driving iron, but I see that you haven’t really found one that you like. I adjust the 14th club based on the course or conditions or time of year (due to different wedge grinds) sometimes but try to keep it as simple as possible. I think your setup is pretty good honestly. I always seem to score better with fewer options, so I don’t try to get cute with shot selection 🙂 I play 13 clubs a lot of times.”
  • MP4444: “I agree with the others on a club to hit that 185-190yrd spot. Either a hybrid or an iron with extra help compared to the CF16s. I personally have a 4 hybrid and a more game-improvement style 5 iron that I use interchangeably for this spot in my bag depending on how I’m striking the ball. When my ball striking is on, I usually prefer an iron in this spot because my misses are smaller, but it’s nice to have the help of a hybrid when I’m not feeling so on with my game. If you go the iron route just be sure to check out the lofts to ensure the proper gapping. Some game improvement and super game improvement type irons have stronger lofts so you may need to look at a 4 or 5 iron depending on the model. I would also recommend hitting both on a launch monitor and comparing peak height and spin numbers. You are still typically looking to hold a green at this distance, so you want to make sure you are getting enough height and spin to have a chance.”
  • Z1ggy16: “The obvious choice is like a 188-yard club but if you never need that shot… Why spend the money? Other option is like a 64* wedge, but that’s probably going to get you into trouble more often than not. I’d lean toward the 185-190 yard club, probably another hybrid, gives you more flexibility if you play other courses that are longer.”
  • crapula: “Higher lofted Callaway Epic?”

Entire Thread: “Recommend me a 14th club…”

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Today from the Forums: “Best 54/56-degree wedge for a sweeper?”

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Today from the Forums we take a look at 54 and 56-degree wedges which are effective on full shots from tight lies. WRXer, 10of14, is a sweeper of the ball and has reached out to fellow members who have been giving their suggestions in our forum.

Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

  • dhen9: “M grind or ES Glide 2.0.”
  • PowerCobra98: “Callaway MD4 or MD5 with the C Grind.”
  • bsb70x7: “I am a sweeper and a low bounce player. I play Vokey 54 with 10* of bounce (as my highest bounce). You may want to go with 8* of bounce if you use your Lob wedge in the sand.”
  • NYCGolfNut: “I’m the same. M grind Vokey – 8 deg bounce, heel and toe relief. Works great.”

Entire Thread: “Best 54/56-degree wedge for a sweeper?”

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