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Fairway Reviews

TaylorMade RBZ Stage 2 Fairways: Editor Review

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Pros: TaylorMade’s RBZ Stage 2 Fairway Woods offer even more of the ball speed that made the original RocketBallz fairway woods famous, but it’s housed in a smaller, more forgiving package that improves versatility off the ground and light rough.

Cons: Adjustability is only available in the Tour model. We’d also like to see shaft options that weigh more than 50 or 60 grams, like the Matrix RUL in the Stage 2 Tour TP, which is about 75 grams.

Bottom Line: TaylorMade’s Stage 2 Fairway Woods are better than the originals in every way. We love the Tour models, which have a 3-degree range of adjustability and a medium face depth that makes them just as much of a threat off the ground as they are off the tee.

Overview

The improvements TaylorMade has made to its newest line of RocketBallz fairway woods, the RBZ Stage 2, are pretty awesome.

The new face material, RocketSteel, is 38 percent stronger than the 455 Carpenter Stainless Steel that was used in last year’s models. The Speed Pocket, or slot in the sole, has also been improved to make the fairway woods even hotter and more forgiving.

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According to TaylorMade, those changes add up to an extra 10 yards of distance over last year’s RBZ fairway woods, which is astounding considering how far they went for some golfers.

But some is the key word, because not all golfers were a fit for the original RBZ models. For many golfers, especially those with shallow or slow swings, the original RBZ fairway woods were almost unplayable off the ground because of their large, deep-face construction.

Photo: The Tour model of TaylorMade’s RBZ Stage 2 Fairway Woods (bottom), is lower launching and lower spinning than the standard model. It also has a slightly deeper face.

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TaylorMade has fixed that problem with the RBZ Stage 2, which are hotter and more playable than last year’s models.

Stage 2 (non-Tour): $219.99

Stage 2 Specs

 Stage 2 Tour: $249.99 (Stage 2 Tour TP has the same head with Matrix RUL shaft for $349.99)

Stage 2 Tour Specs

Performance

The average club-head speed for a PGA Tour player with a 3 wood is around 105 mph. Because of that speed, Tour players usually required less loft in their fairway woods, which lowers their launch and spin to create a flatter, more playable trajectory. But we’ve seen a reversal of that trend since the popularization of high-COR fairway woods, which are launching the ball with more speed and less spin than fairway woods of the past.

rocketballz stage 2

Last year, several of TaylorMade’s staff players ditched their 13-degree and 14.5-degree fairway woods for a tour only RBZ “Tour 4” model. The Tour 4 had the loft of a 4 wood, but because of the high-speed, low-spin nature of RocketBallz, it launched the ball more like a 3 wood.

This year, TaylorMade brought the Tour 4 to retail in the RBZ Stage 2 line, calling it a “3HL Tour,” which is the model we’ve seen quite a few of TaylorMade’s staff players using this year. Because of the Stage 2 Tour’s higher launch, smaller size and shallower face, we’ve also seen more of the 14.5-degree models on tour.

Photos of the RBZ Stage 2 Tour 3HL (16.5 degrees when set in neutral)

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Our high swing-speed tester (swing speed between 106 and 109 mph in testing) tested the 14.5-degree Stage 2 Tour model on our in-house FlightScope with a UST ProForce VTS 85X Red shaft at 43 inches. He had struggled in 2012 with a TaylorMade RBZ Tour 13-degree model with the same shaft, which basically became a tee-only club for him because of its low launch, low spin and deep face.

Even with the smaller, shallower-faced RBZ Stage 2 model, our tester was still not producing a high enough launch and spin for the club to be a true threat from the fairway. But the beauty of the Stage 2 Tour fairway woods is that they have a 3-degree range of adjustability, which can be tweaked in 0.5 degree increments. He increased the loft from from 14.5 to 15.5, which gave him the launch and spin numbers he was looking for.

Looks and Feel

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Did adjusting the loft change the face angle? Absolutely. But all of TaylorMade’s 2013 woods come with a face angle that is about two degrees open, or “visually square,” as TaylorMade calls it. That means that when our tester added 1 degree of loft to the club, he closed the face, which made the club closer to square at address. Did he notice that the club had a tendency to draw? Yes, a little, but he liked it.

stage 2 review

If he wanted a more open face angle at address, which would have given him more of a fade bias, he could have opted for a 3HL Tour model and lowered the loft to 15 or 15.5 degrees. That would have given him a face angle that was more than 2 degrees open if he so preferred.

Another improvement of the RBZ Stage 2 fairway woods is the sound, which is more muted in both the Tour and non-Tour models than last year’s RocketBallz. Last year’s models made a distinct “crack,” which sounded a bit puny on misses. The Stage 2 fairway woods offer a quieter “thwack,” which makes a more consistent sound on hits across the face.

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A lot has been made of the yellow and grey graphics on top of the RBZ Stage 2 fairway woods, but we think they’re pretty much a non-factor. They’re subtle enough and far enough away from the face that we didn’t pay them much attention.

The Takeaway

Slower swingers will gravitate toward the higher-launching, higher-spinning non-Tour model, which like its predecessor offers plenty of ball speed and forgiveness. But for faster swingers, it’s the Stage 2 Tour fairway woods that will shine.

TaylorMade was the first major OEM to break ground into the high-COR fairway wood category with the original RocketBallz, and we applaud the company for making the second generation of those fairway woods adjustable. It allows serious golfers to tune launch and spin to their desired levels, as well as the ability to change directional bias based on specific course setups.

Need a high draw from your 3 wood for a certain hole? Crank up the loft. Need a low fade for a certain course? Bring the loft down.

We anticipate that future models of TaylorMade fairway woods will give golfers an increased amount of adjustability, but we’re pleased for now.

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15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. sam

    Jan 12, 2014 at 4:18 am

    I’m keen as on a 3hl

  2. Pingback: New TaylorMade SLDR Fairway woods & Hybrids have arrived! | Niakwa News

  3. jesusdelallata

    Dec 15, 2013 at 9:25 am

    I usually don’t write comments, but I felt i needed to share this with people who are like me and love to read review after review before buying new equipment.

    I just bought the stage 2 3wood and it hits amazingly. Great distance, great feel, great trajectory. I switched from a burner superfast 2.0 3 wood because it tended to fly way too high with too much spin. I read that the speed pocket makes this club spin less and after playing a round on a golf course where I hit five times from the tee with a three wood, I was convinced that this is a better club then what I had before.

    The graphics are NO BIG DEAL. They did not distract me. I got used to them immediately. I just love the way this club launches the ball. One of my playing partners hits the ball fairly far and on our drives I was only 10 yards behind him (he hit driver I hit my new 3 wood). I definitely recommend this club.

  4. markb

    Nov 7, 2013 at 1:37 am

    I’ve hit all the variants of the Stage1 and most of the Stage2. I agree that the Stage1 3 wood hits the ball too low off the deck. The Stage2 was a bit better, but I still had to move up to the HL to get a good launch angle. One thing they don’t tell you — the Tour woods have smaller heads and much less snap. I lost 15 yards on the Tours, so I switched back to the HL 17 degree 3 wood and 21 degree 5 wood.

    • FCruz

      Sep 7, 2014 at 10:54 am

      The “Much less snap” you mentioned is NOT the head, it is the shaft that is stiffer and heavier (firmer tip). I have tested Tour and Non Tour and found the Tour version going a full 7 to 15 yards longer when using the SAME shaft. A 60 gram shaft wil always have more “Snap” than a 70 or 80 gram from the TP line. Usually more snap = higher trajectory = longer = less control.

  5. Jeremy

    Sep 30, 2013 at 12:53 am

    6’2 200lbs, early 40’s – I’ve always been long with borderline fast swing speed, but never very accurate with the driver. Recently replaced my Ping G20 with the 13 degree Stage2 3w and I am hitting straighter and just about as far as the G20. I love the 3w and hitting it consistently 265/280 in fairway- Better than 295 in the trees! I look forward to my index dropping a few points by next year. The way I see it, a tough par-4 420 yds is 8i-9i in and short par-4’s, I can go w/ my gap wedge. Good Swinging!

  6. Rob

    Aug 10, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    Just bought the Taylormade stage 2 fairway wood and to be honest it has left me disappointed. I play off a 10 handicap yet seem unable to hit the ball off the ground when hitting a fairway shot. On closer inspection of the 15 degree head it actually looks steeper than my 10.5 degree drive and Im beginning to think its a manufacturing error or maybe I should have bought the high loft 17° version.

  7. Ken

    Aug 8, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    The slot is not new to TM as was stated in the initial article. Adams had the slot years before anyone else did and I dare say the reason TM bought Adams is for the slot technology of which the patent has not expired on.

  8. David Clark

    Jul 19, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    This club is long. Yes, it sets up square.

  9. Biz Markie

    Jul 3, 2013 at 11:47 pm

    Does the non-tour have a square set up?

  10. Simon

    Jun 9, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    Looking to buy driver, woods and hybrid….

  11. Simon

    Jun 9, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    I have spent all day reading reviews of the RBZ Stage 2 non-tour vs tour and still very confused which on to opt for. Hcp 15. Not a fast swinger. Like the idea of adjustability but will the shallower face and smaller head be less forgiving right now for me?

  12. Sean

    Jun 7, 2013 at 11:45 pm

    I’m very happy with mine…I have three of them.

  13. Gil Leonard

    May 13, 2013 at 7:30 am

    I am waiting for my Tour 3HL to be delivered. it is due in any day. Like the looks and adjustability factor. Have R1 and Tour 2 hybrid already. TaylorMade makes great clubs which help us amateurs play to our potential.

  14. Jay

    May 4, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    think i will just stick with a re-shaft on my Ping G20 3w

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Equipment

Members Choice: The Best Fairway Woods of 2017

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In this edition of Members Choice, we attempt to answer the question, “What’s the best fairway wood of 2017?”

Admittedly, it’s a bit of a loaded question since golfers use fairway woods for different reasons and in different situations on the course. Some use a fairway wood strictly as an alternative to their driver off the tee; other golfers use them almost entirely as approach clubs from the turf on long par fours and par fives; the rest use fairway woods for some combination of both situations. So are we looking for the longest and straightest fairway wood, or simply the most accurate and forgiving?

The best way to determine the best fairway wood, therefore, is to pose that question to golfers who have hit them all and let them decide. Thus, we have Members Choice: The Best Fairway Woods of 2017, where GolfWRX Members describe their experiences with the latest fairway woods. With in-depth descriptions from their testing, GolfWRX Members illuminate the pros and cons of each fairway wood, providing the real information you need when making your purchasing decisions.

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Our advice when reading through this story is to think about what you want from your fairway wood. Do you want max distance, max forgiveness, or a combination of both? The feedback from GolfWRX Members on each fairway wood will lead to toward a few models that match your needs and desires. Then test them out for yourself. Everyone interprets the performance of golf clubs differently, so personal testing and professional fittings are imperative, especially in this particular category. View the full results from the poll testing here

Note: Responses from GolfWRX Members have been minimally edited for brevity and clarity. 

Callaway Steelhead XR (4.08 percent)

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  • SwingMan: I recognize that the Steelhead XR is late to the game, having just entered the market, but for a club that does everything well for GI and Players (the + models), they are long rocket launchers. Light, hot feel with pleasing metallic crack, deep face for ease off the tee, low CG (center of gravity) for ease off the deck, rounded sole gives you versatility from rough and bunkers. Forgiving and long. J36 carbon weave crown moves weight low. Because of the deep face with lot of bulge you need to lay it on the ground and it sits square. Take care when you pick it up so as not to close it. I hit it long off the tee with an R-Flex, obtaining 260-270 yards under favorable conditions — this club produces an urgent, direct trajectory with loads of roll in the lower lofts. Off the deck, 220+ with light wind; against a strong wind, 200. This club is surprising. Even the 7 wood off the deck with a higher trajectory gives you great yardage. Only caveat is that if you are in low speed range and insist on a 3 wood, you may want to order a high launch shaft instead of the mid-launch Tensei. But that’s the same advice with all 3 woods — you must be able to launch them. Callaway has several no cost shaft options. Otherwise, go with the 5 and 7 woods, which are loooong and versatile. The + models, for players and pros, are more weight forward and fade bias and arrive with a 65 Tensei CK Blue fairway shaft — smoother than the CK Blue driver shaft.
  • DWtalk: I just finished testing the 15-degree Callaway Steelhead with the Tensi Blue shaft, and it’s a great club. It’s long and my misses are either a little right or left, but very solid. I also have a 15-degree M2 that is very good also with the stock shaft but I’m going to reshaft it with the Tensi blue. You couldn’t go wrong with either club.

Further Reading: Callaway upgrades a classic, introduces Steelhead XR fairways

Titleist 917F3 (5.28 percent)

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  • Peanut191: I thought the Titleist F3 was the best combination of looks and feel, but they didn’t offer a 16.5 version, so I ordered the M2 Tour HL. I thought the M2/M2 Tour were the best distance wise, with the Callaway Epic, then the Titleist 917F3 just behind.
  • II PigBimpin II: I used to be a Taylormade loyalist when it came to woods, but I recently switched to a Titleist 917F3 15-degree and it has single handedly put me in prime position to make three eagles within two weeks. Very predictable ball flight and distance, easy to hit off the deck.
  • DuckHook02: I did try the Titleist 917F2, and if I was using it off the deck more, I’d probably gravitate towards the F2 and it’s shallow profile. However, I like the more compact look of the F3 and the lower ball flight it produces.

Review: Titleist 917F2 and 917F3 Fairway Woods

Cobra King F7 (6.40 percent)

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  • Steveko89: I didn’t do nearly as much testing for my 3 wood after going up and down the racks picking out my Cobra F7+ w/ Hzrdus Yellow shaft. After settling on the driver, I said, “That 3 wood that matches looks pretty slick, let me hit a few with it.” and immediately fell in love. Has a nice traditional note at impact and the ball just flies off the face, especially with the weight forward. Probably could’ve tried a few different shafts, but the stock-stiff shaft works well enough and was able to find one used-mint on the bay for $150. Unfortunately, this was before the Cobra BOGO promo. Most of the positive shots that stick in my head from this season have come with the 3 wood, won’t be seeking out a replacement for a while.
  • carcharodan1977: Cobra F7 fairway, currently playing at 4 wood loft… it’s fantastic. Easy to swing, impact sounds great and it’s a rocket from the fairway and even bad lies. The baffler rails really work well. Such a forgiving club.
  • herbst20: Have played the Titleist 910 fairway woods since they came out. The Cobra F7 finally kicked them out of the bag. I have had an easier to hit whether it be off the team, fairway, or especially out of the rough. I love the baffler technology. I play it at 13 degrees because I am sporadic with my driver.

Further Reading: Cobra’s King F7 and F7+ drivers, fairways and hybrids

Callaway GBB Sub Zero (7.39 percent)

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  • Warrick: The (Sub Zero) 3+ was the first Epic in my bag, and it is never leaving. I have never hit a long club so consistently.
  • Dobbs983: This is a fantastic year for fairway woods. I game the Epic Sub Zero 15-degree, set to 14 degrees. Easy distance, mid launch and penetrating flight. Easy to hit off the deck and a tee. I can move it left and right, if I need to, but why bother when straight and long is so easy. The Titleist 917’s are both very close to the Epic SZ, but not quite as forgiving. They are the best looking of the bunch. The Exotics EX10 Beta is amazingly long and straight and the sole is fantastic out of the rough.
  • belacyrf: I currently game the TaylorMade SLDR fairway woods as I’ve never seen enough improvement from any new woods to make a change. However, IF I were to make a change, I would definitely move to the Callaway Epic Sub Zero. They are so forgiving and their flight is exactly what I like, plus they are long.
  • PreppySlapCut: I was very pleased when messing around with the Epic Sub Zero this week. I was able to launch the 13.5 degrees off the deck, which has literally NEVER been a strength for me. Very impressive stuff from Callaway. The Ping G400 also just seems like the next wonderful iteration from Ping.
  • kejoal11: I put the Epic Sub Zero 3+ in my bag and love it. Long off the tee, long from fairways. I love the ball flight and the fact that it doesn’t balloon on me. Very consistent with the club and by far my best purchase of 2017.
  • golftech: If you like smaller, traditional shaped fairway woods, then Callaway’s Epic Sub Zero 15-degree is the best I’ve played. For that matter, it’s the best 3 wood I’ve had since my Toney Penna persimmon in the early 80s. It’s versatile off the tee and the fairway. I’ve been hitting career shots all season including the 18th at the famous Monterey, CA course.
  • ago33: I’d choose the Epic Sub Zero over the M2 Tour. Adjustable hosel is better, looks better behind the ball and more forgiving.

Further Reading: Callaway GBB Epic and Epic Sub Zero Fairway Woods

Ping G400 (7.67 percent)

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  • Mwiseley10: Love my Titleist 917, I hit it so well off the deck I use it without a tee!
    The Cobra Baffler felt great and has good sound but didn’t purchase. Hit the Ping G400 this morning, it hits great but d*** that profile is low!
  • DNice26: I tried the Ping G400 against my Ping G, both using my own shaft… little to no difference. The G400 looks and sounds better, but any performance benefit seemed negligible from the Trackman numbers I saw. My swing speed is about 109 mph with the driver.
  • PrettyGood: Hit the new Ping G400 fairway this morning. My current 3-wood is the 2016 PING G series, at 14.5-degrees. So, between the two models: Turbulators on the G400 are definitely more pronounced. Footprint of the G400 looks bigger, and it’s a rounder shape somewhat (PING.com says G400 is ~12cc larger). Sole of the G400 does look a bit flatter, but no difference hitting shots. G400 face feels more lively, and it’s louder… but no more or less pleasing to hit, just different. Switching my own shaft between the two, performance looked pretty close… G400 maybe a shade higher, if anything. G400 headcover much nicer, big improvement. That’s about it.

Further Reading: Ping introduces new face material with its G400 Fairways

TaylorMade M1 2017 (7.88 percent)

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  • lowball5732: My TaylorMade M1 15-degree is a wonder! Either off the deck or on the tee — optimal performance for me. My wife swears by her M2. She’s straight and true!
  • Rdarling18: I really hit Taylormade’s entire M family pretty good. I went with the M1 because it was most consistent for me. However both M2 models (M2 and M2 Tour) are very long.
  • AWD430: TaylorMade’s M1 was giving better distance than M2 when I hit them. I do agree that the M2 head on this year’s model seems very big when hitting off the deck.
  • gpleonard: My two cents is the TaylorMade M1 HL 2017 is a monster both of the deck and from the tee… It is a go to club for me on long Par 5’s and on short Par 4’s off the tee.
  • Mob: I have the TaylorMade M1 2016 and tried it against the M1 2017 and preferred the 2016 model for some reason. I know that I am supposed to prefer the newer model, but I consistently hit the 2016 straighter. Distance was a wash.

Further Reading: TaylorMade 2017 M1 Fairway Woods

TaylorMade M2 Tour (8.94 percent)

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  • AThompson_3: Best fairway wood by far is TaylorMade M2 Tour. Exceptional feel, workability, and forgiveness. Great off the tee while also able to launch the ball off the fairway very easily. Fantastic club. Expecting it be in my bag for years to come.
  • Bomber_11: TaylorMade’s M2 Tour would get all 3 of my votes if I could do that. Wins out on distance, accuracy, forgiveness, versatility, and feel.
  • Roadking_6: M2 Tour HL is an absolute beast this far (in my testing).
  • halfsumo: M2 Tour: best look, sound, feel and performance. M1: awesome look and feel, I just decided to go with a 3HL version and since the M2 Tour spins less, I went with that to counteract the extra loft. Mizuno JPX900: second best look and feel and best stock shaft of anything out there by far.
  • DeCuchi: M2 Tour. Higher launch and less spin makes it an excellent choice. Forgiveness is on par with other top fairways makes it the cream of the crop.
  • Scratchat50: M2 Tour HL with a Project X HZDRUS 75g shaft (6.5-flex, -1 inch under std). Been searching for a great 3 wood for over 10 years. This is it!
  • john443: M2 Tour is THE 3 wood of 2017.

Further Reading: TaylorMade 2017 M2 Tour Fairway Woods

Titleist 917F2 (10.13 percent)

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  • bazinky: I’ve spent years searching for a fairway wood that I could hit with a consistent shot shape/pattern, and I finally found it in the Titleist 917 F2.
  • tleader: I went from the Titleist 915F to the Titleist 917F2. Found them very similar, perhaps a slight increase in launch and more consistent across the face on mishits. Went with the 16.5-degree so it was an easy decision.
  • MJL313214: I’ve hit the 917F2 at 16.5 degrees a good bit. It’s crazy long compared to the previous fairway woods. I like the slightly bigger look than the 917F3.

Review: Titleist 917F2 and 917F3 Fairway Woods

TaylorMade M2 2017 (12.60 percent)

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  • Gnomesteel: (The TaylorMade M2 2017 fairway wood is) long off the tee and easily hit off the deck with control. Best of both worlds.
  • kush614: My vote is for M2 2017, as well. Gaming a 15-degree M2 2017 with an Oban Kioyshi White shaft. Mid launch, low spin monster.
  • venturagolfer87: There’s nowhere even remotely close to me that has the M2 Tour, but my 3HL normal M2 is as close to automatic as I’ve ever been. I’ve never been able to hit 3 woods, to the point where for the last few seasons, the next club in my bag after driver was a 5 wood that was shortened an inch. The M2 2017 is somehow just as easy to hit, and looooooong.
  • johnnylongballz72: M2 3HL with AD DI 7X; probably the single best golf club I have ever owned.
  • qwetz: I’m playing a 3HL M2 with a Mitsubishi Tensei CK Blue and it’s just a bomber from the deck or the tee.
  • lordemsworth: How do those that have hit Epic fairway feel about the sound? That dull thwack is awful. As another opinion, I found the M2 2017 easier to hit consistently than the Epic fairway. Both from tee and deck.
  • Porsche928: I had the M2 2017 and it was huge too hard off the deck. Never hit the M1 2017 but had the old M1 2016 for a demo and loved it.

Further Reading: TaylorMade 2017 M2 Fairway Woods

Callaway GBB Epic (13.37 percent)

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  • mcgem: Hands down, without a doubt, Callaway’s GBB Epic fairway is the best of this year’s crop.
  • Sean2: I have three Callaway Epic fairway woods and am quite enamored with their performance at 16/20/24 degrees. I am comfortable standing over the ball with any of these woods in my hands. I have no problem hitting the 16-degree off the turf and I find it a very good club on tight driving holes. The 7 and the 9 fly high and land soft.
  • aussieb: Tested the Mizuno JPX-900 fairway wood on a few occasions now and it’s really the best off the deck, adjustable from 13-17 degrees and the sliding weight dials it in, has a great stock shaft and sounds as good as it looks. Ping’s G400 was really solid and forgiving, didn’t spin too much and set up well for my eye. A bit of adjustability and stock Tour shafts are great. Callaway Epic had the smallest head and best ball speeds off the tee. I didn’t really care for the sound and lack of forgiveness compared to the previous two, was dead feeling but that’s mostly shaft I think.
  • leftshot: I went through a thorough fitting at Club Champion last month and had access to most of the heads on this list. So I know the answer FOR ME. Notably none of the top fits involves a club head with the standard shafts offered off the rack.  The results of my testing was:
    1. Callaway GBB Epic: Distance #1 (Tied), Dispersion #1, Off-center hits #1
    2. Titleist 917F3: Distance #1 (Tied), Dispersion #2, Off-center hits #3
    3. TaylorMade M2 2017: Distance #3, Dispersion #3, Off-center hits #2
  • rony10: Epic. Accuracy, forgiveness and flight, distance is very good to.
  • Benkross: I just put an Epic in the bag. I tried the M2, M2 Tour, M1 (2017 and 2016) and was playing a Titleist 915F and prior a 913Fd and 909 F3 before that. The Epic sounded the best and feels awesome. The 2016 M1 was the worst feeling 3 wood I’ve ever played. I’m replacing the shaft in the Epic so I’m excited to use it this weekend.
  • kgeorge78: The Epic looks much smaller than the M2 2017 for some reason and easier to hit off the deck.

Further Reading: Callaway GBB Epic and Epic Sub Zero Fairway Woods

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Equipment

Review: Titleist 917F2 and 917F3 Fairway Woods

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Pros: Dialing in trajectory and spin is more in the hands of the player than ever with SureFit CG adjustability. Feel and sound have improved, and 915 users will likely see a jump in distance.

Cons: If you preferred the black finish, you’re out of luck with the return of silver.

Who they’re for: Everyone who plays a fairway wood should give the Titleist 917F2 and 917F3 fairway woods a shot. They provide everything most golfers want from a fairway wood.

The Review

  • Models: 917F2 (13.5, 15, 16.5, 18, 21 degrees), 917F3 (13.5, 15 degrees)
  • Release Date: Oct. 21
  • Price: $319 (MAP)

Right off the bat, you’ll notice a number of changes to Titleist’s new fairway woods: name, color, center of gravity (CG) adjustability, and if you’re really attentive a change in the Active Recoil Channel. I break down each of the major changes below.

Related: See the results from the Ultimate Titleist Driver Fitting Experience

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What’s in a name?

In its most recent fairway wood releases — the 913 and 915 models — Titleist used the F and Fd naming system. “F” was a larger, more forgiving fairway wood that launched higher and spun more, while “Fd” was a smaller, deeper-faced, lower-launching fairway wood that reduced spin. It was a bit confusing, and didn’t mesh well with the D2 and D3 naming system the drivers were using, so Titleist went to F2 and F3, which is what Titleist used in previous models such as the 909.

If you’re confused: F = F2, Fd = F3 (easy to remember since this rhymes).

Now, the F2 (179 cubic centimeters) is the larger, higher-launching and more forgiving model, while the F3 (169 cubic centimeters) is smaller, deeper and more workable. The relationship hasn’t changed, just the names.

Sure thing

As with the 917 drivers, the 917 fairway woods have SureFit CG technology to give golfers the ability to tweak the draw/fade bias of the clubs. In the fairway woods, the SureFit CG system is also positioned slightly crooked, as seen in the driver, which has the same purpose; lower-spinning fades and higher-spinning draws. When in the draw position, the weight system will add spin to keep the ball in the air longer, and will decrease spin in the fade setting to keep shots from ballooning. The design also maintains the moment of inertia (MOI) of the fairway woods, keeping forgiveness high regardless of the weight setting.

In the SureFit CG system, weight is changed using interchangeable weights* or tubes, made of a mixture of different materials. The neutral weights have a uniform weight throughout, while the draw-fade tubes have a heavier side.

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A Peek Inside: A 14-gram, neutral SureFit CG fairway wood weight.

When adjusting the system, golfers should look for the “+” sign, which indicates a fade setting, while a “-” sign indicates the draw setting. Note that this is opposite of the 917 drivers, as the entry port is on the opposite side (toe side) of the club head in the 917 fairway woods. A solid red circle indicates a neutral setting. Like the 917 drivers, the 917 fairway woods also have Titleist’s 16-way adjustable SureFit hosel, which offers independent adjust loft and lie settings.

*Note: SureFit CG driver weights cannot be used in fairway woods, and vice versa, due to their different sizes. 

Active Recoil Channel 2.0

While the 915 fairway woods had an Active Recoil Channel behind their faces, designed for higher ball speeds on off-center hits, the area was hollow. The channel in the 917 fairway woods is filled with elastomer, helping produce more ball speed across the face and lower spin, according to Titleist. There’s is also a face insert with variable thickness for increased speed on off-center hits.

Another change for the better is the sound and feel of the 917 fairway woods. They have more of a muted sound and softer feel at impact, which is no doubt helped by filling the Active Recoil Channel. Another benefit is that golfers won’t need to frequently clean the dirt out of the channel, as they needed to do with 915 models.

Color

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Titleist’s 917F2 (right) and 917F3 fairway woods at address.

The “liquid slate” finish on the crown is a throwback to Titleist woods of yesteryear, which is something Titleist fans may very much appreciate. Some of the classic Titleist fairway woods, such as the 980F, had a similar gray finish.

Overall performance

So what’s to be expected of the 917F2 and 917F3 in terms of performance? According to Titleist, golfers hitting the 917 versus a 915 should expect higher ball speeds, a higher launch, slightly lower spin and 4-7 yards in increased distance. It just so happens I hit the 917F2 and 917F3 versus the 915F and 915Fd, and you can see the numbers below.

The Numbers

2017TitleistFairway

I took the 917F2 and 917F3 fairway woods to the Launch Pad at Carl’s Golfland in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., where I tested them against Titleist’s 915F and 915Fd models on Trackman with premium golf balls. The fairway woods were set to my specifications (C2 hosel setting, neutral weight setting in the 917 models) with the same Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana Limited D+ 80X shaft. Shots were hit with each club — order was constantly rotated, and outliers deleted — until 10 shots with each club had been recorded.

917F2 v. 915F:

  • The 917F2 generated slightly less spin (-60 rpm) and a slightly higher launch angle (+0.7 degrees) than the 915F.
  • The 917F2 offered more ball speed (+1.5 mph), more carry distance (+1.6 yards), and more total distance (+3.6 yards) than the 915F.

917F3 v. 915Fd:

  • The 917F3 offered slightly less ball speed (-0.8 mph), a slightly higher launch (+0.3 degrees), and a little more spin (+74 rpm) than the 915Fd.
  • The 917F3 increase carry distance (+4.3 yards) and offered more total distance (+6.3 yards) than the 915Fd.

Specs, pricing, availability

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Titleist 917F2 and 917F3 fairway woods ($319 MAP) will be available on Oct. 21 with the following stock shafts: Aldila Rogue M-AX, Fujikura Speeder Pro Tour Spec and Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana Limited D+, S+ and M+.

With the purchase, consumers will receive either a 10, 12, 14, 16 and 18-gram neutral weight (the 12-gram is stock) and a matching draw-fade weight. Additional weights can be purchased for $40, or SureFit weight kits are available for $180 with every weight.

The Takeaway

Titleist_917_fairway_woods_review_917D2_917D3

Any golfer with an older version of a Titleist fairway wood, especially one with a silver finish, will find the switch to a 917 fairway wood an easy and valuable transition.

Not only do the fairway woods offer CG adjustability for fine tuning trajectory, but they also have a softer feel and more muted sound than the 915 versions while providing more carry distance and more total distance. You’d be hard pressed to show me an all-around better fairway wood in the current market.

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Fairway Reviews

Review: TaylorMade M2 Fairway Woods

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Pros: Driver-like ball speeds in a fairway wood that’s forgiving, workable, and the more affordable option in TaylorMade’s 2016 lineup.

Cons: No adjustability. The sound and feel is different than other fairway woods.

Who’s it for: The M2 fairway woods can be played by golfers of all skill levels, from beginners to PGA Tour players.

The Review

  • Available Lofts: 15, 16.5, 18, 21, 24
  • Stock Shafts: REAX 65 (X, S, R flexes), many custom shafts available free of charge.

“1.49? Really? Again? Man, these new fairway woods are amazing.” That was me during my launch monitor testing for this review. I kept getting pretty high smash factors for a fairway wood. To quickly explain, smash factor is ball speed divided by swing speed, and the average PGA Tour smash factor for a 3 wood is 1.48.

TaylorMade_M2_Fairway_Wood_1

I am not a PGA Tour player, so getting a 1.49 the few times I did was pretty impressive, and shows an advance in technology — not that my swing has actually improved.

To say there’s been a revolution the past five years in fairway wood design is an understatement. Hotter faces are the norm now. I’ve actually heard people say they hit their 3 woods “too far,” which sounds absolutely insane. But with fairway woods the way they are now, many are providing the same relative ball speeds as drivers, and just as much distance.

TaylorMade_M2_Fairway_Wood_crown

When TaylorMade released the M2, there was some chatter that it was a price-point fairway wood, and it wouldn’t be as good as the company’s M1 since it didn’t have the moveable weights and changeable shafts. This is simply not the case. The M2 contains every bit of technology as the M1, and while I didn’t test them head to head, the feedback from most golfers has been that the M2 launches higher, spins less and offers more ball speed than the M1. For that reason, it will be the longer-flying TaylorMade fairway wood for most golfers.

When viewing the clubs in the address position, it’s hard to tell the difference between the M1 and the M2. The M2 has the “ball” grooves, where there’s a centering point of no grooves in the shape of a ball. The only other difference is the M2 has a new “fluted” hosel construction, which moves a few grams of weight lower in the club head, and is said to improve sound and feel. I’m also a fan of the black-and-white painted composite crown. It seems to give off a more compact feeling to me, and makes it easier to line things up.

TaylorMade_M2_Fairway_Wood_hosel

The face also sits square, which is a major requirement for me as well. I’ve bought and immediately sold 3 woods that have faces that are closed. I was actually worried about this, as in years past TaylorMade has sold a TP line of fairway woods, which have a more open face angle than standard models. There is no TP model in the M2 line, and what TaylorMade seems to have done is focused on making the M2 sit perfectly square.

The Results

M2v.VaporFairway

To do my testing, I took the M2 out to my course and played a few rounds, and then took it to the range and also had a couple of simulator sessions. The data above is from The Professional’s Golf Shop using Trackman and premium golf balls. The M2 was 15 degrees with a Fujikura Pro Tour Spec 73X shaft at 43 inches (untipped).

On Trackman, I was attempting to hit fade shots off the deck each time. The results are the 10 shots that best represented the fade. Overall, the numbers are pretty consistent. There were a few really good hits that made me say, “WOW!” But there were also several shots in this bunch that I hit thin, and I expected them to come up much shorter. That is until I got the results and was impressed that the shot still carried 225-230. I left those in, as I wanted to show how forgiving this club can be.

On The Course

On the course is where the M2 fairway wood really shines. Off the deck, I was getting great numbers on the simulator, but on the course I was hitting the M2 places where I have never hit a 3 wood before.

I came close to muttering those words “too far” at one point. I used it on a par 4 to stay short of water, and I ended up only a foot short of the hazard. We’re talking 280 to the water! And distance isn’t even the best thing about this club. Well, maybe … the distance IS pretty awesome. But there’s something else that’s really good, too. It goes back to the shape, sole design and face angle. I’m able to work this club with ease around the course. I can draw, fade, hook, slice, everything really easily with this club. Whether it’s from the tee box or behind 40 trees, I’m able to do some really fun things.

TaylorMade_M2_Fairway_Wood_faceBut I do have one negative. It has the same sound and feel as TaylorMade’s other M2 woods, and it’s something I don’t love. It almost feels a little hollow, and not as solid as other fairway woods. After awhile you do get used to it, and honestly I don’t think about it much now unless I hit another 3 wood right after it.

Comparison

As you might have seen in the data above, I was able to compare the M2 to my gamer, a Nike Vapor Fly (15 degrees with the same shaft, measuring the same length) both on the course and on the simulator. The only difference between the two clubs was that the Nike Vapor Fly’s shaft was tipped 0.5 inches.

Overall, they are pretty similar fairway woods. When hitting the fade shot on the simulator, they were almost identical. Both have great ball speeds, both are forgiving, and both pretty easily hit that shot.

TaylorMade_M2_Fairway_Wood_address

But on the course, the M2 ended up being a better club for me. The Vapor Fly has an open face angle, and it is harder for me to work shots both directions. I can hit fades with it all day, but I struggle to square the face and hit draws with it. The best hits on the simulator showed the M2 as the longer of the two, and that showed up on the course as well, especially off the tee. I thought I loved an open face, but it ended up not being good for me overall and my testing proved it.

Conclusion

The M2 is a fairway wood that anyone can play. It’s built with a square face, neutral weighting, and offers incredible distance. It should absolutely be on a list of fairway woods for any player to check out. It has a great combination of everything that I look for in a fairway wood. The feel and sound is the only knock I have.

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