300 Series Fairway Woods:
Bucking The Trends
By Jeffrey A. Rendall, TravelGolf.com Senior Writer
Pop cultures strange sometimes. Every so often, a new consumer product hits the shelves and people go wildthen runs its course, and fades into oblivion. Think about itwhen was the last time you saw a Rubics cube? A Betamax machine? A Polaroid instant camera?
Theres usually a good reason why such a product causes a new sensationits something new and different, gives performance that was previously unheard of, and bills itself as the wave of the future. Inevitably some other manufacturer comes along with something newer and better--the future then becomes the present.
Hence, we now have computer games, videodisk players and digital cameras to replace the Rubics cube, the Betamax machine (and, eventually VCRs) and the Polaroid instant camera.
Not too long ago, a similar consumer sensation hit the golf manufacturing worldwell, actually several sensations. Persimmon drivers changed to metal, and got larger; irons became cavity backed and oversized; and putter heads doubled in height and width (remember Jacks putter at the Masters?). Everything got bigger, all of a sudden. Except for one thingfairway woods. Somehow, those gap clubs between your long irons and driver seemed to fall off the bandwagon, getting smaller in face and profile while also becoming easier to hit.
Didnt really make sense. Most club manufacturers were telling us to buy huge
drivers and larger irons because they inject more confidence, while many of the same club makers were telling us to purchase smaller faced fairway woods because theyre easier to hit. Huh?
Now, however, rationalitys on our side. Some of those low profiled jobs werent quite so hot in certain situations, and the pendulums swinging back in the other direction. Size does matter! But not just biggerplayers demanded a larger clubface to increase playability, while simultaneously retaining the increased utility of the older low profile clubs.
I should know, because Im such a player, and I was demanding something more. I think Ive found it in the Taylor Made 300 Series Fairway Woods.
To be honest, fairway woods have always scared me to death. There had to be some reason why I could hit everything in my bag off the deck except for woods (and my two-iron). Forget counting the driverfor average players, thats strictly a teeing club.
Ive been stunned at how club fitters actually recommend that average golfers use more fairway woodsI thought all thatd mean for me was sculled fairway shots and hundred yard worm burners. But a lot of my playing partners swore by the new clubs. As a result, I tried some of the new low-profile fairway woods and finally found out I could get the ball off the ground.
There were some situations, however, where the small head wasnt such a benefit. If I wanted something less than a driver on any given hole, teeing off with those skinny faces meant I had to tee the ball really low to ensure good contactand I didnt always get that. Finally, if I ever thought of using a utility wood out of rough, the clubs had a tendency to dip under the ball, causing a weak little pop fly to shortstop. Something needed to be done.
Thats where Taylor Mades new line comes in. Tom Olsavsky designed the Taylor Made 300 Series Fairway Metals (both the 300 Series and the 300 Tour), and he says my experiences were typicaltheyre the reasons why Taylor Made created a whole new line to combat the usual problems.
Thereve been a lot of good fairway woods designed over the years, but were trying to take them to the next level. Average players raved about how the shallow faced fairway woods were incredible off the short grass, but the performance slipped some off the tee and in the rough. Therefore, weve created fairway metals with a slightly larger face, while keeping the lower center of gravity that the shallow faced clubs featured.
In order to do that, weve substituted lighter metalstitanium and tungstenfor steel. The switch allowed us to increase the size of the head somewhat, giving the club a little more playability while retaining the benefits of the shallow faced fairway metals, which is the lower COG.
Geezthe terminology brings me back to eleventh grade physics classand reinforces my decision to major in political science in college. But the math worksand because of it, the TM 300 Series fairway woods give average players even more options than their shallow faced predecessors. The fairway series compliments the 300 Series Driver I tested out (the 320 Ti), and now I believe I have the right clubs to replace my old two-iron and 3-wood.
The 300 Series sibling, the 300 Tour Fairway Metalsare also designed to increase performance over the older genre of shallow faced clubsand incorporate many of the workability features found in the 300 Ti driver. I tried the 300 Series because of its design features for the average playera little higher ball flight and slight offset. Youll never mistake my swing for Ernie Els or Tom Lehmanstwo of the many PGA pros who favor the more advanced Taylor Made Tour line (though Olsavsky says its only about a 60-40 split amongst professionals for those who prefer the Tour model over the Series).
I asked Olsavsky why fairway woods werent going the way of other clubsin terms of oversize and the like. He responded, unlike drivers, where you can tee the ball up, fairway woods are often used off the groundand for those situations, more size doesnt necessarily bring more performance. Sure, you want enough face area to play off both the tee and from the fairway, but theres got to be a happy median somewhere.
We actually tried out a larger version of a fairway metal to compliment our 360 Ti model driver, but found it didnt really work, and people didnt want it. So, when we got increased performance with the Series and the Tour models, we didnt find it necessary to force a larger head on a fairway metal.
Taking it out on the course, I looked for increased performance from the clubs over my previous modelsthe aforementioned two-iron and low profile 3-wood. I tried a TM 15 degree 3-wood and a 17 degree 5-wood.
First off, the 5-wood was a HUGE improvement over my old two-iron. Heres where the club fitters are rightjust the looks of the 5-wood brought more confidence at address. Ive always had real difficulty with the two-iron, because I often toed the ball, resulting in a weak slice with little distanceor hit a thin ground ball. It got to the point where I didnt even use it anymore, because the chances of success were so low.
The 5-wood broke that trend right away. Getting it in the airs a cinch, and if anything, I had trouble because I hit it TOO far. I was looking for getting 215 yards or so off the tee with it, and it went closer to 230 yards . The only problem I note with it isI tend to pull it left because of the offset. I correct the problem by playing it slightly farther back in my stance.
My results with the 3-wood werent quite as stellar, but still an improvement over my previous clubespecially off the tee. The slightly bigger face made for more solid and consistent contact. Off the fairway, I still tended to hit low line drivesbut I attribute that to my mental block more than any failings in the club. When I did connect, it was nothing but solid sweet feel and excellent distance. Pure promise there.
I look forward to getting in some solid practice time using these clubsand the results Ive seen make me a believer that better days are ahead for my long game off the turf. I think itll prove that Taylor Mades new 300 Series fairway woods will not go the way of the Betamax machinebecause theyre bucking the trend
The Taylor Made 300 Series/Tour Fairway Woods
Club Designer: Tom Olsavsky
Available at fine Pro Shops and Golf Retail Stores
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