CRITERIA

Our judges evaluated Hot List candidates in four areas.

  1. Performance ( 45%)
    The utility of a product, or what happens to the ball when it’s struck by the club.
  2. Innovation ( 30%)
    How a club’s technology, including custom-fitting, advances the category.
  3. Look/Sound/Feel ( 20%)
    What the golfer experiences before, during and after impact.
  4. Demand ( 5%)
    The relative interest in a product and its reputation.


All judging is based on a 100-point scale.
97-100 ★★★★★
88-96 ★★★★
70-87 ★★★
51-69 ★★
50 

(L) Low-Handicapper | (M) Mid-Handicapper | (H) High-Handicapper


Callaway Big Bertha Alpha 816
CALLAWAY
BIG BERTHA ALPHA 816 υυ

Performance
★★★★★
Innovation ★★★★★
Look / sound / feel ★★★★★
Demand ★★★

VERDICT Callaway’s most technically rich fairway wood has moving, meaningful parts even beyond its adjustable hosel. A weight-saving composite crown and a wraparound cup face boost ball speed and forgiveness. Extra golf-geek cool, though, are the weights in the sole that let you tune spin and launch.
COMMENTS (L) The ball flight got there, stayed there and kept going. (M) It might be for better players, but it went even when I didn’t nail it.


Callaway Great Big Bertha
CALLAWAY
GREAT BIG BERTHA

Performance ★★★★★
Innovation ★★★★ ½
Look / sound / feel ★★★★ ½
Demand ★★★★

VERDICT This club builds on Callaway’s notable forgiveness technology. The head is larger and more stable, with a springlike face that wraps around the crown and sole, and there’s still that turf-riding Warbird soleplate. The five lofts, three of which adjust across 14 to 22 degrees, help find the right configuration for your set.
COMMENTS (L) I felt like I could be aggressive or swing smooth if I wanted. (H) Understated looks, but this thing is a beast. I don’t play a 3-wood, but I love the trajectory with this one.


Callaway XR16/Pro
CALLAWAY
XR16/PRO

Performance ★★★★ ½
Innovation ★★★★ ½
Look / sound / feel ★★★★
Demand ★★★★★

VERDICT This club features the thinnest cast crown Callaway has ever made. That matters for you because it pushes the centre of gravity lower, giving you a higher launch and forgiveness. Throw in the wraparound face and larger size, and you’ve got more room to miss and still get playable distance.
COMMENTS (L) Perfect size. The shallow face makes it easy to hit off the turf. (M) Driver in sheep’s clothing: good distance, but as easy to hit as a 3-wood.


Cobra King F6
COBRA
KING F6

Performance ★★★★★
Innovation ★★★★★
Look / sound / feel ★★★★★
Demand ★★★ ½

VERDICT The two weights on the sole can turn this into two clubs. Placing the 20-gram tungsten weight forward produces a penetrating flight with less spin. If you don’t feel like being a hero, flip the three-gram weight in front for a higher trajectory and a heck of a lot more forgiveness.
COMMENTS (L) The ball jumps off the face. (M)  Looks sharp, and the low profile gave me confidence at address. Has a subtle yet explosive sound.


Cobra King LTD
COBRA
KING LTD

Performance ★★★★ ½
Innovation ★★★★ ½
Look / sound / feel ★★★★ ½
Demand ★★

VERDICT That see-through portal on the sole will get your attention, but its mass and location do the real work, lowering the centre of gravity for less spin and a better energy transfer. The portal also saves weight to allow room for a tungsten internal weight to boost ball speed at impact. Finally, it lets you look inside to see the high-strength steel face.
COMMENTS (L) Sneaky long. (M) I liked the mid- trajectory flight. (H) Glides across the turf and makes good contact.


Nike Vapor Fly
NIKE
VAPOR FLY

Performance ★★★★ ½
Innovation ★★★★ ½
Look / sound / feel ★★★★ ½
Demand ★★ ½

VERDICT Designers thinned out multiple areas in the face, crown and sole to save weight and increase distance. That weight has been redistributed low and around the outside of the sole through Nike’s trademark cavity design for extra forgiveness. Also improved are shots hit lower on the face, thanks to a wider leading edge and a deeper, more flexible sole channel.
COMMENTS (L) It seems like a players club that’s easy to hit. (H) A little higher ball flight, but the distance doesn’t suffer.


Ping G
PING
G

Performance ★★★★ ½
Innovation ★★★★ ½
Look / sound / feel ★★★★ ½
Demand ★★★★★

VERDICT If you can’t get your fairway woods up in the air the way you’d like, Ping has a solution. Engineers lowered the leading edge so that your impact position is 12 per cent higher and your centre of gravity is lower. Both of those mean you can launch the ball higher without any swing changes. A hot, high-strength steel face also helps.
COMMENTS (M) It has that straight, high ball flight that doesn’t balloon. (H) Love the low-profile head. It has an awesome wood-bat home-run sound.


Taylor M1
TAYLORMADE
M1

Performance ★★★★★
Innovation ★★★★★
Look / sound / feel ★★★★★
Demand ★★★★ ½

VERDICT This is the most adjustable fairway wood TaylorMade has ever made. Between the sliding weights (to tweak ball flight left or right) and the 4-degree range of lofts on the hosel, you can create just about any flight you want. Also notable is the carbon-composite crown, which lowers the centre of gravity so shots launch with more energy and less spin.
COMMENTS (L) Make sure you take advantage of the weights. They can’t help you if you don’t use them. (M) Good, penetrating, aggressive flight.


Taylor M2
TAYLORMADE
M2

Performance ★★★★ ½
Innovation ★★★★ ½
Look / sound / feel ★★★★ ½
Demand ★★★★★

VERDICT It has the same kind of composite crown as the M1, but flip it over and you’ll see the difference. Instead of movable weights, there’s a channel that stretches the width of the face. It increases ball speed and launch angle. It also helps the all-too-common fairway wood miss: the low, thin shot.
COMMENTS (L) Has that typical sweet feel of an old wood, with today’s forgiveness technology. (M) A muted sound, but you still feel the hot face.


Titleist 915F/915Fd
TITLEIST
915F/915Fd

Performance ★★★★★
Innovation ★★★★ ½
Look / sound / feel ★★★★ ½
Demand ★★★★ ½

VERDICT Turns out not all sole channels are created equal. That slot in the Titliest fairway wood might look just like the one in the driver, but it isn’t. It’s narrower, deeper and positioned closer to the face for better flexing and more spin control. Of the two models, the more compact Fd produces a lower ball flight that spins less.
COMMENTS (L) The head shape is perfectly compact, and the ball flight was very controllable. (M) I like the traditional look. Hits were solid and efficient.


Mizuno JPXEZ
MIZUNO
JPX EZ

Performance ★★★★
Innovation ★★★★
Look / sound / feel ★★★★
Demand ★★

VERDICT Those ridges on the sole aren’t exactly like the slots that you’ve seen on other clubs. Sure, they help the face flex at impact  for more distance. But they’re also shallower and wrap around the heel and toe to provide more mass that’s lower within the head and more perimeter weighted for higher launch and forgiveness.
COMMENTS (L) Flight mid to high and penetrating. Anybody could use this club. (H) The name doesn’t lie. It’s easy. You’re getting a ton of forgiveness.


Tour Exotics EX9/Tour
TOUR EDGE
EXOTICS EX9/TOUR

Performance ★★★★
Innovation ★★★★★
Look / sound / feel ★★★★
Demand ★★

VERDICT These fairway woods focus on speed at impact, both at the ball and through the turf. It starts with two hot faces: ultra-high-strength steel on the EX9 and titanium on the Tour. Speed through the ground starts with all those ripples on the soles. They improve turf interaction. The fairway (or rough) that you’re hitting from is never perfectly flat, so why should your sole be?
COMMENTS (L) Has a nice pop. Didn’t have to try to kill it to get it to work. (M) Piercing flight and cuts through the turf well. The wavy sole seems to help from the fairway.


Yonex Ezone XPG

YONEX
EZONE XPG

Performance ★★★★ ½
Innovation ★★★ ½
Look / sound / feel ★★★★
Demand  ½

VERDICT
Twenty grams of tungsten powder in the butt of the grip counterbalances the club; weight shifts the balance point closer to your hands to bolster your control of the club for more swing speed. The lighter composite crown frees up weight to lower the centre of gravity for a higher launch, and the adjustable hosel alters loft by plus or minus 1.5 degrees across eight settings.
COMMENTS (L) Nice compact head; sits clean at address. (M) Forgiving, and I got good height. (H) Perfect trajectory to give you optimal distance.