Premium 3 Wood Shootout
For a while I’ve been searching for a replacement for my current 3-wood, which is an Adams RPM LP Tour Prototype with 13 degrees of loft, fitted with the awesome Fujikura Rombax 7W06 shaft. It is over five years old, but I have yet to find a club that can beat it. I put it in play at a US Open Qualifier 3 years ago and haven’t even thought about changing it until this year. Considering I picked it up for only $40 on eBay, I would say I got my money’s worth. I set out to test three new fairway wood models designed for better players in an effort to find the successor to the 3-wood throne in my golf bag. After several rounds and hundreds of range balls, I think I finally have a winner.
Over the summer, I traded in a hybrid I won at a tournament for a Taylor Made R11 TP 3-wood, intending to sell it. When the buyer backed out I decided to give it a shot. It has 14 degrees loft and a Fujikura Motore F3 80x shaft. For the testing, it was set up neutral on the FCT adjustable hosel. I recently received the Tour Edge Exotics CB4 Tour 3-wood (15 degrees, Aldila RIP Sigma X-Flex) for review, and Nike Golf sent me their new VR Pro Limited Edition 3-wood (also 15 degrees, Diamana ‘Ahina, X-Flex) at the same time, so I decided to test the Exotics and Nike head-to-head with the Taylor Made. As a control, I used my trusty old Adams.
All 3 clubs are fitted with high quality shafts, and all 3 are very solid feeling clubs. I didn’t notice any measurable distance advantage with any club, but I would need to use a launch monitor to be sure. My Adams went the furthest, but that’s because it has less loft than the others and I’m more familiar with it, having it in my bag for over 3 years.
The Nike VR Pro Limited edition ($229 street price) and Exotics CB4 Tour ($299 street price) produced a mid-level ball flight that balloons just a tiny bit, but it’s predictable. The Taylor Made R11 TP ($299 street price) flew a bit lower with no ballooning (likely due to a stronger shaft and slightly lower loft). All 3 clubs are workable both ways, and they work well from a variety of lies.
The Taylor Made tends to dig a bit and take a small divot, where the others glide over the turf. That is undesirable, and sometimes leads to fat shots and pop-ups. Both the Exotics and Nike look great, with no extraneous marks or graphics, but the Taylor Made is a bit distracting with the white paint, logo and pin stripes on the crown of the club. I’m not a big fan of the White clubs, but if they perform I can overlook it. For the most part, adjustable clubs seem like a marketing gimmick to me, but I really like the ability to adjust the club open or closed with the sole plate of the Taylor Made without having to remove the shaft. The adjustable FCT hosel has settings for lower or higher loft, but this is misleading. (See my note below for an explination) The Nike looks very clean and sharp, and the graphics and sole design are attractive. The all black head and shaft of the Exotics is very cool. I think if Darth Vader played golf, he would probably have this club in the bag.
All three clubs sound great at impact but the Nike’s metallic click sounds the most like my gamer, so it wins the acoustic battle in my mind. However, some may prefer the CB4 Tour’s titanium click sound, which is a little higher pitched than the metal heads of the others.
NOTE: Adjustable TaylorMade Woods & Dynamic Loft
The TaylorMade R11 TP 3-wood features an adjustable design, allowing a player to adjust the club for lower, standard or higher loft. You can also adjust the sole plate to alter the face angle of the club. In theory this means the R11 can play at 13, 14 or 15 degrees of loft, but the way they achieve this is a bit confusing. Allow me to explain – When setting the R11’s FCT hosel to the “lower” setting you think you are reducing the loft of the club from 14 to 13 degrees, but really what you are doing is simply opening the face angle of the club 2 degrees. Using an oft misunderstood concept called dynamic loft, when you open the face of a driver or fairway wood by two degrees and the club returns to the ball square, the resulting loft at impact will be about one degree lower, thus theoretically producing a lower ball flight. Conversely, if I set the club to the “higher” setting all I’m really doing is setting the clubface two degrees closed. When I make a swing and return the clubface back to the ball with a square face angle, the result is a higher dynamic loft of one degree and a higher ball flight. This is one reason why those closed faced, offset, slice-fighting drivers always seem to hit the ball so high. Since the sole plate of the R11 TP can also adjust the face angle of the club at address, you can create a paradox. For example – If you set the hosel on “lower” (open face) and set the sole plate to closed, the club will sit perfectly square, exactly the same as the neutral position. I can also set the sole plate to open, and the FCT hosel to “higher” (closed) and it is the same as the previous two settings. Perfectly square. The two adjustable features can cancel each other out, not affecting ball flight at all. Are you confused yet?
On the range and over the course of several rounds, I found every one of these clubs worthy of going in the bag, but in the end the Exotics beats the Nike by a slim margin. If price is a big factor for you, you may want to consider the Nike. The Taylor Made is a good club and performs well, but it was third in this test. A representative from Taylor Made told me their Superfast fairways would have fared better, so we’ll revisit when I can test the Superfast. Don’t feel too sorry for TaylorMade just yet, because the R11 (and R11 TP) Driver is one of the best on the market, and worth a hit for anybody. Here are my final notes:
- The Exotics CB4 Tour has an edge in forgiveness over the Nike and Taylor Made, making it appealing to a broader range of players.
- The Nike is the cheapest by $70, but the loft options are limited to 15 or 19 in the Limited Edition. You’ll have to buy the regular VR Pro to get the 13 or 17 degree lofts.
- The Taylor Made is ugly. I like a clean, simple look. The the color, graphics and FCT hosel of the R11 TP makes this the ugly duckling of fairways.
- With the option of all three clubs in my bag on the range, more people reached for the Exotics CB4 Tour first. Nuff said.
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