Five Fairway Woods With Punch and Utility

February 19, 2007

In a world ruled by massive drivers and sleek hybrids, it’s easy to overlook the humble fairway wood. But you shouldn’t. These sticks, especially the ones listed below, are bristling with the same design concepts and craftsmanship used to max out driver distance and hybrid helpfulness. That means it’s easier than ever to find a reliable instrument to smack off the deck, a short tee or rough.

Bridgestone J33

These steel heads have an elastomer insert in the rear to reduce impact. vibration. The payoff is faster ball speed at takeoff and longer shots. A tungsten plug in the rear promotes a high-launch/.low-spin ball flight. $249 (graphite); 800-358-6319 or

Cleveland Launcher Comp

Affixing a lightweight carbon fiber composite crown to a titanium body saved this club 10 .to 12 grams. The mass is repositioned low and around the perimeter to bolster forgiveness and trajectory. A hot SP-700 beta-titanium face jacks up distance. $390 (steel), $390 (graphite); 800-999-6263 or

La Jolla Knife

The Knife helps you carve it out of testy lies. Three rails along the sole increase head stability and decrease turf drag for more consistent shotmaking. Sixty percent of the head’s weight is below the equator of the ball, and that gives shots a lift. $130 (graphite); 800-468-7700 or

Titleist Pro Trajectory 904F

Shifting weight lower and toward the face helps the midsize steel head — 15cc larger than sister 980F — to launch higher shots (by one degree) with lower spin (400 rpm less). This weighting generates a flatter flight than most woods. A two-piece Carpenter steel face perks up mis-hits. $200 (steel), $290 (graphite); 888-TITLEIST or

Wilson Staff FwC

Wilson’s compact steel heads trade a steel crown for a stronger, lighter composite one reinforced with Nano particles. The 10 grams bought by the light crown are redistributed lower and rearward, promoting high-arcing shots and forgiveness. A Nanotech graphite shaft reduces head twist. $299 (graphite);.800-469-4576 or