Surviving the Hot List: Season 2

What happens when you drop a golf-crazed Hollywood actor and a retired NFL player into the most grueling gig in golf? At the 2023 Hot List summit, Golf Digest's cameras followed Michael Peña and Danny Woodhead's quest to ace their new jobs as rookie club testers.

Fairway Woods

The best new fairway woods in golf today embrace versatility. They have to. What other club is asked to do the work of your driver off the tee (only in tougher, tighter situations) but also might have to hit greens from farther away than any iron in your bag by elevating shots off bare turf or thick rough or even a fairway bunker? It’s why fairway woods display that unique flexibility to borrow the powerful face-flexing distance capabilities of drivers with the ease of launch characteristics and smooth turf interaction qualities of hybrids and even modern-day irons. Companies continue to break new ground in getting faces thinner than before, and those new face designs, which in some cases even include the use of titanium, not only inject more ball speed to your long game, they also save weight. That extra mass, especially aided by lightweight carbon composite crowns and sole sections in many current models, is often pushed low in the sole to create a center of gravity that launches the ball high so even from long distance shots will still hold a green. What’s just as exciting is how this new crop of fairway woods takes a cue from the developments in the driver category so there’s a greater variety of player-specific fairway wood designs. Need a fairway wood that slices less? You’ve got options. Want a deeper face of your fairway wood so it’s more effective off the tee? No problem. Need a weaker loft on your 3-wood (yes, you probably do) or a stronger loft on your 7-wood? Today’s wide array of head styles and lofts along with increased adjustability settings means there’s a head out there somewhere with a loft at every increment from 13 all the way to nearly 30 degrees. So while a bag full of headcovers might have once been thought of as a sign of weakness or desperation, today it signals sophistication and problem-solving. The section of your bag with the greatest question marks usually comes right after the driver and right before your longest iron. The best new fairway woods these days provide plenty of heady answers.