Finding "Secret Weapons"
One of the great things about this game is that there is always that one more club that can make a difference in our games. Or at least that's what we want to believe. And it keeps us haunting the golf shops and online stores looking for that one club that will prove to be our new "secret weapon". In my own bag, that one club that has proved the most elusive was just the right 4-wood ... and I think I've finally found it.
I've written before that I believe the 4-wood is the most overlooked and under-appreciated club in the game. Or darn close to it. Most golfers, in my opinion, would benefit significantly by swapping their 3-wood for a 4-wood. That extra 2-3 degrees of loft and 1" shorter shaft can pay big dividends.
For most players, the 3-wood serves as "driver #2" on holes where a little more accuracy or less distance is desirable, but it is a horrible approach club, as very few can hit the 3-wood with enough height and spin to hold a green anyway. Those are two shots you can execute better with other clubs.
For that "baby drive" you need on a narrow fairway, with just a little practice I think you will find that a gripped down driver, with throttled back swing will produce the results you are after. A single 15-20 minute session on the driving range can change your world. Just grip down on your driver about two inches, making it 3-wood length. Then make a swing that feels more like a soft wedge shot than a full driver shot. A bunt, so to speak. You'll quickly see that you get a lower ball flight, tighter dispersion and more consistency, while carving off about 15-20 yards.
But, back to that "secret weapon" thing. The 4-wood, with 16.5-17 degrees of loft and a 42" shaft can be awesome. For me, it gives me an approach club from 215-220, wherein my 20" hybrid maxes out about 205. It also gives me a controllable low-loft club for those very low knockdowns from under trees. It's a perfect tee-shot tool on those great short par-four holes where I want precise positioning, or for that second shot on longer par-fives where I want to keep the ball in a precise part of the fairway for my approach.
I'm a fan of building your set where all twelve clubs between your driver and putter are effective approach clubs. I call it "golf by the numbers". For me, the 4-wood gives me that long-range club that I can still hit into a green and hold the ball in place with a minimum of roll-out. But it also gives me a club I can turn over into a baby draw off the tee or when I want a little more roll-out.
Your "secret weapon" may be just the right hybrid, or a different driver, or a new putter. Could be a full set of precision scoring clubs to replace your 6-iron-looking 9- and p-club and "just wedges". Or it could be a new 4-wood.
Oh, that new "secret weapon" of mine? It's a Ping Anser 16.5, which I reshafted with a UST Mamiya AxivCore.
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Terry - this article really hits home with me. Years ago I read an article in a golf publication urging most amateurs to ditch their 3 wood for a 4 wood. Their reasoning at the time was due to modern technology, many will get the same distance (assuming your 3 wood isn't brand new), more accuracy and an easier club to hit when not on the tee box, everything you repeat here. About a week later I went and traded in my old TaylorMade 200 Steel 3 wood (which I loved) for a McGregor MT2008 4 wood (16.5 degrees) and for about 5 years that club served me amazingly well. Not but two weeks ago, I traded in the McGregor 4 wood for a Nike VRs 4 wood (17 degrees) and gained about 5 more yards of carry due to better shaft and more technology.
A refreshing piece, Terry. Well done.
How about considering getting off the fence when it comes to usage of "darn." I don't even think it qualifies as an expletive. It's a milk toast word (no flavor, no spice) used by Sunday School teachers. C'mon Koehler, stand up and commit to "damn." We can take it!
Jrbizzle - I still have the TM 200 Steel 3 wood and love it. I do hit it and hit it well which makes me reluctant to replace it but I do love the idea of a 4 wood instead. I bet with the loft, larger head size and shaft length I would hit a new 4 wood the same distance as my current 3 wood. I did get rid of the TM 200 steel 5 wood for a 19 degree hybrid that goes the same distance and my dispersion has been so much better.
joe jones says:
Terry. As you know years ago the most common set of real woods was a driver- 2 wood and a 4 wood. For some reason the 4 went out of fashion when real woods were replaced by metal. Because I can ill afford to give up any distance I gave up on trying to find a 3 wood that I could hit with any degree of confidence and replaced it with a 5 wood. I re shafted it with a driver length (44 inch) Adilla senior shaft. I am able to hit about the same distance as a well struck 3 wood but the higher ball flight gives me better control. I can no longer go for par 5s in 2 so the trade off is no problem.
Anti-Mulligan - That 200 series is still to this day an amazing club. A few pros still were using it as recently as 2 years ago.
You'll definitely get a little more accuracy with the 4 wood, and you may keep the distance and add a club that's a bit easier to hit off the turf. Definitely worth a test drive next time you're near a club shop. The only drawback right now with 4 woods that I have is I like to buy top condition used clubs, and there is a small selection of 4 woods out there due to their relative lack of popularity. I had to wait a few weeks before GlobalGolf got a Nike VRS 4 wood in stock with the right flex. If you buy new, not an issue.
I went for a custom fitting a year or so back and came away with a Wishon 4 wood 16.5 degree. It's been a very good club for me.
For most average to even better-than-average golfers, a 3W is the toughest club in the bag to hit from tight lies consistently. Key word, "consistently." I ditched mine 3 or 4 years ago and have never looked back.
I now carry a 17* 4W most of the time instead of the 3W (or a 19* 5W on occasion instead of the 4W), and even that rarely gets used from a tight fairway. If the ball is sitting up and the lie is good, I consider using it. Otherwise, my 19* hybrid is my go-to club for any distance over 190 yards. A perfect strike with the 4W might yield 215 yards for me, 220 max from the turf. That same perfect strike with my 19* hybrid might move the ball 200-205 yards. However, the odds of achieving that perfect strike with the hybrid are much much better. I usually play the odds, give up the few extra potential yards, and play the hybrid. It is 9 times out of ten, the smarter play.
Off the tee, I hit my Titleist 910F 17* 4W the same distance as I did my old Titleist 909F 3W. No need for a 3W for me, ever.
I'm not sure if it's a problem, but I'm not sure what to do with my "extra club." Maybe you can help me. I love to hit the driver, and hit it long and accurately - I'd use it on a narrow fairway, and can cut and draw it with confidence. It can be a bit long.
I also still use a 3-iron, and love to use that as well. Punching out from under trees will go to a 5-iron back in the stance. I used to have stiff steel shafted Mizuno 3 and 7 woods, but now with 4 wedges I only have room for 1. The shorter hybrid has proven more useful - especially out of the rough - and I've tried a few of those, even a 1-hybrid. The hybrids are too unlike my other clubs to hit artfully, and like somebody said, the 3-wood was best off the tee.
I suppose a 4-wood could be the answer if it were matched with my driver somewhat - FT-9. Not sure what to do, and don't suggest a 5th wedge!
JrBizzle - Just saw the replay of the 2002 Open Championship that Ernie won. Ernie had on the side of his TM hat the 200 series logo and was using those woods to win right before the 300 series came out. Wow, those clubs are really old. I can't give them up just yet but my next club will be a four wood of some kind that will probably go the same distance. Those 200 series TMs were so of the best clubs they ever made along with the V Steel a couple years later.
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