- Phil Mickelson uses an updated X2 Hot 2Deep this season which is part of Callaway's new fairway woods lineup. (Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Patrick Reed isn't short on distance, averaging just over 292 yards off the tee during the 2013-14 season. But following a Wednesday practice round at the RBC Heritage, the three-time PGA TOUR winner decided to make an interesting equipment change, swapping his Callaway Big Bertha Alpha driver for the company's X2 Hot 2Deep fairway wood.
Sacrificing distance for accuracy goes against the bomb and gouge mentality of professional golf, but it didn't take Reed long to notice that Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the the RBC Heritage, puts a premium on keeping the ball in play.
Realizing that his driver was likely too long for the 7,101-yard course, Reed opted to go with the 2Deep — the fairway wood was introduced in March and has a head that's 203-cubic centimeters — a club that was designed to be used almost exclusively off the tee with a larger head and deeper face than Callaway's standard X2 Hot fairway woods.
“After walking four or five holes with (Reed) on Monday, it really had the super penetrating, flat ball flight that was way underneath the top of the tree line and really had the perfect trajectory to avoid a lot of these swirling gusts (at Hilton Head),” said Callaway Tour Rep Mike Sposa. “It’s such a perfect club for a course like Hilton Head.”
Reed also preferred the fairway wood because it gave him the best chance to work the ball, hit different shots and, hopefully, find the fairway on the tight, tree-lined layout.
If Reed's decision to go driverless sounds familiar, it's because a number of players in the last year have done the exact same thing, including fellow Callaway staffers Phil Mickelson and Nicolas Colsaerts.
One of the biggest tinkerers on TOUR, Mickelson made the larger-headed fairway wood popular following his win at last year's British Open, where he shelved his driver and used Callaway's deeper-faced X Hot 3Deep off the tee.
Colsaerts, one of the longest hitters on TOUR, followed Mickelson's blueprint at the PGA Championship, removing driver and making 3Deep the longest club in his bag.
Mickelson has since switched to an updated X2 Hot 2Deep fairway wood this season, which happens to be the same club Reed had in the bag at the RBC Heritage. X2 Hot 2Deep is part of Callaway's new lineup of Deep fairway woods that's comprised of three models — 2Deep, 3Deep and 5Deep.
All three clubs feature a high-strength Carpenter 455 forged face cup and Hyper Speed face that's thinner and more responsive for improved ball speeds. A flatter roll radius was also added to make the clubs more forgiving from the fairway and tight lies, but the primary use, especially for 2Deep and 3Deep, is still as another option off the tee.
Along with Callaway, TaylorMade launched SLDR Mini Driver on TOUR at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. The larger-headed, taller-faced fairway wood comes in at 260-cubic centimeters — the standard head on the standard SLDR 3-wood is 155cc -- and is designed for players that primarily hit their 3-wood off the tee and are looking for distance, workability and control.
Similar to the SLDR fairway wood line, SLDR Mini Driver features a low and forward center of gravity (CG) that reduces spin, and the company's Speed Pocket technology that flexes effectively at impact for increased ball speeds.
The clubs have already been accepted on TOUR by a handful of players. Troy Matteson put two Mini Drivers (10.5 and 12 degrees) in play at the Valero Texas Open, noting that he felt like both clubs gave him additional control off the tee and from the fairway, without sacrificing distance.
J.B. Holmes, Padraig Harrington and John Daly recently added the club, while Justin Rose considered putting it in play at the Masters before sticking with his current setup.
And then there's PING Rapture, the only deep-faced fairway wood that has a titanium head. The multi-material fairway wood checks in at 219-cubic centimeters and has a Ti-8-1-1 titanium body and beta-titanium face that's 30 percent stronger than standard titanium and enlarges the hitting surface for increased forgiveness, while accelerating ball speeds.
PING engineers also added a tungsten sole plate to boost MOI. The plate is almost 25 percent of head mass and shifts the CG lower in the head and improves forgiveness and lowers spin.
Daniel Chopra became the first player to put Rapture in play at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans after noticing an improvement in distance and forgiveness when compared to his previous fairway wood.
Aside from the larger head and deeper face, all three clubs are built standard at 43.5 inches. While the length of the shaft may not seem like a big deal, it's worth noting that 43.5 inches is just 1 1/2 inches away from being the length of a standard driver shaft.
With players like Mickelson, Reed and Matteson sacrificing distance for accuracy, it's worth asking the question: Does the larger-headed fairway wood have a long-term future on TOUR? Or is it merely a trendy course-dependent option?
According to Evan Gibbs, Callaway's senior product performance manager, the club won't replace the driver for most players. It will, however, remain a serious contender — especially at major championships — for those that are searching for versatility and accuracy in a more forgiving package.
"If you look at a player like Phil Mickelson, he was looking for a club that could hit certain shots that he couldn't with his driver," Gibbs said. "It wasn't just the accuracy or distance component of these clubs that made him switch but rather the different shots that he could produce with the club.”
"I think others are just starting to realize there's some truth to that. Most amateurs aren't look for that fidelity in shot shaping quite like the pros are, and that's what I think a lot of these clubs provide. They're able to hit shots that they normally couldn't with their driver. I think that's a big reason why we'll see these clubs hang around."