It’s a lovely feeling when you flush a nice high 5 iron and it lands softly on the green 175 yards away. It’s also an extremely rare feeling for most of us, which is why hybrids have become increasingly popular over the years. But what if I told you there was a club that is easier to hit than even the best hybrids and that can give you the consistency that most of us could only dream of when using a long iron?
If you have never used a 7 wood then trust me, you have no idea what you are missing. I can say this because I have been playing golf for 35 years and until a month ago I had never used a 7 wood. Now that I have, I feel like I’ve wasted those 35 years of my life. I'm not kidding. All those par fives I could have birdied, or maybe even eagled! If only I’d known. If only someone had told me like I’m telling you now. Now that I have one I need to start making up for lost time.
It all started when I saw something on Twitter a little while back, claiming that the average golfer is 80% more likely to hit a green with a 7 wood than with a hybrid. As with most things on Twitter it was not accurate (having researched more thoroughly I now believe the tweet should have said that 80% of golfers are more likely to hit the green with a 7 wood than a hybrid), but nevertheless it planted a seed in my head and all of a sudden I found myself casually scanning eBay looking for a second hand 7 wood.
I saw a couple and made unsuccessful bids because I didn’t want to overspend on what could turn out to be a ‘novelty’ club. I’ve done that before with a 70 degree wedge that I used once before banishing it to the garden shed. Lesson learned the hard way, especially as I also got stung with import taxes as it was from Japan.
Then an email dropped into my inbox from a golf retailer notifying me of a sale they had on. Perhaps I could get a good deal on a 7 wood? As luck would have it, they were doing a deal on Callaway Mavrik (Callaway's 2021 range) fairway woods and so I pulled the trigger on it. I even paid the extra tenner for next day delivery, such was my excitement to play with my new toy.
I headed to the driving range and warmed up with a few easy 8 irons rather than dive straight in with the new club. I wanted to do it justice, for the first shot to be special, so I needed to get loose first. When I eventually reached for the 7 wood, the first three or four shots weren’t quite what I was hoping for because I wasn’t sure what the correct ball position was. Middle of the stance like an iron? Left heel like a 3 wood? Somewhere in between?
Once I figured it out (somewhere in between works best for me) I couldn’t believe how consistent my shots were. Virtually everything I hit went a similar distance. Unless I topped it of course, but that only happened once.
My local driving range is fitted with state of the art Foresight Sports launch monitors in every bay so I could see the data on each shot, and the consistency was crazy. Honestly, there was less dispersion with my 7 wood than there is with my 8 iron. Virtually every shot carried between 170-175yds. The absolutely pure strikes would be around 180, but the ones I didn’t quite get still went a solid 170. There was very little side spin either. If I missed the target it would be due to a push or pull rather than hook or slice.
And the flight is a thing of beauty. So high and so straight. I’m not used to that because, well, I’m not that good at golf. I certainly can’t do that consistently with any other club in the bag.
The funny thing was, I overheard the guy in the bay next to mine telling his friend he’d just bought a 7 wood and was trying it out for the first time. He was a better player than me and I could see on his monitor that his shots were pushing the 200 yard mark. I asked him what he thought of his new club and he was as giddy as I was. He was using a TaylorMade Stealth and his ball flight was similar to mine, only he was hitting it further. The high straight flight of a 7 wood is a thing of beauty though.
We actually swapped clubs for a few shots but if you were just looking at the data on the machines you would never have known. We both had the same flight and distance that we had with our own clubs, which is good because it tells me that I could probably achieve the same results with most 7 woods and that it’s less important to be fitted for this club as it would be when trying to find the best driver for example. By nature they’re just very easy to hit.
Most of the big golf manufacturers now offer a 7 wood so they aren’t too difficult to get hold of, but they aren't that widely available that your local pro shop will have a large range to choose from. Your best bet is the larger golf superstores, and if the option of 'trying before buying' is available then it's always wise to do that, but I'd say it’s not essential. You can just go and buy one online safe in the knowledge that you’ll almost certainly be able to hit it well. That’s what I did with that impulse buy online rather than going to my nearest American Golf store and testing it first!
7 wood versus 5 iron - the data
I won’t do too much of a deep dive into the numbers as I don’t want to bore you, but I’ve got some data from a little range session I did with the 7 wood v 5 iron.
It is a small sample size (10 shots with each club) but I have been back since and hit a lot more balls with both clubs and there wasn’t a huge difference so the data in this smaller sample actually stands up quite well. Let's look first at the 10 shots with the 5 iron.
The first thing to look at is the carry distance and the consistency. If I needed to hit a 170 yard carry I could do it with either club. However, to hit the 5 iron that distance I need to flush it and my success rate in the above sample was quite frankly appalling, even by my mediocre standards. Only three out of the ten shots carried the required distance (or a yard or so short of it, but you get the point) and two of the three were well offline. So only one shot out of the ten would have hit the green.
In fact, of the ten shots with the 5 iron only three were less than 10 yards offline and one was a whopping 40 yards offline, which is hilariously bad. I could have deleted that and hit another one, but that’s not a true reflection as we can’t do that on the course. In subsequent sessions I was swinging it better and the results were improved, but the 5 iron was still lagging miles behind the 7 wood for consistency. Even when I was hitting 5 iron as well as I can we’re still only looking at four in ten strikes going the required distance and only half of those being accurate too.
So the takeaway from this is that mid handicap players such as myself find it hard to consistently hit the required number with a mid / long iron.
The data for the 7 wood is far more impressive.
The worst shot carried 161 yards but the rest were all there or thereabouts. Six of the ten were no more than 10 yards offline too, meaning they’d probably have found the green or at worse the fringe. In subsequent tests the results were even more impressive. I was swinging a bit better and getting closer to the numbers I wanted with both clubs. I was getting there much more frequently with the 7 wood though.
Below is a look at the dispersion data from both clubs. It's a massive difference when you see how scattered the 5 iron shots are compared with the compact grouping of the 7 wood results.
The height of the respective shots is significant too, especially if you’re someone who finds it difficult to get the ball high enough to be able to stop it on the green. My peak height average for the 7 wood based on all the sessions I’ve logged is around 31 yards. For the 5 iron it’s around 18 yards, but forget the average for a second because the 5 iron ‘average’ numbers are always going to be skewed by the number of bad shots I hit with it. My good shots with the 5 iron peaked at about 22 yards of height.
The backspin numbers for the 7 wood are around double that for the 5 iron while the sidespin was considerably lower. In layman’s terms that means you’ll hit the 7 wood straighter and it will land more softly.
So if I’m hitting a 170 yard approach to a green, I can hit that number and land it softly with the 7 wood. With the 5 iron I might hit the number (once or twice out of every ten attempts!) but it isn’t going to stop as quickly because it has a lower ball flight with more run. So therefore the chances of hitting it close are far greater with a 7 wood.
I’ve had my 7 wood for less than a month and already it’s easily my favourite club in the bag. I wish I could use it for every shot because I can almost guarantee where it is going every time. Even the bad shots aren’t that bad. When standing over the ball I feel like I can’t miss with it and I can’t say that about any other club in the bag.
I’ll use it for shots that need to carry between 170-180 yards. I can do that with a 5 iron when I strike it well, but the longer irons are a massive weakness in my game and I can’t strike them well enough, often enough. Probably one out of five shots will be of the level I'm looking for. That’s why I switched it out for a 4 hybrid. I saw immediate results as the hybrid was much easier to use effectively. But I still wasn’t quite as consistent as I’d like (maybe three out of five would be good) which is why that tweet I saw resonated so much.
Some of the world's leading professionals now carry a 7 wood, which at one point was unheard of. You'd see them on the LPGA Tour but rarely in the men's game. Now around 25% of tour pros have a 7 wood in the bag, including Dustin Johnson, Cameron Smith, Patrick Cantlay and Max Homa.
'DJ' was one of the first to do it and such was his stature at the time he almost single handedly removed the stigma attached to the club. It's now one of the coolest clubs in golf and is becoming more and more popular each year.
The leading players have a different reason for using a 7 wood than the rest of us though. They have no problem hitting long irons flush every time, but a 7 wood allows them to hit their yardage while stopping it immediately and being able to hold greens they would not be able to hold with a 3 iron. The high soft flight is ideal for many tournament golf courses. It isn't suited to windy links golf of course.
For the amateur golfer though, having a 7 wood in the bag will help to lower scores simply because it will be a lot easier to hit it consistently than the club it will replace. In my case, the 7 wood replaced my 4 hybrid, which had previously replaced my 5 iron. The difference between the 7 wood and my 5 iron is like night and day. For some of you it might go the same distance as a 4 iron or 3 hybrid, it depends on your usual ball flight and the loft of your clubs.
For the record, Johnson hits his 7 wood 260 yards! The pros really do play a different sport to the rest of us, but the 7 wood crosses over nicely between both worlds.
So when will you use it? It's versatile so it serves a multitude of purposes. You would reach for the 7 wood on longer approach shots into par fours, fives and maybe even off the tee on some longer par three holes. It's also a handy fairway finder if you need a lay up from the tee on a short par four.
The biggest advantage you will gain is the ability to keep the ball on the green rather than have it run through in the way it will with a long iron or even a hybrid. The 7 wood will go a similar distance but it with vastly more height and a much softer landing. It's also a lot easier to get the kind of contact you need on those longer approach shots.
A 7 wood is also far better out of the rough than an iron or hybrid. The bigger head makes it much easier to make a solid contact from the rough, while the longer shaft means it launches higher and spins more. Rough reduces launch and spin, especially for golfers who don't swing as fast as the professionals, so a 7 wood is a great leveller.
The larger head makes it more forgiving than even a hybrid, let alone a long iron. The reason for this is that a larger club head increases stability and mitigates ball speed loss on off centre strikes. So even when you don't quite catch it flush you won't suffer the kind of drop off you'll get from a mishit iron shot.
With 21 degrees of loft a 7 wood is closest to a 3 iron but because of the head shape it is going to send the ball flying higher than even most mid irons. My 7 wood ball flight looks like a wedge on steroids, so golfers who find it difficult to get the ball airborne with their irons or hybrids can benefit greatly from a 7 wood.
It can also be very useful around the greens for golfers who are not comfortable chipping. Instead of pitching the ball up there with a wedge, you can play a low runner with the 7 wood. This works from the greenside fringe or even from 20 or 30 yards short of the green. These are a shots I will often play with a hybrid, not because I'm a bad chipper but because the bump and run is a higher percentage play, especially on firm ground during the summer months.
Regardless of your skill level, the 7 wood will definitely help you and open up a whole range of shots you would not normally be able to play. Many of the world’s top professionals now have one in the bag so the outdated notion that these are for women or old timers needs dismissing. We all want to hit more greens on those long par fours or short par fives, and having a consistently reliable club from long range massively helps with that.
So if you aren’t carrying a 7 wood in your bag, then make it the next club you buy as trust me, you won’t regret it.