Arne Thomas remembers the moment three years ago when he realized he had found a valuable addition to his bag.
Playing Oakmont Country Club as he carried a 2.4 handicap index, Thomas stood 205 yards a little off the 5th grade. The hole was playing in the breeze with the pin behind the right front vault. Extended shots to a steady, undulating green require two things that seem to conflict with each other. They should be hit long and high enough to stop quickly on the green. Club Thomas took him out of his bag: 7-wood.
“When that ball went up in the air and landed softly on the green, it stunned me,” says Thomas, who is 56 and lives in Sieweckley, Pennsylvania. “I hadn’t been able to go after this pin before. I had to play on the left of the sand and try to run it with 4 Iron. I can ride a long iron for the same total distance, but the load distance and height of the seven wood allow me to carry the greens I would have flipped. It has become my favorite club.”
“Go-to club” is a seismic twist from the days when any golfer who would dare to use one was ridiculed. However, today it is difficult to find a Fairway lumber manufacturer that does not include an option at 21 degrees (typical 7-timber loft) or higher in their lineup. The club has gone from a novelty to a necessity for many golfers.
Data collected by golf stats tracking company Arccos reveals how much golfers of all abilities benefit from 7-wood. The company measured the percentage of greens in regulation for players using 7-wood and 3-hybrid (the most reasonable comparison clubs) across handicap ranges (zero to 25-handicapper) and distances (140 to 220 yards). The percentage of greens in the seven organizations was higher in 28 out of 40 cases (70 percent).
Like many trends in golf gear, adoption on the PGA Tour has helped accelerate momentum with amateurs. Five years ago, only a few 7-woods played on the PGA Tour, but today about 25 percent of tour players have one in the bag. Although about a third of the course still uses a hybrid and another third of the field 2 or 3 irons in any given week, the wood 7 closes quickly, and casual golfers take notice.
“When people found out Dustin Johnson was using one, it removed a lot of stigma and hesitation,” says Chris Marchini of retail golf chain Galaxy. “It has opened up dialogue with a lot of our customers.”
Johnson is just one of many elite players who hold 7 woods. Adam Scott, Cameron Smith and Joaquin Neiman own 7 woods. Patrick Cantlay’s seven-wood shot led to an eagle in the final round of the Zurich Classic in New Orleans, and Victor Hovland and Xander Shaveli use 7-woods on certain courses.
JJ VanWezenbeeck, Director of Player Promotion for Titleist, says 7-wood has grown in popularity among top games for several reasons. “The settings for major tournaments or courses with four par 5s bring part of the experience,” he says. “But sometimes players like Max Homma play 7-wood, and they get to win, and it’s like other players, My goodness, this club can do so much.“
The PGA Tour has always been somewhat of a copycat tour. A two-time great champion like Johnson plays one role that catches the attention of other players, or someone will play another pro on the tour and see them pull a team and hit a shot they weren’t expecting. “When they’re told it’s a seven-wood, it piques their interest, and that’s when we get phone calls saying, ‘Hey, I’ve played with such and such and I’d like to try one. “It happens a lot,” Vanuyzenbeck says.
Ease of use is another big reason. Although many would consider a hybrid beating easier than a 7-wood, Ping’s PGA Tour representative Kenton Oates disputes this. “The wooden seven stick is easier to rotate than the hybrid,” he says. “It has a higher flight peak than a hybrid, and is more consistent with left-to-right ball flights, especially with the way we tend to build it for our cruise staff. We often build 7-woods an inch shorter than usual—41 inches instead of 42. Then We use adjusting the hose and setting it to a large minus or small minus loft setting. For all intents and purposes, we are building 6 timbers in the loft and 9 timbers in length.”
However, convincing players to switch to a 7-wood game is no easy feat. Oates says Neiman, who played the hybrid as an amateur and then as a professional, was hard to convince. But then in 2020, the tour played back-to-back weeks at Muirfield Village. After playing the first week at the Workday Charity Open, Niemann came to Oates before the memorial in search of a high-altitude hybrid because he couldn’t hold the hard green from 250 yards—a needed shot due to Muirfield Village’s four par 5s. “I told him he needed 7 timbers, and he looked at me as if I had three heads,” Oates says. “He’s like, ‘I don’t play 7-wood’ because he was afraid the ball was too high. But we convinced him to hit it, and he loved it, and now it doesn’t even count on the track. He plays it every week.”
7. Wood has other important advantages. It is better than hybrid iron or benefit from ore. With its longer shaft, the seven-degree wood kicks off higher and spins more. This is vital because playing outside the rough position reduces shooting and spinning. It is also more forgiving. When golfers talk about the tolerance of hybrids, they compare them to the corresponding iron, not the wood seven. The 7-wood head is much larger than the Hybrid, which makes it more tolerant of a moment of inertia (which increases stability and mitigates ball velocity loss on missteps) that is much higher.
The success of those who use 7-wood is undeniable. In last year’s Ryder Cup, six players used 7-woods. Since the start of 2022, six winners have been involved in play in the week in which they won. Players don’t simply use 7-woods; They thrive with them.
Johnson had 21 TaylorMade SIM Max 7-wood in the bag when he won the 2020 Masters at the Augusta National and had a perfectly logical reason why one of the tour’s tallest hitters used such a club. “I looked at a 5-piece wooden block, but it kept going too far,” Johnson says. “The seven wood goes from 255 to 260 with the height I need. The gap fits a certain amount of yards. I turned it on in the middle of 2020, and it’s been in the bag ever since. The wood seven gives me more ammo to bring one high and soft on the greens.”
Playability is one reason for the slight increase in the use of the seven wood, but developments in putter and golf ball technology have also played a role. Heavy-gauge balls continue on a less rotating trajectory. While this is beneficial for the driver’s distance, it is not always good when trying to hold the green from a long distance. “High release, low spin” has become as much a part of the golf lexicon as “the lead,” but the truth is that golfers with slow to medium swing speeds often benefit from more spin to help keep the ball in the air and enhance the load distance.
The 7-wood model has other technological advantages over hybrid or tall iron. The larger size provides more striking – and possibly more springy – and room for a low, deep center of gravity that can enhance a dynamic loft. The longer shaft should generate extra racket head speed, and the bulge and twist on the face of the seven-sided wood (compared to a flat-faced iron) produces a gearing effect that returns the toe and heel back to center.
VanWezenbeeck cites Plantu Griffin as an example of a player who immediately saw the advantages. Griffin put out a Titleist TSi2 7-wood at the US Open in Torrey Pines, expecting it to be a one-week fix to combat tough juice. What Griffin found was much more. “He talked about how the 7’s wood allowed him to make a normal golf swing and created so much height that he could attack 5s differently than he had before,” VanWezenbeeck says. “Before, he’d carried a bi-squad, and though he thought this was a great cudgel off a tee, he found himself having to think about the shots and change his swing to get closer to the 5s. With the seven wood, he thinks he can make a swing Ordinary iron-like, firing high, and if he cuts high, it comes on really, really soft.”
Although the increase in tour use appears fairly recent, Oates says it goes back nearly three decades, when Christian Pena, Ping’s director of tour operations, defended the club. Peña played professionally in the early 1990s and early 2000s, mostly in Asia. He won three events and made the cut at the 1995 US Open and often used 7-wood. Its value was known to professional golfers. As a representative for the Ping Tours at the 2013 US Open in Merion, Peña walked the course and decided to build each player from the company’s staff in a 7-wood shape. “Only two players played it that week,” Oates says. “But he continued to push 7 wood hard for our staff. It is to his credit that we have a lot to play today.”
Marchini says he noticed the increasing popularity of 7-wood among casual golfers about a year ago. “We have a large group of relatively new golfers ready to get in shape and build their own bag,” he says. “A lot of mechanics suggest installing 5-wood/7-wood instead of 3-wood/5-wood. We have had a hard time keeping it in stock in our stores.”
As much as the industry wants golfers to hit hybrids, not many players can successfully hit them. Those who have a sweeping swing are in a special struggle. Also, golfers have become more educated over the past several years. They pay attention to where the gaps are in the bag, and installing the loft is now critical to correcting the yardage gaps. In short, the Seven Woods is not a fad; It is a trend. “I’d say for mid- and high-handicappers, 7-wood is almost a must,” says Ken Morton Jr., Vice President of Retail and Marketing for Haggin Oaks, Top 100 Clubfitter in the Golf Digest 100. “Loft is your friend” is a phrase we use a lot today.
That wasn’t the case 35 years ago when, prior to 1987’s Skins Game at PGA West in La Quinta, California, Lee Trevino visited the TaylorMade factory and saw a strange prototype wood-metallic barrel with the number 7 stamped on it.
“This little club turned out to be the best stick I’ve ever had,” Trevino told Golf Digest in 2009. . I hit a bunker 190 yards above water to five feet on the ninth hole of the Skins Game—a shot I couldn’t have played with an iron. There’s no sense in trying to squeeze something out of your swing if you can let your clubs do the shooting for you.”
Arne Thomas, several tour professionals and a handful of golfers are starting to find out exactly what Trevino is talking about.