How PXG’s new Black Ops woods added confidence and control | ClubTest 2024
Welcome to GOLF.com’s ClubTest Proving Ground, where Managing Equipment Editor Jonathan Wall and Senior Equipment Editor Ryan Barath — along with a cast of GOLF writers and editors — put the latest designs and groundbreaking technology in the equipment space to the test on the range and the course.
For 2024 ClubTest, we paired members of our staff with the latest gear from manufacturers to give you, the potential club buyer, real insights from real golfers and their firsthand experience testing new clubs.
TESTER: Ryan Barath, senior editor | 3 Handicap
GOAL: To find a driver and fairway woods that offer more distance through spin control along with a repeatable fade bias ball flight.
THE LOWDOWN: Since being founded, PXG has almost always released woods and irons together in full series, with the most recent being the PXG Gen6 which featured two driver and fairway woods options, along with hybrids and two sets of 0311 irons. But, much like the 0317 iron family (which you can read all about here) which was released a few months after the Gen6 series and geared towards better players, the new Black Ops woods represent new territory for the ever-evolving PXG.
The stand-alone Black Ops line of metal woods has been engineered to deliver the highest performance possible thanks to the introduction of new face materials, new face geometry and a manufacturing processes designed to deliver more consistent results and, most importantly, more distance.
What also separates the Black Ops line from previous options is that although there are two driver options; the Black Ops (standard model) and the Black Ops Tour-1. There is only one fairway wood and hybrid model to choose from. But thanks to PXG’s fitting system and adjustable weights there is no lack of adjustments that can be made to help any golfer find the best fit.
THE FITTING PROCESS: To get dialed into the PXG Black Ops woods, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to head to PXG testing HQ at Scottsdale National Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., and work with their lead fitter Nick Jahnke.
My favorite part of this process was I went into the fitting without any information on the clubs or the options available — which as someone who covers equipment extensively, is something I’m not used to doing. It helped me go in with an open mind and “let’s see what happens” attitude.
*** It was only after the fitting process that I received the tech breakdown of the Black Ops line from Brad Schweigert, Mike Nicolette, and Caleb Kroloff, which helped to answer a lot of questions I had about why I fit into the clubs, and specs that I did. It was a good reminder that although it’s our goal to help educate golfers about their equipment and the fitting process, approaching a club fitting with an open mind and a questioning mindset is something we greatly encourage. ***
After a brief warmup and discussion with Nick about my long-game goals and typical ball flight and misses, it was right into the driver. The fitting started with the standard Black Ops driver (9 degrees) in the stock hosel and weight configuration to establish a baseline.
The thing that quickly stood out with the baseline testing and after further adjustments to the hosel and weight settings was that as much as the numbers and forgiveness were close to what I was looking for with the driver, I struggled to get a handle on a consistent start direction. Distance was awesome but dispersion needed work.
The reason for this is I generally struggle with drivers that are longer from heel to toe and even with the standard and Tour-1 drivers having the same 460cc volume, I found the standard version harder to aim. (I should make it very clear that the standard option is the more forgiving model – close to 10K total MOI in the standard weight configuration, and this is a me problem, but it goes to show why the fitting process is so important).
So about the Black Ops Tour-1 driver.
Nick brought all of the specs from my testing with the standard Black Ops to the Tour-1, and just like slipping into a perfectly fit pair of shoes, the numbers and consistency were quickly apparent.
I saw a tiny jump in ball speed with the Tour-1 which I believe can be attributed to the gained confidence I had in being able to aim the driver and swing freely knowing where the ball was going to start and eventually end up. Dispersion shrunk dramatically and in less than five minutes I knew we had found the winning driver combination.
So, if you’re a golfer looking for a classicly shaped 460cc driver with a larger face and need spin reduction, let me tell you, the Black Ops Tour-1 could be your winning combination, too.
Next up was fairway woods and hybrids — and after quickly coming to a conclusion for my driver I was confident we were going to get them dialed in very quickly.
I explained that I usually play a strong lofted 3-wood (usually between 12-13.5 degrees) but with the low spin characteristics of the Black Ops, we started with the 15-degree head lofted down 14.25.
It took less than ten swings and I knew that whatever combination Nick had assembled, it was the perfect fit. I was easily able to get it off the ground without much effort (which is a shot I need to have with my 3-wood). Off a tee, I also saw the results I was looking for — the ability to pick an aim point slightly left of my target and let the ball fade to the right.
The slightly larger (but certainly not oversized) head shape of the Black Ops 3-wood had me a tiny bit worried I would struggle to elevate it off the ground, but it was as easy as any fairway wood I had ever hit. I even tested it off a couple of very tight lies and not once did I have an issue with launch or spin.
Last but not least came the 5-wood — and this was an interesting one. The reason is, for the longest time I have always defaulted to a 5-wood without much thought, but when presented with the option of the new Black Ops hybrid and its compact profile from address we had to dig in a little bit more. I could have easily gone with the 17-degree hybrid to fill the spot in my bag after the 3-wood because it delivered on distance and control — plus the taller head shape gave me a lot of confidence to hit down into the ground. However, old habits die hard, and at the end of the fitting session, and after looking at the numbers with Nick, it was hard to argue with the extra height and spin I was seeing with the Black Ops 5-wood.
With that said, if I played in firmer conditions more often I’d likely carry the hybrid as a secondary option off the tee, and for faster players that want a flatter ball flight towards the top end of their set before moving into fairway woods, the Black Ops hybrid and its multiple loft options and weight configurations create a big opportunity to find that perfect fit.
My Fitted Gear
Driver – Black Ops Tour-1, 9 degrees, hosel set to flat / -.75 degrees of loft. Weights are set to neutral with the heaviest in the rear position. Shafted with a Ventus Blue 6X at 45.5” long.
Being able to align slightly left/open and swing as hard as I want with the confidence of knowing the ball will fade without creating too much spin is what makes this driver special. Seeing spin between 2200 and 2500 was a HUGE win for me, and a big reason why it was a clear winner.
PXG 0311 Black Ops Tour-1 Custom Driver
3-Wood – Black Ops 15-degree, hosel set to flat / -.75 degrees of loft. Weights set to neutral rear position with Ventus Blue 7x at 43” long.
This was the biggest departure from my usual 3-wood specs, but the results speak for themselves. It also demonstrates that when you approach a fitting with an open mind (and a knowledgeable fitter) you can truly focus on solving a problem, rather than try to fit into something you “think” you need.
5-Wood – Black Ops 18 degree, hosel set to flat with no loft adjustment. Weights set to neutral rear position with Ventus Blue 7x at 42.5” long.
A great fitter once said “it’s easier to make up go down than it is to make down go up”, meaning it’s easier to flight the ball down with a club designed to hit it high rather than hit a ball high with a club designed to hit it low. As someone who prefers to take some distance off a shot when required rather than try and squeak out a few extra yards, the longer shaft of the 5-wood gave me that option, and the slightly larger and deeper head profile gives me a lot of confidence to hit that club out of the rough, too.
PXG 0311 Black Ops Custom Fairway Wood
Bonus Hybrid Specs: Although I didn’t end up with it being the final winner, here are the specs from the hybrid I was hitting. Black Ops 17 degree, flat hosel setting, Graphite Design Tour AD Di-85X.
So there you have it, my experience testing out and getting fit for PXG’s newest Black Ops metal woods. They are without a doubt the best-performing woods PXG has ever produced and whether you’re a lower handicap like myself or a higher handicap golfer looking for extra forgiveness to go along with the search for more speed, I think you can find it with the Black Ops line.
PXG Black Ops drivers, fairway woods and hybrids are available now through PXG-authorized fitters, as well as at PXG stores across the United States.
Want to overhaul your bag for 2024? Find a fitting location near you at True Spec Golf.