Should more golfers use their 3-wood off the tee? If so, why?

23 Professionals Contributed |
Everyone wants to hit the long ball, so we're always enticed to reach for our driver right away. But what about the trusty three wood? Would golfers shoot lower scores if they used a 3-wood off the tee more often?

What club do you have confidence off Par 4 or Par 5?

After 30 years of teaching-coaching golf. I have seen where the rubber meets the road off the tee box on Par 4’s and Par 5’s. You can teach-coach the individual what is the higher percentage of success club off the tee in certain tee box decisions. But the reality is the player usually doesn’t stick with their individual game plan. They get trapped with other players in foursome to pull the driver.

We have a 320 yard Par 4 slight dog leg right first hole at the facility I teach. Out bounds subdivision on the right side. Brick wall if you hit a straight 300 plus driver. You could hit a mid-iron and wedge to this green a higher percentage for birdie vs drive the green. The driver brings in the highest percentage of penalty shot options vs fairway finder. Insanity is repeating the same behavior and expecting a different outcome. Be that person..that birdies without driving the green for Eagle.

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Add Loft To Your Tee Shots

If your having trouble getting tee shots in play, just add loft. Most people have more success with a 3-wood off of the tee due to the loft forgiveness factor. While many manufacturers are promoting drivers with more loft on them, players that choose a 3-wood off the tee often drive it better than they normally will with a driver.

The first factor is the launch. the 3-wood promotes a very good launch angle for most golfers.

The second factor is the confidence factor. Most players using a 3-wood swing within themselves (more relaxed) and produce more speed and find the center of the face.

Those factors combined allow for more tee shots in play and more fun during a round of golf.

PGA Golf Pro
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It depends.

Simply put more loft is more forgiving (You don’t slice or hook you wedges). So yes the 3-metal will curve less, all things being equal. But the answer lies is speed and distance. If you carry your driver say 250 yards (100 MPH CLUB-HEAD SPEED) I absolutely recommend using a 3 metal for tight driving holes or when you are struggling with accuracy on the driver. But if 200 yards is your max carry, you do not have the luxury of backing off to a 3-metal. It’s likely the driver will have to be used on every hole.

The Rookery At Marco
"It depends." Click to Tweet

It All Depends

So, when it comes to decision making off the tee the goal should always be to hit the ball as far as possible while avoiding hazards. Most scratch golfers I coach will hit 3 wood off the tee only when driver distance will get them trouble or the shot shape with 3 word fits the hole. Most stats and dispersion will show that 3 wood is not much more accurate than driver. Now if you as an individual work with an instructor and see that 3 wood dispersion is tighter than driver and keeps the ball in between hazards then do it.

The big takeaway from this is make your decision based upon your stats or dispersion of each club. Don’t make the decision based upon what you feel like you should do or just say the hole is tight hit a 3 wood. This type of thinking just adds confusion to decision making.

Nick Duffy Golf
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Confidence breads club speed

Take a three wood call it nothing call it what you Want, just put the loft on it , off the tee a “brassie” would be better too! We tested people with three woods off a tee in Aspen. The ball was flying as far as the driver which astonished the people, the only thing was the roll out was a bit more. The slightly shorter length and more loft gives the player More confidence off the tee with a three wood, confidence breads club speed, so I am for three woods off the tee especially for lower speed swingers. Don’t be embarrassed to use a “3 as a Driver!”

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When is a 3-wood not a 3-wood?

When you use it as a driver.

A large number of golfers persevere with the driver because it is such a rush to hit a great drive, but hitting three fairways out of fourteen and four penalty strokes may beg to differ. The 3-wood has more loft to help get the ball in the air, and it is shorter than a driver which means slightly more control. The greater loft slightly reduces side spin, the number one reason so many drives miss the fairway and the shorter club should make it easier to hit the center of the club face.

Try playing a round using only your 3-wood off every tee (par 3’s excluded) and see how much better you score when more of your second shots are from the fairway. You may well be surprised. Remember there are no bonus points for hitting the longest drive on a hole!

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Long AND Straight

I believe this answer depends a lot on the player. I sacrifice about 20-25 yards from driver to 3 wood but I also drive the ball very straight so I never use 3 wood or any other club off tee for accuracy. Many players I’ve seen in 16 hdcp range and up may be able to save or even gain strokes by playing something off the tee that is more dependable and helps them keep double and triple bogeys off the card. If you lose opportunities for green regs or get lots of penalties off the tee using driver, give a fairway wood a shot for a while. And then when you transition back to driver you might be making a more balanced and controlled swing!!

Arsenal Island Golf Course
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3 wood go far!

The 3 metal can be a fantastic weapon on the tee box. In fact, many players actually hit the 3 farther than their driver on average. This happens for many reasons:

Shorter shaft = center face contact
More loft = less side spin
More loft = more carry distance for lower club speed

I think the smaller head may give players more focus; maybe that’s why they hit it flush more often. Better players tend to go to the 3 metal when they need to play a draw shot. It is much easier to “turn over” a lofted fairway metal than a low lifted driver.

All that being said, most players would benefit hugely with more loft on the driver!

Rockville Links Club
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Driver or 3 Wood Now vs The Past

My answer to this question has changed 100% over the last ten years. Drivers were much harder for the average player to hit 10-20 years ago then they are now. 3 Woods were much easier to hit due to the shorter length of the shaft combined with a more forgiving loft then the standard driver. Also 20 years ago there was only a ten to fifteen yard difference between a Driver and a 3 Wood. Back then I would highly recommend the beginning golfer to average golfer would have more success hitting 3 woods, specially on tighter holes.

Currently that difference in yardage is much more. Todays Driver also flies much straighter then in the past and is harder to curve. So the long winded answer is, if it is a straight but tight hole where no curve is required, I would recommend hitting a Driver. If the hole requires some curve to the tee shot then I would suggest hitting a 3 Wood. Why not reap the benefits of the extra 20 yards from hitting a driver? Personally, I find it much easier to choke down a half inch to an inch and make my normal golf swing to hit very straight shots with a Driver vs the modern 3 Wood.

Mattawang Golf Club
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Hit Your Driver

Most people think they’re more accurate with their 3W than their driver, but that’s not true in countless studies. They’re shorter, for sure, but they’re just as accurate or less so than they are with driver. The driver is easier to hit (it’s larger, you tee up the ball higher) than the 3W, which is arguably the toughest club in the bag to hit (long shaft, small-ish head, small margin of error given the ball is on the ground or nearly so) and makes for easier (shorter) second shots.

The only real reason to hit a 3W off the tee is if hitting a driver would go too far and into a penalty area, bunker, etc. Otherwise, bombs away.

PGA Professional
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Where is the widest fairway landing area

Are you playing from the tee box that corresponds to your carry distance with driver?
IF not than you will most likely hit a lot of Drivers in your quest to have less than 3 wood for your second shot 🙂

However, when playing the appropriate tee box it is best to look at the hole from green back to tee and find the widest part of the fairway especially if it provides a good angle to the days pin location.

For example, driver to 100 yards with a 15 yard wide fairway landing area is not advisable if 5 wood to the 150 marker leaves the player with a great angle and a 30 yard wide landing area. Fairways and greens is not just a catchy slogan!

Finally, take the least amount of risk to hit the widest portion of fairway and if that means hitting driver so be it.
Otherwise take less club and let your misses have a better chance of staying in play! Golf is a game where players manage their misses!

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Situational Strategies

3 wood off the tee is oftentimes not a bad idea. I wouldn’t say you should always hit it instead of your driver (except in situations where you just cannot find control and accuracy with your driver). Most of the time 3 wood off the tee is appropriate when driver is just too much club. For example, let’s say you hit your 3 wood 240 yards and you hit your driver 265+. You may come across a hole where at around the 250 yard distance from the tee (as just an example), there is trouble (like a creek, lake, bunkers or any kind of hazard). In this situation, it’s a good idea to hit your 3 wood off the tee to lay up and not find the hazard off the tee.

Strategic course management is huge and can really go far.* 3 wood off the tee is also a good idea when you may have a narrow fairway tee shot to find more control (in a sacrifice of distance).

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Short club = Accuracy...

Don’t we hit are 9 iron better than are 2 iron?…3 wood is shorter than the driver, that’s why we hit the 3 wood better…Down wind the 3 wood is better than the driver…Also, the driver phycology binds you up…you over swing and do other messed up things with the “Ferrari” of golf clubs!…Fred Couples in his prime made a lot of money with just a 3 wood off the tee…

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Ball Speed is the Determining Factor

There are three factors to distance–ball speed, launch angle and spin rate. As a players ball speed drops they better have the other two and the best way to get them is with more loft. I think a lot of middle to high handicappers, especially the ones with slower ball speeds, would be better off teeing of with a 3 wood for the reason above but also the 3 wood shaft is shorter and as a result they will hit the ball in the center of the face more often and have more control.

I bet if you have an average golfer hit 50 drives with a driver and 50 with a 3 wood, the 3 wood will average longer and be in the fairway more often. Granted the 10-15 times they hit the driver flush it’ll go a few yards farther but not a lot.
The biggest problem is EGO FEAR! Getting over the fact that you don’t need a driver, just like realizing you need to play with softer shafts. GET OVER IT and enjoy the game more.

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Grip Down on Your Driver for Control

First of all ask yourself or fitter, when buying a driver, what loft fits my swing ? The only reason people hit a 3 wood farther than their driver is the loft. The shaft is also shorter in a 3 wood but we can get that length by choking down on the driver like you see Brooke Henderson do on every drive. The face of the driver is so much larger than the 3 wood and you can tee it higher with the driver giving the normal player much more chance of good contact than the smaller more shallow 3 wood head. See what works best for you but I think if you get a driver with plenty of loft and flex and then you choke down a bit, you are on the road to finding more fairways. Good luck!!

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Seniors, ladies and juniors often need to use a 3 wood off the tee rather than the driver for multiple reasons

Seniors, ladies and juniors often need to use a 3 wood off the tee rather than the driver for multiple reasons. First the curve from a misplaced face angle is not as severe. Second loft is your friend when a player doesn’t have much club head speed. Third good contact may be easier with a shorter and lighter club. Just put that ego in the bag and play better golf.

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Be Smart off the Tee

A player who does not trust their iron game will often use the driver from the tee when they should not. Most players would gladly take an approach shot of 130 to 150 from the fairway, but if they don’t trust themselves from that range, they use the driver, hoping to force the ball a lot closer than that. And that’s where the player too often finds the ball out of position with almost no chance to hit the green, and ends up with double bogey. If the golf hole is just going to hand you that 130 approach shot with conservative play, why not take it–how much trouble can you get into from there? That isn’t to say don’t use your driver…’s just saying be smart about it. Know your strengths and weaknesses and select your shot accordingly.

Moses Lake Golf Club
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Safe not Sorry

Absolutely more players should use their 3fw metal off the tee. The shorter length and more loft just make it easier to hit the club face more square, which allows for more distance and straighter shots. Players should still work on hitting the driver but if your playing and you have any doubt about hitting a driver use your 3 wood.

Big Sticks Golf
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The 3/5-wood is your FRIEND!

We all need to think more about using the correct club for our tee shots on each hole . Just because it is a par four or five, doesn’t mean the driver is the best play. Completing 18 holes with the lowest score possible means playing the percentages. If using a three wood off the tee eliminates the big number on a hole, use it! How many good rounds are ruined by one or two wayward driver tee shots that a 3-wood would be the smart play. Each golfer needs to review this aspect of their game routinely to see if there is opportunity to improve.

Sun City West Golf
"The 3/5-wood is your FRIEND!" Click to Tweet

Swing a three wood with confidence!

Using a three wood off the tee is a great option and tool to have in your bag.

There are situations, and certain holes during every round where the choice is given to “get it in play” or “go for it”. The basic risk-reward factor is an important aspect of the game. Many factors need to be considered, including the length, shape, and width of the fairway, How am I hitting the driver today?, Do I have a good round going? and out of play on this hole could spell disaster and a big number. If in an event, where do I stand and what do I stand to gain or lose?

The bottom line is to explore the tee shot with a three wood, lock in a go-to- guaranteed “in the grass” shot, and have this available as an option.

The fact is, if you have great doubt in your mind about getting your driver in play, and fear is running the show at the moment, you are MUCH better off swinging a three wood with confidence, as opposed to making a weak , tentative, and uncommitted rip at a driver. Experiment and explore this option. Great players have it scripted in the game plan long before they start the round.

Go well , have fun out there!

Olde School Golf School
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It is personal

This depends on how much you know your game. Some times they both can be either hot or cold. If that is case then I prefer to go with distance and take what I get. The 3 wood makes sense if you know you can strike it in play most of the time. I also think you should have a “go to” move with your driver that is the fairway finder. It may be different and should know which way the ball will move. In the end you need to be confident with your decision and let it go.

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Find a 3 wood you love

Everyone needs a trusty 3 wood. And you may hang on to it for many years. I think more people should play 3 woods but they need to practice off of a tee and off the ground.

3 woods are shorter in and length and have more loft so in theory should be more forgiving and easier to hit, but you have to find one you like. And it doesn’t have to match your set.

Find one that fits your eye and feels good. Practice off of a tee hitting different shots and get comfortable off the fairway.
Then when you bring it out during the round, you will have the confidence to make a good swing.

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More 3 woods

The question should be whom should be hitting more 3 woods?? As a fitter and instructor my answer would be those Golfers who are starting out in golf. They’re just out there hitting the and have NO control to what they are doing on the golf course. When I started out hitting my driver in very different direction, I would scale and hit my 3 wood as far as my driver at times BUT straighter they fell back to my Driver. Until people can take lessons and understand how to Control the face, swing on a proper path and Swing up on there Drivers then YES hit the 3 wood off the tee. Put in play more and enjoy from short grass more.

Fox Hollow Golf Club
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The Professionals in this Roundup

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