The 3-Wood Golf Club Guide: When To Use A 3 Wood In Golf

Ever wished you could reach the green of a par 5 in 2 shots?

Or give yourself more birdie opportunities on a long par 4?

This is where your 3 wood comes into play!

The 3 wood golf club is a key option for improving your golf strategy during the early stages of each hole. The club will help you reach the green as efficiently as possible and save precious strokes on your scorecard!

If you’re like a lot of new players, the number of different club options in golf can be a little daunting when it comes to selecting your 14 in the bag.

But understanding when to use each club is going to put you at an advantage on the course and be essential to playing smarter golf.

Our mission in this article is to break down the 3 wood and get you familiar with exactly when to use a 3 wood in golf so you can shoot lower scores!

Ready? Let’s jump in!

golfer preparing to use a 3 wood golf club

What is a 3 Wood?

The 3 wood belongs to the family of golf clubs called woods which are large-headed, long-shaft clubs designed for generating distance early on in the hole.

After the driver, the 3 wood has the least amount of loft and the longest club shaft out of the fairway woods that are typically carried in a golf bag.

The 3 wood, therefore, is often your second longest-range club option on the course.

When distance gapping your golf clubs, the 3 wood is a middle option between the driver and your longest iron, or indeed your 5 or 7 wood, in terms of carry potential.

The 3 wood is the longest club that you are likeliest to hit off the ground, such as the fairway of a long hole.

Woods, when struck correctly, will fly further than irons.

what is a 3 wood golf club

The Loft of a 3 Wood

The 3 wood club head has a built-in loft between 15 – 18 degrees.

This is slightly less in contrast to the 5 wood which has 18 – 20 degrees of loft, and a bit more than a driver which averages around 10 degrees of loft.

The 3 wood will grant a lower flight trajectory than a 5 or 7 wood, and will have more roll time once the ball lands.

The Length of a 3 wood

The shaft length on a 3-wood is generally 42 – 43 inches long.

This usually makes it your longest club after the driver.

In comparison, the length of a 5 wood comes in slightly shorter at 41 – 42 inches, and the 7 wood at 40 – 41 inches long.

Golfers will tell you that the longer the club is, the trickier it is to hit.

This is true because it is harder to judge where the bottom of the club head is in the swing which makes whiffs and fat shots a more regular occurrence.

Having said this, a longer shaft length in golf is going to allow you to have more leverage and club speed in the swing (at the expense of slightly less control) which is needed to increase distance.

loft of a 3 wood golf club

3 Wood Distance chart

As with any shot, distance can be affected by a number of factors, including weather, ball age, and the physical ability of the golfer. 

But on average, a 3-wood is used to perform long-range shots in the region of 210 yards.

The average distances with a 3-wood, from small hitters through to large hitters, are as follows: 

  • Male average: 180 – 235 yards
  • Female average: 125 – 180 yards
  • LPGA Tour average: 195 – 217 yards

The 3 wood will generally yield a distance that is 30 yards shorter than your driver.

Other factors that affect your distance with a 3 wood can include tee height and ground condition.

3 wood golf club distance chart

When to use a 3 Wood

Now you’ve got the background of the club, here lies the important part: When to use a 3 wood in your round.

The 3 wood will be typically used on your first or second shot of the hole, depending on the distance to your target.

If you’re playing a short hole and your driver is likely to grant too much distance, then teeing off with a 3 wood is your next best bet.

Golfers might opt to use a fairway wood such as the 3 wood to tee off with when they want to play their tee shot short (laying up). This applies if the hole is beyond a dogleg in the course, for instance.

In most cases, however, a driver is preferred on the first shot to get as far up the course as possible initially, and so the 3 wood becomes a common option on the second shot of a long hole i.e. on a par 5 or on a long par 4.

Let’s say you’ve found the middle of the fairway on a par 5 and you’re looking to make the green in 2 – maximum distance should still be the objective for your second shot, but this time you need to hit off the ground.

The 3 wood, with its low loft and larger club head, is a good alternative to a long iron for maximizing distance off the deck without overswinging.

3 wood golf club and golf ball

Setup With A 3 Wood

As with any shot, the correct setup is crucial for providing the foundations for giving yourself the best chance at a successful strike.

Your setup with a 3 wood will vary depending on whether you’re hitting off a tee or off the ground.

One thing remains a constant – the width of your stance, which should be wide to allow for a large shoulder turn, just less than your stance with a driver.

Your weight should also be distributed 50/50 between both feet at setup.

To set up with a 3 wood off the tee:

  • Ball position is forward in the stance, about halfway between the center line and your lead foot.

This address position allows you to get under the golf ball so you can hit up on the ball off the tee which is important for gaining loft and distance from tee shots.

To set up with a 3 wood off the fairway:

  • Ball position is closer to the middle of the stance, just forward from the center line by about a ball’s width.
  • The middle of your chest should be in line with your club head.

This promotes more of a downward angle of attack, so you can hit through the ball which is necessary for striking a good 3 wood (and any shot) off the ground.

You don’t want to aim to get under the golf ball and help it off the ground since this will increase your chances of topping the ball which is a common mistake amateur golfers make with their fairway woods.

3 wood golf club and golfer

How to use a 3 Wood

Now you’ve got the perfect foundation for hitting your 3 wood, crushing your woods off the fairway will come more naturally!

Here are the best swing thoughts for successful ball striking with a 3 wood:

  • Hit down on the golf ball: For ground shots, don’t let the low amount of loft deceive you into manually lifting the ball in the air on your downswing. Have a slightly negative angle of attack and allow the club to do the work.
  • Have a smooth tempo: Don’t overswing at the cost of disturbing a consistent swinging pace and rhythm.
  • Remove an imaginary tee peg after the golf ball: Use a visual cue to ensure you’ve found the low point in the swing after the ball and not before it. You want to encourage getting through the shot whilst maximizing swing speed at the point of impact to gain distance.

Having a strong 3 wood shot in your locker is a great skill few golfers have that will put you at a strategic advantage on the course.

If you can reach the green of a long hole in a couple of shots with your 3 wood, not only will you wow your opponents but your handicap will be brought down in no time!

Now it’s time to take a 3 wood to the driving range and practice!

Photo of author
George Edgell is a freelance journalist and keen golfer based in Brighton on the South Coast of England. He inherited a set of golf clubs at an early age and has played regularly growing up. Since graduating from University in 2020, he has turned his attention to golf and has become an avid student of the game. When not playing at his local golf club, Hollingbury Park G.C. nestled in the South Downs, you can find him on a pitch and putt links with friends. George enjoys sharing his passion for golf with an audience of all abilities and seeks to simplify the game to help others improve at the sport.

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