WHY DO I HIT MY 3-WOOD BETTER THAN MY DRIVER?
Posted by Seth Zipay, April 27th, 2021
Last Updated: August 10th, 2022
Three of the most popular questions I get asked as a swing coach are “How do I hit it farther, how do I take my range swing to the golf course, and why do I hit my 3-wood better than my driver?” If I had a dime for each time I heard these questions I’d be writing this blog from my Malibu beach house with a $20,000 pen on $500 paper. There’s a few reasons as to why the average player is more consistent and more successful with their fairway wood over their driver, and I’m gonna hit ya with the knowledge.
Plain and simple, your fairway wood face is hotter than your driver. Why? Because the USGA doesn’t test them. There’s a limit to the “hotness” or flexibility of a driver face called Characteristic Time (CT), but it’s the wild wild west when it comes to your 3 wood I guess. There is definitely a very good chance that you could buy a fairway wood at your local golf shop that has a hotter face than your driver, which simply means more ball speed.
Loft is your friend and the higher the loft the more forgiving the club. This is why you hit your 7 iron better than your 5 iron, and so on. When I hear an amateur say that they hit their driver too high and want a loft around 8° I cringe. It may appear to them that they are hitting it too high because it isn’t going anywhere. This is due to too much spin. A lot of mid to high handicappers are too steep and hit down on their driver. This causes the ball to be struck high on the face with an incredibly high launch angle and the spin of an iron. Yes, this ball will go nowhere and your buddies will do the cute “popcorn, peanuts, cracker jacks” routine as you all watch your awesome pop fly into right field. But guess what club is actually designed to be struck with a negative attack angle, or hit down on…that’s right, your 3-wood! You tee it low, stay down and through it, and hit it with a high launch and low spin. Voila! You hate your driver. Plus, the higher the loft the less sidespin you will have on your miss-hits. Don’t be afraid to try 11° or 12° of loft.
There is no standard length on drivers as every manufacturer is different due to their test results during research and development. But the typical length of a driver on the market is around 45.5”. The average length of a 3 wood is 43”. The shorter the club, the more control you will have and a better chance at hitting the sweet spot consistently. Sure the longer club will be swung at a faster speed. That’s physics. But nothing travels like a well-struck ball on the screws and you have a higher percentage of that happening with a shorter shaft. In Bryson DeChambeau’s distance project he worked his butt off to try and dial in a 48” driver. He just never felt ready to put it into play due to the accuracy inconsistencies. So he scrapped the idea and decided his 46” went far enough and was more controllable.
In the never-ending battle to get off the tee long and straight, I suggest trying the following to get you on the right track. Don’t be afraid to try more loft, like 11° or 12°, especially if you struggle with a slice/fade miss. In the case of being a player that is too steep and hits “down” on their driver, you are actually going to want to adjust your loft lower to decrease the launch angle. Also, take a lesson from your local pro on flattening out your swing and hitting the driver on the upswing at a positive attack angle. Experiment with different shaft lengths as well. Choke down on your driver or have your local shop trim it a bit. It’s a quick and inexpensive trial and you may see huge benefits. Just remember, if you trim more than an inch you will change the swing weight and the shaft will play a hair stiffer.