Chances are your 3 wood is doing more harm to your golf game than good, and I’m here to explain why.
The 3 wood is a unique specialty club in most golfers bags because it needs to offer distance from the tee, but also be functional enough to hit a long shot high in the air off the fairway. It’s usually not too difficult to find a 3 wood that does one of these two jobs well, but finding one that does both can be an extremely difficult challenge.
Why is a 3 wood hard to hit?
The less loft a club has, the harder it is to fly with enough spin to maintain carry distance. For every Bryson DeChambeau using a 10.5° 3 wood, there are hundreds of other golfers who can’t make their 15° fairway carry more than 200 yards. Club head speed creates launch and spin, i.e. lift, and the same modern golf ball that makes drivers easier to hit is the same that makes all 3 woods harder, especially from the fairway.
Another factor beyond loft is that the 3 wood length has gone from 42.5″ to 43.5″ in some cases, and hitting a low loft club at this length is extremely difficult…even the pros sometimes have difficulty.
Changing lofts – changing expectations
Just because a 15° 3 wood has less loft than a 5 (18°) or 7 (21°) wood doesn’t mean it will automatically go further. Distance is created by optimizing launch and spin the same way a driver or set of irons is shaped, and when it comes to loft, there is a point of diminishing returns for any what club in the bag. This is why many golfers find they hit a 4 iron the same distance as a 5 iron and transition to hybrids instead.
“Just like with driver mounting, there is an optimal loft that maximizes distance. Center of gravity location, club mass properties, face shape, and impact location dictate different loft optimizations to maximize distance in a 3 wood.
For instance, we have a great player on our engineering team who has 165 ball speed, 10 launch and 3000 spin with a 15 degree 3-wood. It’s the perfect launch and spin to optimize his carry distance – given his club speed, angle of attack and impact location.
With these launch conditions, it takes it to 282 meters. Through experimental testing and simulation techniques, if we give it 2 degrees more loft, it loses 4 meters of carry. With 2 degrees less loft (a 13° 3 wood), the 1.7 degree lower launch and 450 rpm lower spin results in a huge 7 meter decrease in carry distance, even though its speed of ball is higher.
There is a sweet spot for loft adjustment that maximizes distance, assuming that is the player’s goal in their 3 wood, and this changes for each player. This is the essence of the custom fit.
— Marty Jertson, VP-Fitting and Performance Ping Golf
Forget the name – go for what works!
The best way to find your next 3 wood is to start by eliminating the idea that you need it in the first place – instead think of that place in your golf bag as the “next club after your driver”. The golf ball doesn’t care about its name, all that matters is creating the right kind of momentum to suit your game and swing speed.
This could mean trying a 4 wood (a club with 16-17.5° of loft), or even an adjustable 5 wood loft (18-20° of loft) to dial in the ideal launch conditions based on your swing speed. . The best part of an adjustable fairway wood is that you can tune the club to suit the course or weather conditions; firm and fast – lower the loft for more body roll, smoother conditions on a course with forced strokes – go up for an extra stroke.