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Thursday, May 11, 2017

To 3-Wood or Not to 3-Wood? That's the Question...

And it's an interesting question: Just how useful is your 3-wood, really? Teachers Butch Harmon and Mackenzie Mack appear to have a difference of opinion, and Golf Digest has two articles that contrast their thoughts.

Butch Harmon hitting a 3-wood from the fairway

The older article, from Butch Harmon, is called Bench Your 3-Wood. Butch says the only time you should use your 3-wood from the fairway is when you can reach the green. Otherwise, he says you probably won't hit it well and should probably use your 5-wood instead. (I don't carry a 5-wood. My 7-wood has always been my magic wand when I'm in need, and that's my go-to club.)

Butch does say that, if you're going to use your 3-wood, position the ball a few inches inside your lead heel -- that is, closer to the center of your stance -- and make sure you get off your trailing foot during your downswing. (But if you're swinging that hard, so you're reverse-pivoting, maybe you should just lay up to a good wedge yardage instead. That's what I think.)

The newer article, from Mackenzie Mack, is called Three Shots You've Never Used Your 3-Wood For, But Should. Ironically, Mack seems to feel that your inability to hit a 3-wood well can be an advantage! At least, his three shots never get the ball very high off the ground.

He says you can use the 3-wood off hardpan because you just want to keep the ball low and get it rolling. He even wants you to set up to the ball as if it were a putt, so that sounds a bit like Butch's setup. (Personally, I'd be using my 7-wood here. I'd be more confident with it off hardpan.)

He also recommends you use the 3-wood to get out of the trees. Even if the grass is pretty thick. That's what he says, and it's because -- again -- you don't really want the ball to get up in the air in the first place. (You might want to practice that before you try it. I understand the logic, but from thick grass? That sounds iffy to me.)

And finally, he wants you to use the 3-wood to putt from the fringe. For this shot, he wants you to set up with the ball in the back of your stance, as if you were going to chip the ball. (So why not use a shorter club like a hybrid? Still, a 3-wood chip shot is a nice one to have in your arsenal, especially for long chips.)

As you can tell, I believe you should think twice before using your 3-wood anytime it isn't teed up, unless you have practiced with it and are confident using it. Especially if a poor shot might cost you more strokes than a decent shot will gain.

And if you're having trouble breaking 80 -- or even 85 -- that poor shot probably will. Play smart!



  2. Hi Mike. I am one of those people who is challenged to hit my driver consistently. When I am having issues, I fall back to my 3 wood to tee off with. What is especially frustrating is I can usually hit the 3 wood as far as I can my driver. Like you I also have a 7 wood that I love to hit but go back an forth between it and my 4 iron, as I hit that very well also. I do use my 5 wood around the fringe.

  3. With my driver, the main issue is direction. Most of the time I am hitting the ball in the proper place on the club face, I just keep pulling the shot left or slicing the ball right. For me the problem is getting my upper body and lower body to work in sync during the swing with a driver. For whatever reason, I don't seem to have this issue with a 3 wood.

    1. Jeffrey, without seeing your swing I can only make suggestions because directional problems can be caused by a lot of things. But I can think of a few things worth checking.

      First of all, bear in mind that most drivers are a bit longer than most players should use. The fact that you hit your 3-wood almost the same distance as your driver is one indication that this could be contributing to your problem. Longer shafts don't automatically equate to more clubhead speed and are harder to square up.

      So my first suggestion is to try gripping down on your driver so it's the same length as your 3-wood. Literally, take both clubs side-by-side, grip your 3-wood, then grip your driver. Make sure you grip your driver so it's the same length as your 3-wood. Then try hitting some shots for comparison. If that solves your directional problems, then you need a shorter driver. (And if you can't hit your gripped-down driver father than your normally-gripped 3-wood, you probably need a driver with more loft as well. That's a fitting problem.)

      Second thing: Make sure your teed-up ball position is the same each time. Because driver shafts are longer, it's easier to misalign things during address.

      Finally, you may be standing a bit too close to the ball with your driver. In order to keep your upper and lower body in sync, you have to make sure your arms have enough room to swing freely without hitting your body. You don't want to stick your arms out like stiff rods, of course, but your arms will be slightly more extended with the driver than with the 3-wood.

      I think there's a good chance that one fo these things is causing the problem. At the very least, they're easy enough to fix so you should check them out before trying something more complicated.

      Let me know what you learn. Good luck!

  4. Several good options to try here Mike. Thanks for the help.

    1. You're welcome, Jeffrey. I try! I just hope one of them can solve your problem.