The 3 wood is a highly situational yet extremely useful club to have in any golfers arsenal.
There are several schools of thought regarding fairway woods like the 3 wood. A lot of golfers these days automatically reach for a 3 wood on the fairway as their go to club on the second shot on a longish par 4 hole or higher.
This is the aggressive school which sees the 3 wood as a risky alternative to a 6 or 7 iron to munch up the yards and get closer to the green in fewer shots. The more conservative strategy uses 3 woods sparingly, on shorter holes as a replacement for the driver straight from the tee.
Regardless of how often you use your 3 wood, it is still a useful club to have in any golfers kit.
Here will take an in depth look at the pros and cons of using a 3 wood as well as take a look at some of the best 3 woods in the business at the moment. They include:
Our Best 3 Woods
The 3 Wood- Do You Really Need It?
The answer to this question is a bit nuanced. Some golfers hardly use it while some swear by it. Many use it too often as an aggressive play and end up with sub-optimal results.
The 3 wood is in existence precisely because there are situations where golfers can get a better result out of the 3 wood than any other club in their bag. When you choose to break it out should depend entirely on the context of the shot as well as your own swinging abilities.
Ideally the only time you should automatically reach for a 3 wood is when you can reach the green from the tee.
But the thing is, the 3 wood has almost become something like an automatic choice for the average golfer looking to aggressively clear 240 yards or more on their second shot on longer par 4 holes and above.
Aggressive play on the course can have its just rewards, and people have won Majors using fairway woods like the 3 wood. What we are trying to explain here is, the 3 wood is one of the toughest clubs to hit accurately, and mastering its use will greatly improve your overall play.
You can very well live without using one or having one in your bag, but you will be missing out on a versatile club that can become a true game changer once you learn to master it.
Long story short, a 3 wood is a great addition to any golfer’s collection. The best 3 woods can be used either on the tee or on the fairway to get you closer to the green. Just learn its strengths and weaknesses, as well as yours, to get the best out of a 3 wood.
What Are The Main Characteristics of a 3 Wood?
Woods are the lovely long weapons used by all golfers when they want the ball to cover hundreds of yards. Anything above 175 yards and you probably might reach for a wood. The 3 Wood is a fairway wood, meaning it is closely associated with use on the fairway for the second shot after the tee.
Technically the driver is a 1 wood, with the lowest loft and longest shaft. While the driver has a flatter trajectory with a loft angle between 7 and 12 degrees, the 3 wood can get the b all to climb higher with a loft between 15-18 degrees.
That higher loft helps it avoid obstacles any elevated the fairway, while still covering a fair bit of distance. But the relatively smaller club head compared to a driver means that a 3 wood is a lot harder to master and hit accurately, since the sweet spot is a lot smaller and more punishing than what the average golfer would like to face off against on a regular basis.
Fairway woods do have one advantage over drivers, since their shallower face allows them to be hit cleaner off the ground on the fairway than your average driver.
In a nutshell, a 3 wood is shorter, has a smaller club head, a stiffer shaft and has more loft when compared to a standard driver.
Design and Materials Preferable in a 3 Wood
Since fairway woods have smaller clubheads than drivers, titanium is not really the metal of choice. Though composite heads are also available, cheap and strong steel trumps them all and is a good choice for a dependable 3 wood
Shaft features that primarily matter on fairway woods are their lengths. Longer shafts guarantee more distance over shorter shafts and should be preferred if you are looking for distance from your 3 wood. Most shafts these days are manufactured using graphite due to its lightweight properties.
Though not as common as in drivers, adjustable features like loft, face angle and moveable weights are being offered by most brands on at least some of their fairway woods. Whether you need them depends entirely upon the golfer.
If you like to tinker, go ahead and pick one with adjustable features. If you know exactly what you want from your fairway wood in terms of loft and weight and face angle, you can easily do without these added features.
Buy a 3 Wood or Just a Hybrid?
Again, this entirely down to the choice of the golfer. Fairways are usually more forgiving than either hybrids or long irons with their larger heads and higher loft. But they do not perform as well in the rough. You are better off having a couple of fairways including the 3 wood as well as a couple of hybrids just to keep your bases covered.
When NOT to use a 3 Wood
Just to finish off this little guide to 3 wood, here are a few situations where you are better off using the normal long irons or a driver (depending on your position on the hole):
- When there are hazards and traps around the green.
- When you have trouble in your lie, if it is somewhere deep in the rough
- When you have the wind against you
- When you are in a tight spot with no space to let it roll
- And last but not least, when you are under pressure/cautious/feeling on the defensive
The Five Best 3 Woods Reviewed
This classic looking design from Callaway is a throwback to the 1980’s and 90’s, when the signature Warbird Sole was first introduced. This latest Big Bertha fairway wood has a very light steel clubhead with decent volume that sits straight at address.
The overall lightweight nature of the club improves its swing speed and in case you forget it, there is actually a cartoon of Sir Issac Newton on back of the sole to drive home the point! The 3 wood is available with a graphite shaft in 3 different flex options. The loft is 15.5 degrees.
- A modern avatar of a classic and highly effective design.
- A shorter graphite shaft adds extra confidence and control
- Lightweight design combined with hyperspeed face technology increases distance and consistency.
- The smaller head might make this unsuitable for higher handicapped players
- The really shiny head might seem like a nuisance for players who prefer a matter finish
This is more of a game improvement 3 wood with adjustable features. The adjustable weight can be moved between two positions on the clubhead to alter the Center of Gravity and affect the spin.
This driver actually comes with 3 different heads, one 3-4 wood for 13-16 degrees, one for 5-6 wood with 17-20 degrees and a higher 7-8 wood with a loft covering 21-24 degrees. Combined with the adjustable lofts, there is a fair amount of tinkering and customization on offer.
- Combines several fairway woods in one with a lot of curtomisation.
- Ideal for mid handicappers looking for a game improvement 3 wood that can be tinkered with as they develop their skills
- Arguably the best looking 3 wood in the market
- The amount of tinkering can feel a bit too much at times
- Performance is satisfactory, but largely ineffective on the rough
Another modern take on the fairway wood jam-packed with adjustable features much like the previous entry in our list, this offering from TaylorMade comes with a graphite shaft.
The interchangeable head on offer include two 3 woods variants in low and high loft angle setting as well as a 5 wood, also with adjustable loft settings.
There is also a pair of adjustable weights that add greater stability to this fairway wood.
- Excellent distance and height off the tee, if you plan to use your 3 wood on the tee more often this might be a great choice
- With the amount of tinkering options available, this is a multitasking monster of a wood
- Feedback maybe a bit lacking
- The clubhead size is modest at best and may not offer enough forgiveness for high handicappers
Along with its 915 Fd variant, this is a no frills 3 wood with one of the most consistent performances across the tee as well as the fairway. The loft is adjustable to three angles and that is about the only adjustable features you will need from this excellent 3 wood.
With an Active recoil Channel on the sole, this 3 wood from Titleist offers the cleanest fell and feedback amongst all the fairway woods in our list. With larger heads that its predecessors, the 915F also scores big on the forgiveness scale.
At its price, it is a shoo into any mid handicap golfers collection of clubs.
- Simple to hit and easy to use from any lie, this is a 3 wood for you if you want to use it predominantly on the fairways on longer par 4 or 5 holes.
- The distance on offer from the tee means that this can even replace your driver should you choose to leave it at home
- Excellent feel and simple elegant looks
- Nothing too glaring, except maybe the absence of too many adjustable setting and features
To round of our list, we have a more modern design from Callaway which does not feature the older Warbird Sole, but a more modern evolution which offers steady performance both on the tee as well as on the ground in the fairways.
The 3 wood version of the XR16 has a 14 degree loft and offers decent all round performance.
Players from different levels starting all the way down from single digit handicaps up to mid handicappers could find this 3 wood an exceptionally useful addition.
- An all round performer, works notably well even in extremely thick roughs.
- Matte finish reduces glare, the red shaft version looks really good.
- Distance and height achieved are not the best in class
- Can feel a bit heavy and cumbersome on the takeaway
The fairway woods are a difficult category to offer suggestions in. They polarize opinion, and are often expected to do well in contradictory roles. That being said, the above shortlist included some really strong performers.
We particularly liked the Cobra King F6 Fairway Wood for its balanced performance, the sheer profusion of adjustable features and overall versatility. In the class of more simple and straightforward 3 woods, the extremely affordable Titleist 915 F Fairway Wood is our pick for its best in class performance and proper good looks.