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Why your traditional 3-wood might be extinct

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Golfers of all skill levels either love or hate their 3-woods. It can be an arch-nemesis or a safety blanket depending on the day and the shots you are trying to hit, but most golfers know—when you find a good one, you hold onto it.

What makes the 3-wood unique from almost any other club in the bag is that it has to be multi-faceted, since, depending on the golfer, it will be used off the tee, from the fairway, or from the rough. And, after the driver, it’s the largest-volume club in the bag.

This is why, for club designers, it’s crucial to keep the intended target audience in mind when designing fairway woods, and why you see multiple options from each OEM—one size does not fit all!

The Callaway Mavrik line offers 3 distinct fairway models

With modern equipment technology, including low spin golf balls, combined with higher-launching, fast-faced, lower-spinning fairway woods, the question becomes “at what point do you still need a 3-wood in your bag?” You see, at lower swing speeds, the ability to create launch and spin becomes much more difficult—it’s the same reason traditional longer irons have become more difficult to keep in the air, because to create enough lift to maximize carry, you need a lot of speed.

Maximizing your 3-wood for its intended purpose is no different than making sure your irons create the correct descent angle (This is the most important iron fitting parameter), because if you don’t create enough lift, you are leaving precious yards on the table.

How to maximize your fairway wood potential

A common question I hear from golfers when they are hitting fairway woods is

“How come I hit my 5-wood further than my 3-wood from the fairway. Shouldn’t my 3-wood go further because it has less loft?”

You would hypothesize that a 3-wood (for argument’s sake a club with 15 degrees of loft) would travel further than 5-wood (a club with 18 degrees of loft), because, just like irons or wedges the lower-lofted ones should travel further—FALSE!

Creating extra distance, especially carry distance, is all about creating the best possible dynamics at impact, and if that means using a higher loft in your longest fairway wood, then so be it. It’s the same reason some golfers hit a 10-degree driver further than a 7-degree one—it’s all about optimizing launch conditions, and eventually, you will get to a point of diminishing return.

Not enough launch and spin

Using the Flightscope Trajectory Optimizer  (be sure to check it out, it’s a fun tool), I created some standard launch conditions for a medium speed player creating 135 mph ball speed. The biggest takeaway is how low the peak height is and how far the ball carried: only 202 yards rolling out to 219.

More ideal launch and spin

This shot was created using the same 135 mph ball speed, but with five-degree higher launch and 250 more rpm. The distance gain is over 15 yards of carry and a more impressive 7 total yards. If it was between these two clubs, the below option offers much greater playability and better scoring opportunities for the golfer.

The solution

When looking for your next 3-wood/longest club after your driver, worry less about the loft on the club, and instead, focus on the dynamics of the ball flight to make sure you are creating ideal launch conditions. Be sure to test 4 and 5-wood options and dial in the loft if you are hitting a club with an adjustable hosel.

Adjustable sleeves allow you to fine-tune loft and launch conditions.

This could mean taking a 3-wood and adding loft, or starting with a 5-wood and removing loft to find your ideal club. If you use your 3-wood a lot, then it’s important to have a club you can trust and have confidence in it because, as a fitter, it’s my goal to make every club your favorite club!

 

 

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Ryan Barath is part of the Digital Content Creation Team for GolfWRX. He hosts the "On Spec" Podcast on the GolfWRX Radio Network which focuses on discussing everything golf, including gear, technology, fitting, and course architecture. He is a club-fitter & master club builder with more than 17 years of experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour players. He is the former Build Shop Manager & Social Media Coordinator for Modern Golf. He now works independently from his home shop and is a member of advisory panels to a select number of golf equipment manufacturers. You can find Ryan on Twitter and Instagram where he's always willing to chat golf, and share his passion for club building, course architecture and wedge grinding.

28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. Sandman

    Aug 12, 2020 at 9:36 am

    If you can’t hit a 3w, you need to work on your swing.

  2. Miguel A Donate

    Jul 23, 2020 at 9:46 am

    Great article!! Thanks.
    And that Flightscope Trajectory Optimizer tool is awesome.

  3. nomad golfer

    Jul 17, 2020 at 12:06 am

    One reason my Launcher 3 wood will be staying in the bag is because I “don’t” use it from the fairway – that’s what the 5 & 9 woods are for. The 3 wood, which is closer in loft to a 4 wood goes off the tee when needed. Knowing what role each club is for helps a lot in this game.

  4. Delbert

    Jul 16, 2020 at 11:40 pm

    My old Exotics 3 wood still rocks! Why change and spend the money?

  5. richknine

    Jul 10, 2020 at 12:26 am

    I have a 16° 3W & a 19° 5strong Tight Lies, good old reliable. As long as I can hit them straight out of a fairway bunker, they stay in the bag.

  6. Jack Nash

    Jun 29, 2020 at 3:08 pm

    Got rid of the 3wd years ago and have had a 4 Hot X ever since and it’s worth it’s weight in gold.

  7. Rob Infanti

    Jun 28, 2020 at 10:20 am

    About 15 years ago, I gave up on my 3 wood. Once I found that I was hitting my 5 wood further, I pulled it out of my bag. When I bought new clubs a few years back, I didn’t even bother with a 3 wood. I have a swing speed of about 80mph and just cannot generate enough spin. The same goes for my long irons. My 3 and 4 irons don’t go any further than my 5 iron. I replaced them with a 3 hybrid that fit perfectly distance-wise between my 5 wood and 5 iron.

    • Mike

      Jul 4, 2020 at 9:41 am

      Great post. I just “rediscovered” this recently when I purchased (at a great, almost silly price) a Callaway Epic Flash. Had been struggling w/ 3W “off the deck” for years but thought this time, w/ some recent swing improvements, it might work. It didn’t; trajectory was way too low (even upping the loft to 17). was decent off the tee but still not as good as expected. Ended up: a) getting a slightly lighter shaft for the 3W & then bought the same model in a 5W. My home course doesn’t give me too many opportunities to use a 3W off the tee but I’m loving that club now when I do use it! But I don’t use it off the fairway anymore unless it’s a super windy day & I need to keep the ball really low. I’m loving that 5W off the deck though!

      Years ago I had done some fairway wood testing & found, at my slow-to-moderate swing speed, that hitting a 3W off the deck offered my no more (& sometimes less total yardage) that a 4W or even a 5W. Sometimes in golf (as in life) we “have to get out of our own way”.

  8. Karsten's Ghost

    Jun 28, 2020 at 6:31 am

    This misses the point for mid- to high-handicappers.

    “3-woods” are two categories of clubs; either they’re tee-box clubs (tall face) or they are advancement (short face).

    A 10 or less can strike a ball well enough that most fairway woods are ok for both scenarios. But for the 15+ crowd, it’s not recommended. Either buy one that you plan to normally tee up, or get a 5 wood for off the deck. If you’re a 15+, never buy anything lower than 16º as your second club, unless you have wicked speed and no short game.

    It’s a shame this article does not differentiate the two styles. Even for better players, it’s a decision point. Either way, choose well for your game, and don’t be afraid to go driver-17hybrid, either. Whatever you hit well.

  9. dave

    Jun 28, 2020 at 2:56 am

    How the low-spin modern ball affects slow- and medium-speed swingers’ trajectories when hitting longer clubs off turf is something I don’t think gets picked up enough in club/ball fitting with modern gear.

    I played a lot til about 2000, then played once a year while raising kids, started playing 80-100x a year again three years ago. So I left the game just as the V1 came in. Lowest previous hcp was 9, currently 8.5. Guessing I swing the driver around 95 mph based on my carry distance.

    In other words, I don’t hit it very hard.

    I love/loved my 1972 Hogan Apex blades, which I bought used in the early 90s. But I noticed right away as I started playing again that I couldn’t launch the new balls with the long irons like I could when I played high-spinning balata in the 80s and 90s. Playing Mizuno blades right now but finally understand that it’s horses for courses and I need to get some long irons that have more mass lower down and/or a hotter face to get a decent launch angle with the modern ball at my swing speeds.

    • Matt

      Jun 29, 2020 at 1:40 pm

      Balls also differ, so find the optimal ball for your swing speed. Soft compression ball is better for slower swing speeds

  10. Phil

    Jun 27, 2020 at 10:59 pm

    14 degree 3 wood is always in mybag. Can work it both ways and hit it constantly straight. Use it off the tee for tight par 4’s.
    Only use the 7.5 degree drive on long holes or holes with open fairways.
    Looking at getting a 4 wood to give a bit more distance than the 2 iron in winter.
    People should use the 3 wood more, rather than always pulling out the drive. It is more than just a club to use on second shots to par 5’s.

    • ChipNRun

      Jun 30, 2020 at 2:22 pm

      Phil,

      People who are hit-and-miss with 3W (good days and bad days) may suffer from not using it enough. On occasion they should play a 3W for all tee shots and longer fairway shots. Hitting the 3W 15 times a round rather than just two or three can help you get the groove.

      I do this on occasion with my 4W. (I’m a longtime 4W + 7W guy)

  11. Mick

    Jun 27, 2020 at 8:57 pm

    Forget that. 3 wood is my fave club!!. Titleist TS2- rocket launcher. Will never give it up. People need to learn to hit it, anyone can with practice.

  12. Sam

    Jun 27, 2020 at 8:45 pm

    It all has to do with launch angle and spin rate. How you achieve the correct launch angle and spin rate is of course based on loft, shaft, angle of decent, etc… And all those numbers depend on the golfer. Don’t let your ego get in the way if a 16* fairway goes further than your 13*, or your 18 goes further than your 15. Hybrids can’t match the center of gravity of a fairway but for some their steep angle of attack makes hybrids work better for them. Experiment, check your ego’s, and have some fun. That’s what makes golf such a blast.

  13. Twiggy1980

    Jun 27, 2020 at 6:39 pm

    Golf Wrx always talks a load of bollocks

    • BJ

      Jun 28, 2020 at 10:42 am

      Why is the word “bollocks” so funny to me lol

  14. sandtrap

    Jun 27, 2020 at 6:35 pm

    Much better basis for the descent angle argument this time Ryan. No weird variables. The last paragraph emphasising the importance of loft and not the number on the club nailed it!

  15. Curt

    Jun 27, 2020 at 3:12 pm

    The hybrid will kill the 5 wood first .

    • gwelfgulfer

      Jun 27, 2020 at 8:22 pm

      Has it yet? Won’t happen. All you need to do is stop with the nonesense of very light weight shafts in woods and just go shorter and heavier. It’ll out launch a hybrid.

      • Jifmoli

        Jul 26, 2020 at 5:17 pm

        Shorter and heavier.. so like a hybrid? I agree with Curt, hybrids are much better than woods except maybe off a tee.

    • Adrian Rodriguez

      Jul 9, 2020 at 2:09 am

      Not in my case. I had a Ping G410 5W and it was the best! Averaging 220-235 yds, decided to switch it for a 3W just to see the difference and OMG I’m going back to Roger Dunn tomorrow for that 5W lol. Hybrid will not kill the 5W, 100%.

      • nomad golfer

        Jul 17, 2020 at 12:15 am

        I did a similar thing Adrian with my TaylorMade RBZ 5W which was a honey of a club but sold it with the TM set. I now have an elderly Brosnan Regent 5w which is good but not as good as the one I sold.

    • Funkaholic

      Aug 12, 2020 at 9:35 am

      I agree, just look at the selection at the PGA store or other big box retailer, you don’t see many 5w in the racks but plenty of hybrids, that should tell you what the best sellers are.

  16. Jordan Evans

    Jun 27, 2020 at 3:05 pm

    So true. I’ve recently gone to a 16.5 deg 4 wood, 21 deg 7 wood and 25 deg hybrid. Everyone of them performs better than the lower lofted clubs they replaced. Higher launch, more carry and better distance. My swing speed is just under 100mph but I tend to deloft most of my clubs and hit down on the ball. For the first time ever I now have 14 clubs in the bag that I have confidence in.

    • Zach Bartness

      Jun 27, 2020 at 3:50 pm

      What’s after your 25 degree hybrid?

    • Slats

      Jun 28, 2020 at 5:13 am

      Yes. Likewise. Realised my traditional 15 deg three wood wasn’t working for me and now have the 16.5 TS2, and 19 and 22 degree hybrid in front of my 5 iron.

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Equipment

How far do you really hit your driving iron? – GolfWRXers discuss

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In our forums, our members have been discussing driving irons. WRXer ‘ Dufner’s Waggle’ kicks off the thread, saying:

“I have been through SIM UDI, U510, HMB, U85, CB ProH…I just don’t hit driving irons very straight or very far. I’ll have a day where I stripe it, but on the whole it’s not really giving me accuracy or a ton of distance. Maybe 225-230 at MOST.”

And our members have been revealing the driving iron they use and what distance they get out of it consistently.

Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

  • Gsea: “My driving iron is a Mizuno True 2 iron. Hit it 200-210. Strictly for tight short par 4s. Love the trajectory.”
  • MtlJeff: “I have a G400 crossover at 20 degrees, I hit it about 225 or so.”
  • COL_B: “I’ve been playing a Srixon U65 18* that I hit 220-235. I can hit it further, but high spin kills it. The Miyazaki Stiff shaft has too much flex, and when I try to really turn on one, it is a hook machine. I recently got a TM TP UDI 2 iron with a C-Taper Lite 110 S that matches my irons. It is 2 in shorter than the Srixon and goes about the same distance, but with a lower spin, and lower trajectory. Carry is 220-225, but it will roll out further than the Srixon if the fairways are dry. The thing is that I really don’t want it to go any further, as I use it on dogleg Par 4s and par 5s where a 250-yard shot gets you in trouble. Straight is the priority with the DI, which is my the Srixon is out of the bag until I get around to reshafting it.”
  • SUPERG: “19 P790 3 iron bent strong 1 degree. C taper 130X same as my irons. It’s going 250 after roll, my fave club. I hit my driver maybe 3 times a round; I hit my 3 iron everywhere else. Just way more reliable!”

Entire Thread: “How far do you really hit your driving iron?”

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Equipment

The most popular golf balls on Amazon right now

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Editor’s note: Items accurate as of author’s search of Amazon Best Sellers “Standard Golf Balls,” September 17 at 9 a.m. ET. Search conducted from Ireland of Amazon.com. Per Amazon, the results are updated hourly. 


What are the most popular golf balls on Amazon right now? From time to time, we like to get out of our little bubble of OEM releases and what’s being played on tour to look at what golf consumers are buying on one of the largest online retail marketplaces: Amazon.

Here are some of the best-selling golf balls on Amazon as of September 2020. (Prices per dozen unless noted)

1. Callaway Golf Supersoft Golf Balls

Callaway’s Supersoft golf balls are currently the most popular option amongst Amazon consumers this summer

From the listing:The Callaway Superset is a long, straight distance ball that’s incredibly soft. An ultra low compression core promotes fast ball speed and increased accuracy. New Low Drag HEX Aerodynamics are optimized to reduce drag and enhance lift for longer carry and longer distance. A new softer Trigonometry cover formulation has a low compression for enhanced feel and increased greenside control.”

Price: $22.99

Buy here.

2. TaylorMade Distance Plus Golf Balls

TaylorMade’s Distance Plus balls designed to provide maximum speed and low spin are second on the list

From the listing: “React core – low spin – high speed. Has 342 aero dimple pattern. Low drag aerodynamic design”

Price: $11.97

Buy here.

3. GoSports Foam Golf Practice Balls

Foam practice golf balls so you can practice without worrying about breaking much!

From the listing: Set of 16 sturdy foam golf balls so you can safely practice at home, indoors or outdoors. Golf balls feature a realistic dimple texture showing the true trajectory of shots with limited flight.”

Price: $9.99

Buy here.

4. Bridgestone Golf e12 Soft Golf Balls

Bridgestone’s e12 soft golf balls feature the brand’s Delta Wing Dimple pattern designed for less drag and smoother airflow

From the listing: “12 SOFT features the Active Acceleration Mantle which is comprised of a new High Performance Polymer material with added surfactant that creates increased thrust and higher initial ball velocity at impact. The e12 SOFT utilizes Bridgestone’s patented Delta Wing Dimple pattern for less drag and smoother airflow when the ball is in flight. The enhanced aerodynamics increase the straight distance properties of e12 SOFT.”

Price: $29.97

Buy here.

5. TaylorMade Rocketballz Golf Balls (Three Dozen)

TaylorMade’s ultra-soft Rocketballz are a popular product amongst golfers who shop on Amazon

From the listing:The package height of the product is 2 inches. The package length of the product is 10.5 inches. The package width of the product is 3.5 inches”

Price: $34.99

Buy here.

6. TaylorMade Noodle Long & Soft Golf Balls (24)

Another TaylorMade addition to the list with the brand’s Noodle ‘Long and Soft’ balls claiming sixth spot

From the listing:Durable and soft iothane cover. Impact propulsion core for longer carry. Great feel and increased spin around the greens. Patented dimple design for straighter flight.”

Price: $21.99

Buy here.

7. Callaway Golf ERC Soft Triple Track

Callaway’s ERC Soft Triple Track golf balls designed for optimal alignment continue to be a popular seller amongst golfers

From the listing:ERC soft is our longest callaway golf ball with soft feel. A graphene infused dual soft fast core maximizes compression energy while minimizing driver spin and promoting high launch for long distance. New triple track technology helps to improve alignment compared to a regular side stamp alignment aid.”

Price: $34.97

Buy here.

8. Bridgestone 2019 e6 Golf Balls

Just like the brand’s e12 balls, the e6 balls promising excellent distance from all shots take their spot on the hot list

From the listing:Engineered for Consistency. Improved Aerodynamics for Added Distance. Soft Feel, Long Distance. Soft Golf Ball that also Provides Long Distance.”

Price: $21.97

Buy here.

9. Polara Self Correcting 2-Piece Golf Balls

Self correcting golf balls? These balls aim to help prevent you slicing or hooking the golf ball!

From the listing:Polara Ultimate Straight Self Correcting Golf Balls are for the golfer whose problem is significant and persistent hooking or slicing off the tee. The unique 2-piece construction consists of a central core and an outer cover. HOW IT WORKS: From the tee, point the arrow on the ball directly at your target, or line it up with the center of the fairway. From the fairway, play the ball “as it lies” or re-adjust the ball orientation so the arrow again points at your target.”

Price: $44.95

Buy here.

10. TaylorMade TP5x Golf Balls

TaylorMade’s TP5x golf balls complete the Amazon hot list for some of the best-selling balls this summer

Price: $43.99

Buy here.

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Whats in the Bag

WITB GolfWRX Members Edition: KristianJ

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Recently we put out the call for our members to submit their WITBs in our forum to be featured on the GolfWRX front page. Since then, our members have been responding in numbers!

Now it’s time to take a look at the bag of KristianJ.

*Full details on the submission process can be found here, and you can submit your WITB in this forum thread.*

Member: KristianJ

KristianJ WITB

Driver: TaylorMade M5 Tour (9 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana Whiteboard 73 X (44.75″)

Fairway wood: TaylorMade SIM Titanium (14 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Blue 70 TX (43.25″)

Irons: Mizuno MP18 MMC Fli Hi (3, 4), Mizuno MMC (5-PW)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold S300 (hardstepped x 1)

Wedges: Cleveland RTX-3 Raw (50-10, 56-11, 60-9)
Shafts: KBS Tour C-Taper Lite 110 S

Putter: TaylorMade Ardmore 3 Black Copper, 35″

Putter Grip: Super Stroke Pistol

Bag: Titleist 14 way hybrid stand bag

Golf Ball: Taylormade TP5

Get submitting your WITB in our forum as we’ll be publishing more and more of them on our front page over the coming days and weeks.

Feel free to make it your own too by including some thoughts on your setup, your age, handicap, etc. Anything you feel is relevant!

Share your WITBs here.

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