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Is your 3 wood really more accurate than your driver off the tee?

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When I’m struggling with my driver, I’ll switch to a 3 wood off the tee for more control. Along with many others, I first learned this strategy from Jack Nicklaus in his prime.

During a lesson the other day, I suggested that a student try the same thing. He countered by saying that hitting a 3 wood off the tee does not work in today’s game, because the courses have become too long. In fact, he went on to say that most people don’t hit their 3 wood as accurately as they think and it’s not worth losing the “30 to 40 yards” when hitting 3 wood.

I stepped back for a second and thought, “Does he have a point? Is my information outdated? 

Later on, I decided to grab my Trackman 4 and a few random players and had them hit shots to see what really happened when they hit their driver and 3 wood off the tee. Below is the data I captured from two different players who hit their driver against their three wood.

Player 1: Driver

Player13wood

  • The driver carried an average of 238.9 yards.
  • It rolled out to a distance of 258.8 yards, on average.
  • The average miss was 24.0 feet to the right.

Player 1: 3 Wood

Player1driver

  • His three wood carried an average of 230.0 yards.
  • It rolled out to 246.5 yards, on average.
  • The misses averaged out to 10.2 feet left.

Player 1: Driver vs. 3 Wood

Player1both

This player tends to miss his driver to the right, while he tends to hit the three wood in both directions, but generally closer to the target than the driver.

There wasn’t much difference between the two clubs on the carry side, only 8.9 yards, which tells me that the driver isn’t fit correctly for this student because his carry is too short for his club head speed of 102-104 mph.

Giving up yardage could mean too long of an approach shot into the green for this player, and for that reason he will likely be better off hitting driver off the tee — especially if trouble looms on the left. His misses also went consistently farther with the driver, thanks to its more forgiving, 460-cubic-centimeter head. Even the largest fairway woods are usually less than half that size, and for that reason they’re less-forgiving clubs. 

Conclusion for Player 1

There is no doubt that Player 1’s 3 wood shots were indeed the better when it comes to accuracy, since this player’s miss average was 10.2 feet left. His biggest miss with the three wood was only 44.9 feet left versus 61.4 feet right with the driver. His lack of distance, however, makes driver a better choice in most cases, and his driving would likely be improved by custom fitting. 

Player 2: Driver

Player2Driver

  • Carry distance of the driver was 261.7 yards and the overall total was 285 yards.
  • This player has a big miss left with his driver.
  • The average miss was 66.7 feet left with the three biggest misses being 151.2 feet, 156.4 feet, and 172.4 feet to the left.

Player 2: 3 Wood

Player23wood

  • The average carry was 245.8 yards with a difference of 20 yards (235.5 to 253.5 yards) between the longest and shortest shots.
  • The ball rolled out to an average of 263.2 yards with the three wood. 
  • The three wood had an average miss of only 35.5 feet left.

Player 2: Driver vs. 3 Wood

Player2Both

  • Player 2 carried the ball an average of 15.9 yards longer with his driver, and the clubs had similar roll-out distances. 
  • The biggest miss with his driver was 172.4 feet left, while the biggest miss with the three wood was 69.0 feet left
Conclusion for Player 2

There is NO doubt that Player 2 should hit 3 wood whenever he gets under pressure or must hit the fairway due to the huge miss potential with his driver. And as far as this player hits the ball, he should still be able to hit comfortable approach shots into most par 4’s without his driver. 

Final Thoughts

For shorter hitters such as Player 1, it can be true that a 3 wood off the tee is usually not the best option, despite small gains in accuracy that can be possible. For longer hitters — especially those like Player 2 who struggle with driver accuracy — 3 wood can still be a prudent play.

The takeaway is that it’s important for golfers to never blindly choose a strategy based on what’s trendy, but to instead do their own testing. It’s those findings that are truly important. My years on the lesson tee and this test prove to me that it’s still ok to hit a 3 wood when you need to get your tee shot in play.

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: [email protected]

27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Srksi

    May 21, 2019 at 7:04 am

    Premise: “Struggling with driver” 260 y and 24 f right?! LOL
    Struggling with driver is 240 y and 40 yards right!

  2. Bobby

    Nov 22, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    I am going to let you guys in on a little secret. Go to Hirekogolf and get a Thriver, 14 degree loft like a 3 wood and 460cc head like a driver. I have a callaway drive I also use. Not scared of the driver, sometimes I need accuracy, and sometimes I need to let the big dogs eat. I can hit the ball pretty far so when I miss a certain degree left or right it goes way out. A push or a pull not a hook or slice can be OB… I don’t sacrifice to much distance with the Thriver. Hitting a driver long is a blessing and a curse… miss hit and just wave good bye and tee up your third shot!
    http://www.hirekogolf.com/golf-clubs/custom-golf-clubs/golf-drivers/acer-xf-titanium-thriver-custom-assembled.html

  3. Mat

    Nov 12, 2015 at 10:52 pm

    This more or less contradicts the book Every Shot Counts. In short, if you set accuracy to equal, the driver is worth it every time. There’s no question, because the extra 20-40 yards gives an easier second shot even with a not-great lie. No doubt I’d rather be 125 in the first cut than 165 in the fairway.

    This limited sample size just lends itself to equipment misfittings for both players… player one misses driver right, 3w left. Huh? Both teed? Player two has a poor driver. Whatever p2 has for a 3w is the magic sauce, but that just leads to the conclusion that p2 should NEVER hit driver if driver is only marginally better but way, way less accurate. Even with that dispersion, this is a player that should be expecting another 10-25 yards on drives. With a 3w dispersion like that, there is clearly an issue with driver for any number of reasons.

  4. rockflightxl1000

    Nov 12, 2015 at 11:51 am

    I tend to be a little steeper so swinging my 3 wood w/ a little less descending angle of attack than my irons doesn’t feel like such a big departure in my swing. My driver swing often doesn’t get the face and path synced up which often gives me control issues. That being said I’d rather be able to draw my 3 wood, which is shorter in length and allows me to be steeper, than fade/pull hook a drive. I wish I could play enough to be a good driver but the constant day to day/ swing to swing change is a lot to manage when all I’m trying to do is put together a good score. In summary I like swinging 3 wood b/c it doesn’t feel like such a big departure from my irons and thus lets me think about scoring. I would admit though that going driver wedge on a par 4 or on in 2 on a par five are worth while goals to strive for but not at the expense of O.B. or punching out from the forest.

  5. Frozengolfer

    Nov 11, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    It certainly varies from one golfer to the next…and where their swing is at. There’s more room to miss on the face of a driver but for me, a three wood still probably hits more fairways.
    In the end, a good swing is a good swing and a bad swing with any club gives you a bad result.

  6. Steve

    Nov 11, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    When I first back into golf a few years ago after a long hiatus I rarely touched my driver. My friends always ripped on me for pulling my 3 wood every time but my accuracy is so much better with my wood its uncanny. Now that I’ve been back into things for awhile my driver is much better than it was, but I am never afraid to use my 3 wood and short game skills to outscore my friends even if they drive 20-30 yds further than me off the tee.

  7. Scott

    Nov 11, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    I have been playing a short tree-lined country club course (est. 1950’s) for several years. Fairway accuracy is of the utmost importance. I pull 3W on 6 holes. I do think it comes down to personal preference. However, I would be interested to know the correlation between clubhead size and accuracy.

  8. Mark

    Nov 11, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    Was it the same for the other players you tested? You said you tested a few players but then only gave results for two.

    Confirmation bias?

  9. Bryan

    Nov 11, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    I think this article leaves a lot to be desired. First, you really can’t draw any conclusions from a sample size of 2. Second, as others have pointed out, using average distance offline is problematic. Player 1 clearly has a smaller dispersion with the driver and a one way miss. Third, we really wouldn’t know what the better play is without knowing about the rest of the player’s game, the hole, and the situation. I realize that the question was simply which club is more accurate, but what good is being a little more accurate if it doesn’t help your score?

    The reality is that for some players, the three wood is going to be the best option on all but the most open holes and for some players three wood is almost never the best option.

    The author certainly agrees with that in his takeaway, but doesn’t provide as much guidance as he could.

  10. Matto

    Nov 11, 2015 at 1:56 am

    I play a G30 11.5 and a SLDR Mini Driver 14.
    The mini driver has been a revelation when I’m not driving well with the Ping….& actually WAY more accurate than I could ever hit my former 3 wood, almost to the point where I’m considering selling the G30.

  11. billm311

    Nov 10, 2015 at 8:36 pm

    I am one of those players that much more confidence in my driver than my 3 wood. Both were “custom fit” and have similar shafts (same model in different weight and length, cut to match flex closely). Despite them being very similar, I get more consistent results from my driver. The problem I run in to, is on medium length holes where a driver doesn’t make sense, and an iron off the tee leaves a second shot that is just too long. In my last 5 rounds, I lost strokes on every hole that I had to use my 3 wood due to errant tee shots. Last year, it was probably the other way around.

    Maybe it’s time for a new wood. Really, it comes down to practice.

  12. Ryan

    Nov 10, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    Player 1 seems to have a better dispersion with the driver. Not the 3 wood.

  13. Rolla

    Nov 10, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    Further analysis showing the number of shots that result in dispersion of greater than half the average fairway width would be a true test of this stategy. Put on the tee I wanna know i hit the fairway more frequently not that I’m three trees closer to somewhere I’m still chipping out from. I suspect the conclusion will be similar tho

  14. Kevin

    Nov 10, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    The farther the ball travels the bigger the miss. It’s all depending on the landing spot on the fairway, pick the most generous landing spot that you are capable of carry the ball to, choose your correct club distance and bomb it down with confidence.

  15. alexdub

    Nov 10, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    I think Rory is an excellent example of this. He tees off with his 3 wood 2-4 times per round regardless of the course setup. Granted, he can nail his 3 wood 300+, but I think the principle is the same. The margin of error is smaller with the wood.

  16. Lsf_21

    Nov 10, 2015 at 11:06 am

    I hit both my driver and 3 wood somewhat accurate. That being said if I were told I have to hit a fairway in pulling 3 wood.

  17. Sydney

    Nov 9, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    Hello Tom,

    Here’s data from gamegolf for my last 20 rounds:

    10* Driver –
    240yds, 42%FW (33% miss right, 25% miss left)
    17* Fairway –
    225yds, 62%FW (20% miss right, 18% miss left)

    My bad miss is a hook so I tend to aim at the right side of the fairway and many of my right misses are actually solid shots that don’t draw. I do feel more confident with the 17* and the driver is usually the second choice unless the swing feels extra good that day. So for me, 20% more fairways beats 15 yards on most holes…. Do you agree?

  18. Charles

    Nov 9, 2015 at 8:40 pm

    Obviously this article mostly comes down to personal preference….I know guys that feel so comfortable with their 3w’s that they never miss fairways, and other guys that feel more comfortable with driver. I have played professionally for 5 years now, and I can tell you that other then controlling distance (laying up before a bunker or other trouble), the only reason you hit 3 wood is because the miss is more controlled. It’s all about controlling misses in golf, PARTICULARLY off the tee. I promise you 95% of golfers worst miss with a 3 wood is a thousand times better then their worst miss with a driver. Thats all it really comes down to, controlling misses.

  19. mo

    Nov 9, 2015 at 7:51 pm

    IMO dump the 3 wood and go with a 14* driver. Best of both worlds and how many times does one hit 3 wood off the deck per round-especially longer hitters.

  20. other paul

    Nov 9, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    I play a 3 deep and I use it all the time. I hit it stupid low, like 5-8 degrees. I love it for 300 yard par 4’s, and into the wind, and I tend to fade it versus hooking my driver. So as a lefty its a great club to avoid trouble on the right.

  21. Taylor

    Nov 9, 2015 at 7:20 pm

    I would much rather hit a driver off the tee than a 3 wood. If the hole is too short for a driver, I’ll grab my next accurate club (4 iron) when I need to hit a fairway on a par 4. I’ll only grab the 3 wood when I know I have a healthy landing area. This being said…the best club you could have a is a confident 3 wood, if only I could find the swing with it.

  22. Carlos Danger

    Nov 9, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    If it is…then you need to get a new driver

  23. Progolfer

    Nov 9, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    When I initially saw the title of this article, I rolled my eyes because Rich Hunt wrote almost the exact same article about a year ago stating that driver was the better play; however, I was pleasantly surprised with this article! It is was well thought out, provided detailed analysis, and came to a profound conclusion– ALL GOLFERS ARE DIFFERENT.

    I can’t stand it when I see golfers (or anyone, for that matter) making a decision based on what others are doing. Find what’s best for YOU, and you’ll be happier and better off for it.

    Thanks for the article!

  24. shiimmy

    Nov 9, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    Thanks for the article!

    I wonder what the difference between a conventional 3 wood and a super high-lofted driver (13.5*+) would be? I feel like I’m more accurate with the bigger head/face, but I often wonder what AoA has to do with accuracy.

  25. golfraven

    Nov 9, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    I played the 2015 season only with a 3 wood in the bag and wonder now if this was good strategy, after playing with driver in the bag this weekend in competition and hit 100% fairways when I pulled the driver. Maybe the wood helped me to hit it more accurately so maybe it was worth it. Didn’t have issues with the wood even on longer holes but now that weather is getting colder I need to hit driver to have same results.

  26. David

    Nov 9, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    The driver and 3 wood pictures for Player 1 are not under the correct heading. They need to be switched.

    • Zak Kozuchowski

      Nov 9, 2015 at 2:58 pm

      Thank you for letting us know, David.

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Instruction

TXG: Should you carry TWO DRIVERS? // Distance, Accuracy, Draw & Fade Setups

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Some of the best players in the world have been testing a two-driver setup for their bags. Does it make sense to play two drivers if they are set up for two different shot shapes? We test one driver setup for maximum distance and draw flight and another setup for accuracy and fade flight. See whether this could be an advantage for your game—and help you get off the tee better at your course!

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Fixing the shanks: How to stop shanking the golf ball (GolfWRX Explains)

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May you never be concerned about fixing the shanks! But if you’re begging the golf gods for guidance how to stop shanking the golf ball? Ready to offer up your first-born child for the wisdom how to stop shanking irons? Frantically asking Google how to never shank a golf ball again?

Fear not. We’ll get to drills to stop shanking irons shortly that are guaranteed to ingrain the proper feel and anti-shank action, but first, a brief discussion of what exactly a shank is (other than will-to-live crushing).

More often than not, a shank occurs when a player’s weight gets too far onto the toes, causing a lean forward. Instead of the center of the clubface striking the ball—as you intended at address—the hosel makes contact with your Titleist, and—cover your ears and guard your soul—a shank occurs.

How to stop shanking the golf ball

If you’ve ever experienced the dreaded hosel rocket departing your club at a 90-degree angle, you know how quickly confidence can evaporate and terror can set in.

Fortunately, the shanks are curable and largely preventable ailment. While there are drills to fix your fault you once the malady has taken hold, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

How to stop shanking the golf ball

If you’re trying to understand how to stop shanking the golf ball, you need to understand where the ball makes contact with the club during a shank.

Fixing the shanks

To avoid shanking the golf ball, it’s important to lock in on some keys…

  • Have a proper setup and posture…Athletic posture, arms hang down, neither too bent over nor too upright, weight on the balls of the feet.
  • Keep your grip light and arms tension free…If 10 is a death grip of golf club and 1 is the club falling out of your hand, aim for a grip in the 4-6 range. Make sure your forearms aren’t clenched.
  • Maintain proper balance throughout the swing…50/50 weight to start (front foot/back foot). 60/40 at the top of the backswing. 90/10 at impact.
  • Avoid an excessively out-to-in or in-to-out swing path…Take the club straight back to start, rather than excessively inside (closer to the body) or outside (further away from the body).

The best drill to stop shanking the golf ball

Set up properly (as discussed above), flex your toes upward as you begin your swing and keep your chest high (maintain your spine angle) throughout the swing.

Other than those focal points, keep your brain free of any additional chatter, which only exacerbates shankitis.

(For more advice, be sure to check out what our friends at Me and My Golf have to say below)

Now you know how to stop shanking the golf ball and have the tools to never shank the golf ball again.

Praise the golf gods!

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Cameron Smith’s 3-month Covid-19 training block

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Whilst Covid-19 has presented countless grave health and economic challenges to the world’s population, it has also provided opportunity for many people to focus their attention on projects that they normally wouldn’t have time for.

Turns out PGA Tour players are no different, and in the case of Cameron Smith, we used the enforced break from competitive golf to undertake a very rare, uninterrupted 3 month block of strength training.

Cam plays 25-30 events a year spread across 4 continents and this presents a number of challenges to overcome from a training and programming perspective:

– Varying facilities

– Travel fatigue and jet lag

– Concerns around muscle soreness affecting ability to perform on course

– Physical and mental cost of competing

When combined, these challenges can often render even the most carefully planned training programs redundant. So whilst many golf fans were coming to terms with a prolonged absence of PGA Tour events, I was getting stuck into designing programs that would hopefully elicit the following outcomes for Cam:

– More muscle mass

– More strength

– More power

In a normal season, I’m hesitant to prescribe programs that focus on muscle gain, because the nature of the training volume tends to tighten Cam up (reduce his range of motion), reduce his club-head speed and elicit a lot of muscle soreness…..not an ideal combination for short term performance! But I knew in this case, we could get stuck into some higher volume work because we would have plenty of time to recover from any lost mobility, reduced speed and increased soreness before tournaments started again.

 

Mid March – Program 1 – General Hypertrophy Focus

We decided with the global virus outlook looking dire and the PGA Tour promising to deliver a 30 day notice before resumption of play, we should focus on hypertrophy (increasing muscle size) until the 30 day notice period was delivered. At that point we would switch to a more familiar power based program in preparation for tournaments starting up again.

Program Breakdown:

– 4 weeks

– 3 sessions per week

– 1 x lower focus (legs, glutes, core)

– 1 x push focus (chest, shoulders, triceps, core)

– 1 x pull focus (back, biceps, core)

– Gradually increasing volume over 4 weeks (more reps and sets to failure)

Training Variables:

Sets: 3 to 4

Reps: 8 to 12

Tempo: 2-0-2 (2 seconds up, no pause, 2 seconds down)

Weight: around 70% of maximum

Rest: 60 seconds, but this can vary when pairing exercises together in supersets or mini circuits

 

Example Workout – Lower Body Focus (legs, glutes, core):

 

Example Exercises:

 

Mid April – Program 2 – Lower Body Hypertrophy Focus

As Cam was about to finish up his first hypertrophy program, there was a fairly clear indication that there would be no play until mid June at the earliest. Knowing that we had 2 more months of training, we decided to continue with another hypertrophy block. This time increasing the focus on the lower body by breaking down the leg work into 2 seperate sessions and ramping up the training volume.

Program Breakdown:

– 4 weeks

– 4 sessions per week

– 2 x lower body focus (1 x quad focused workout and 1 x hamstring / glute focused workout)

– 1 x push focus (chest, shoulders, triceps, core)

– 1 x pull focus (back, biceps, core)

– Gradually increasing volume over 4 weeks (more reps and sets)

Training Variables:

Sets: 3 to 4

Reps: 8 to 12

Tempo: 2-0-2 (2 seconds up, no pause, 2 seconds down)

Weight: around 70% of maximum

Rest: 60 seconds, but this can vary when pairing exercises together in supersets or mini circuits

 

Example Workout – Pull Focus (back, biceps, core):

 

Example Exercises:

Mid May – Program 3 – Power Focus

Once we received confirmation that play would be resuming 11th June at Colonial, we made the call to switch to a power focused program. Moving back to 3 days per week, lowering the volume and increasing the intensity (more weight and more speed in the main lifts).

The idea is to get the body used to moving fast again, reduce muscle soreness to allow better quality golf practice, and supplement the with more mobility work to re-gain any lost range of motion.

We also added some extra grip work because Cam discovered that with the muscle and strength gain, plus lifting increased weight, his grip was failing on key lifts…..not such a bad problem to have!

Program Breakdown:

– 4 weeks

– 3 sessions per week

– 1 x lower body focus (legs, glutes, core, grip)

– 1 x upper body focus (chest, back, biceps, triceps, core, grip)

– 1 x combined focus (legs, glutes, shoulders, core, grip)

– Volume remains constant (same sets and reps), aiming to increase intensity (either weight or speed) over the 4 weeks.

Training Variables:

Sets: 4 to 5

Reps: 3-5 for main exercises, 8-12 for accessory exercises.

Tempo: X-0-1 for main exercises (as fast as possible in up or effort phase, no pause, 1 second down). 2-0-2 for accessory exercises.

Weight: around 85% of maximum for main exercises, around 70% for accessory exercises.

Rest: 90 seconds, but this can vary when pairing exercises together in supersets or mini circuits

 

Example Workout – Combined (legs, glutes, core, shoulders, grip):

 

Example Exercises:

 

If you are interested in receiving some professional guidance for your training, then check out the services on offer from Nick at Golf Fit Pro

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