Fully Equipped mailbag: Why do I struggle with my 3-wood?

Fairway woods are some of the hardest clubs to hit for recreational golfers

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Welcome to another edition of the Fully Equipped mailbag, sponsored by Cleveland/Srixon Golf, an interactive GOLF.com series in which we field your hard-hitting gear questions.

Why do I have such a hard time hitting my 3-wood, but no issue with my 5-wood or hybrid? Toby W. – Texas

Similarly to why players struggle with driver, the less loft a club has, the harder it is to get into the air with enough spin to maintain carry — in other words, it all comes down to physics.

Another big reason a lot of golfers struggle with lower lofted clubs like a 3-wood is that they attempt to “lift” the ball into the air instead of swinging through and that results in shots hit low on the face.

Last but not least, a 3-wood is the next longest club after the driver, and longer club clubs are harder to square up at impact. When all these factors collide, it’s easy to see why so many golfers have a hard time with this club. But there are solutions!

1. Try a shorter 3-wood

One of the quickest and easiest ways to try and improve consistency with your 3 wood is to cut it down 1/2″ to 1″ depending on the original length to around 42-42.5″. If you have a 3-wood with an adjustable hosel and have a matching 5-wood, try using the shorter shaft to create better face contact.

Improved center and square contact from a shorter shaft is going to override any loss in clubhead speed from the shorter length and can create much better results on the course, especially when it comes to dispersion.

2. Completely ditch the 3-wood for a club with more loft

Toby, you said it yourself — you hit your hybrid and 5-wood better than your 3-wood, so if you are still having consistency issues after playing your 3-wood at a shorter length, it might be time to ditch it all together.

The two best clubs to consider are either a 4- or 5-wood with a shaft length of around 42.5″. The length will help maintain clubhead speed and the extra loft of the 4-wood (16.5° on average) or the 5-wood (18-19°) should add launch, spin, and carry.

If you think adding more loft is going to rob you of distance, just remember that some of the longest players on Tour choose to use a 4-wood over a traditional 15° 3-wood to hit the ball higher and longer.

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3. Still having issues? Try something completely different

If you have already tried a shorter 3-wood or a fairway wood with more loft with limited success, it might be time to try an alternative like a lower lofted hybrid in the 17°-18° range, or if you are looking for the best of both worlds when it comes to a fairway and hybrid, look no further than the Cleveland Golf Hy-Wood.

The Launcher XL Hy-Wood combines a larger fairway wood style head — roughly the size of a 5 wood, with a shorter shaft and slightly more upright lie angle. Think of it like a hybrid club packed with fairway-wood technology. The shorter length makes it easier to find the center of the clubface and the heavier head with 18° of loft helps get the ball in the air quickly from the tee, fairway or even the rough.

Still not sure what to do? Check out your favorite retailer for a clubfitter who can help get your long game dialed in with a long game fitting to see if you really need to carry that 3-wood after all.

Are you planning an equipment overhaul? Find a fitting location near you at GOLF’s affiliate company True Spec Golf. For more on the latest gear news and information, check out our latest Fully Equipped podcast below.

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By: Ryan Barath
Ryan Barath

Golf.com Editor

Ryan Barath is GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com’s senior editor for equipment. He has an extensive club-fitting and -building background with more than 20 years of experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour players. Before joining the staff, he was the lead content strategist for Tour Experience Golf, in Toronto, Canada.