The 3 wood has been a popular club pretty much since golf began. It’s rare that anyone, from pros to amateurs, will be seen without this particular wood in their bag. The reason for this is quite simple: 3 woods have the potential to hit big shots whilst retaining a good amount of control.
In fact, a long-running debate in the golfing world has been whether you should hit a 3 wood off the tee instead of a driver. Many argue that accuracy should be favored over distance; with a 3 wood, you’re better equipped to consistently hit fairways, and you run less of a risk of finding trouble.
The superior control of a 3 wood largely comes from its shorter shaft length. In this article, we’ll answer the question, what is the length of a 3 wood? We’ll also explore, in more depth, the debate of whether you should use a driver or a 3 wood off the tee.
What is the Length of a 3 Wood?
The standard length of a 3 wood golf club is 43 inches. For women, the standard length is 42 inches.
This length applies to graphite shafts, which is the go-to material for the majority of 3 woods. For those who opt for a steel shaft, the length of the 3 wood will be slightly shorter. For men, a steel shaft 3 wood is typically 42.5 inches long, and for women, it is 41.5 inches long.
If you want to learn more about the differences between steel and graphite shafts, click here.
Of course, there can be deviations in these lengths. A 3 wood can be anywhere between 41 and 45 inches long. Choosing a longer shaft will grant you slightly more distance at the expense of a bit of control; a shorter shaft will give you more control, but less distance. You may also want to choose a different shaft length based on your height – a professional club fitter can help you with this.
Difference Between Driver and 3 Wood Shaft Length
The standard length of a men’s driver is 45 inches, making it two inches longer than a 3 wood. For women, the standard length is 44 inches, again making it two inches longer than a 3 wood.
It may not sound like much, but those two inches make a lot of difference to the mechanics and output of a swing. A longer shaft length allows you to generate more clubhead speed, resulting in bigger hits. Therefore, coupled with the larger clubhead, the longer shaft length of a driver is capable of achieving greater distances than a 3 wood.
Should You Use a 3 Wood or a Driver Off the Tee?
Since the distance of a 3 wood can’t realistically compete with that of a driver, you’d think that everyone would simply choose to use a driver off the tee, not a 3 wood. After all, hitting the ball further is surely a great way to reduce the numbers on your scorecard. Not to mention that hitting big drives feels really, really good.
But as we all know, there is much more to golf than just who can hit the ball the furthest. Accuracy and control are just as, if not more, important than distance. And when you use a 3 wood, accuracy and control come a lot easier due to its shorter shaft length.
Theoretically, if you were to always play with your 3 wood off the tee rather than your driver, you would hit more fairways. Theoretically.
In reality, you can just as easily hit a wild slice or hook with your 3 wood as you can with your driver, regardless of the differences in shaft length. Plus, it’s worth considering that the driver has a much bigger face, and thus a bigger sweet spot. Most drivers nowadays are packed full of forgiveness; off-center shots won’t be penalized as heavily as they will with a 3 wood.
Having said that, the driver will be more punishing than the 3 wood whenever you hit an off-line shot. If you hit a shot into some trees, for instance, the driver will go further and deeper, such that you might not even be able to find your ball. The 3 wood may still take you into the trees, but the problem won’t be as severe.
Tough debate, right? No wonder golfers have never been able to decide on a definitive answer, and probably never will.
Ultimately, then, it really comes down to your ability with each individual club. The superior control of a 3 wood will do you absolutely no favors if you are frequently topping it. Similarly, the superior distance of a driver is pointless, even harmful, if you are prone to hitting wild slices.
If you’re confident that you can hit clean shots with your driver, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t use it; enjoy the bigger distances! But if you feel that you’ll more consistently hit fairways with your 3 wood, then that might be the better choice; more consistently accurate shots, even if they aren’t going as far, will really support your game.
The standard length of a 3 wood is purposefully shorter than that of a driver, so as to grant the user more control. With a 3 wood, you have a good chance of hitting more consistently accurate shots, which is why many people opt to use it on the tee instead of a driver.
Other people, however, are far better off using a driver. There is no simple answer to the question of what you should use. It’s all about personal preference; just use whichever club you feel most comfortable with.
Nick is the founder of GolfSpan and an avid golfer. He's not quite a pro but has over 15 years of experience playing and coaching golfers worldwide. His mission is to bring the golfing community a better experience when it comes to choosing the right golf gear and finding the right setup for your game.