Driver vs. 3-Wood Off the Tee

I actually use a Callaway mini driver, is that not a 2 wood! It’s a little shorter than my driver but I find it easier to control and am therefore far more confident with it.

I do find the article very interesting. The charts based upon millions of shots has my length on par with my handicap, which is interesting when reading most of the strategy threads where the average golfer appears to be able to hit shots far further than me!!!

1 Like

Great article. But I wonder about the analysis. Sure, if the only cost of a 3-wood is 1% accuracy, and the penalty is just rough, bomb away. Totally agree.

But the illustration Jon chose shows a common situation. A 222-yard drive brings trees and a bunker into play. But the only penalty for a missed 194-yard 3-wood is rough.

So wouldn’t the calculation be something like this?

Driver = 46% fairway chance + 20% rough chance (-0.3) + 10% chance of trees (-1.1) + 24% chance of sand (-1.4)

3-wood = 48% fairway chance + 52% rough chance (-0.3) + 100% chance of lost distance (-0.3) whether fairway or rough

With my admittedly made up calculations, it tilts the decision a bit back to 3-wood.

D = -.06±.11±.34 = -.51 of a stroke

3 = -.16±.30= -.46 of a stroke

Bottom line: For any tee shots where trees or sand are in play for driver, but not for 3-wood, doesn’t that drive the calculation?

1 Like

This seems like a real-life golf hole example of the super-tight fairway Jon created in the article to test the dispersion. Are you sure that your dispersion is really tighter with a 3 wood off the tee? If not, then might as well hit the driver. Driver also seems to help you clear the bunkers where as the 3 wood has them in play.
If your data does show that your dispersion keeps the 3 wood in play while the driver will be out of play at a high enough rate to make it worse for strokes gained, then definitely hit the 3 wood.

1 Like

Yes I think you’re thinking about this correctly

The landing area for 3 wood is 60 yards wide vs. 40 with driver. Not saying more I’m more accurate, but there’s more room.

1 Like

Hmm I guess my point is already covered elsewhere in this excellent Forum.



This is where analyzing your own results can help make a more informed decision. For example, if I knew that driver was going to bring trees, bunkers, or a penalty area into play based on distance, then I would most likely lay back. However, if we’re talking lateral dispersion, I think that’s where things sometimes point in the direction of driver still because we’re seeing that a lot of players don’t hit their fairway woods all that straight.

1 Like

I stopped carrying a 3 wood and went with a 4 wood which is about 240 yds. I’ve always had the mindset to hit driver if the hole permits and I utilize the club more for certain laid out par 4’s. I found the 3 wood sat in the bag too much. Regarding par 5’s, if I can’t get there in two with a 4 wood, then I should be laying up anyhow. Another well written article.


I think for most players their lowest fairway wood should be optimized for hitting off the turf. In many cases, adding loft can help get the ball in the air. Golfers are led to believe that less loft = more distnace, and for many the opposite is true. Thanks for reading, and welcome to the community!

1 Like

I think the easiest thing is to go to this page on my site. They are arranged in chronological order (newest first). I have a site re-design being done right now, so it will be more intuitive and broken down into further categories in the near future.

I think positing all my articles on here could get a bit messy, so it’s best to use the archives page on the site IMO

1 Like

hi: thanks Jon. As someone who has tried to ‘keep it in the fairway’ to improve the score I can attest to the information in your article. I follow a lot of you tube golfers, most of who are excellent players. One in particular strives to help weekenders improve in stages. His philosophy is that if you can break 100 you don’t need to change your swing; you need to change your strategy. Example: take a club that you can hit at least 150 yds straight off 95% of the tee boxes. Tried it. Score wasn’t any better vs the driver.

1 Like

Thanks for the feedback, and welcome to the community!

My thinking on the driver has evolved over the years as I’ve seen more and more data and spoken with a lot of coaches. While everyone’s golf game is unique, if you want to play your absolute best, you need to find a way to embrace the big stick!

There are a lot of people that I know that just fear their driver regardless of the situation. They take out the 3 wood and try to hit one in the fairway. I like how the article goes through the shot data for each club. One thing that comes to mind for me is the level of confidence someone has when they are trying to hit the club that “gives them trouble”. I have learned to not fear clubs and practice the ones that give me problems. The guy that is thinking that he can’t hit hit driver in the fairway probably never will. But with that aside- I am going to rethink club selection next time I am out on the course. I take three wood sometimes in spots that are narrow just from being told that or the slightest inclination that I need to hit the fairway “for certain”! It really should be a decision on how far you want the ball to go. Some holes are shorter than others and you will set yourself up better with a shorter shot off the tee and vice versa. Thanks for the article!

1 Like

That’s an interesting one because the fairway bunkers will make laying back somewhat penal as well. Based on my data, I’d be hitting the driver. I think this one could be a toss-up based on how well you do hit that fairway wood off the tee.

This speaks to the notion I covered in this article:

Bunkers really just prevent going for it in 2. Either bunker you can get it so you have under 150 in.

I’ve always hit driver, but picked up distance with my new driver (and they took out the tree on the right which previously prevented lost balls). Think I’m going to hit 3 wood for a while (unless it’s soaking wet or into the wind) and see where it leaves me. If it’s too far back I’ll adjust.

1 Like

The strokes gained data on fairway bunkers really surprised me as I didn’t expect them to be that penal. That’s just skewed by my personal experience though, since my swing tends to just pick the ball I don’t feel like I have any real issues with hitting out of them.

1 Like

I think there could be a wide range of results based on skill level in bunkers, but they are penal for all levels! Between lie, stance, and dealing with the lip - they are pretty challenging!


Agreed - in my scenario since it’s a par 5 they’re less penal since it’s a forced layup to a “reasonable” distance.

1 Like

Yeah, it is so hard for me to not hit driver almost every time…the mishits still go so far and are not very offline.

1 Like