2 Iron vs 3 Wood: How to Pick The Right Club for You

I was surprised by a reasonable question from a high handicapper who asked which club is better between a 2 iron vs 3 wood.

The 3-wood is not what surprised me, but rather the thought of a beginner swinging a 2-iron. Most high handicappers switch out long irons for hybrids due to their higher launch and accuracy.

I like the 2-iron for its low launch and control, which served me well on the windy golf courses in Cape Town. Nonetheless, I also carry a 3-wood, as an alternative to my driver, on days when the big stick is not firing.

In this post, I explain the differences between these clubs to help you decide which one best suits your game.

 

Overview of The 2 Iron and 3 Wood

A 3 wood and 2-iron are employed for long strikes, whether on approach to par 5s or a par 4 tee shot. Shorter hitters may also swing one of these clubs on longer par 3’s. A 3-wood is the second strongest lofted golf club in your bag after a driver. That means it should place second in terms of distance.

The weaker loft of a 3-wood compared to a driver makes it easier for many amateurs to launch high and long. Therefore, it substitutes the big stick off the tee.

Furthermore, a 2-iron is a suitable substitute for your driver if you desire a lower trajectory. That is why you may see them advertised as driving irons. Unlike the 3-wood, which delivers a similar flight to a driver, your utility iron flies low and runs hard. As I mentioned earlier, it has served me well playing in high winds.

 

Differences Between a 2 Iron and 3 Wood

Head Construction

Looking at these sticks, you can see the difference in their clubhead construction. A 3-wood features the regulation fairway wood crown, and wide clubface, while a 2-iron carries a blade shape.

Although the irons feature perimeter weighting to improve forgiveness and consistency, there is less surface area to work with, leaving minimal room for error.

The construction of a 3-wood offers sufficient space for engineers to insert innovative game improvement technology. Modern 3-woods feature an expanded sweet spot and low CG to promote a high, long shot for maximum total distance.

In addition, manufacturers craft woods with a flexible clubface to maintain ball speed on strikes, low off the face, or the heel or toe.

Shaft Length

The second clear difference between a 3 wood vs 2-iron is their shaft length. The average men’s 3-wood steel shafts measure 42.5 to 43-inches, while their graphite counterparts range from 43 to 43.5.

Contrarily, the graphite shafts on a 2-iron average 40-inches, but the steel constructions vary between 39 and 39.5-inches.

In theory, the shorter shaft length of a 2-iron should make it easier for you to strike the ball out of the sweet spot. However, it requires sufficient swing speed and ball velocity to consistently launch your ball high and long. That is ultimately why high handicappers struggle with this long iron.

Furthermore, the longer shaft on a 3-wood works to accelerate your swing speed for a more powerful strike. This helps the average golfer produce optimal distance when you catch the ball out of the sweet spot.

Besides control, the shaft length dictates your ball position at address. The longer 3-wood demands a forward ball position to give you sufficient time to square your clubface at impact. If your ball is on a tee, it must be forward enough to allow you to catch the ball after the low point of your swing.

Hitting down on the ball off the tee requires copious amounts of ball speed and spin for a high-flying shot. Failure to achieve this creates low spin, low flight, and limited distance.

On the contrary, you should place the ball towards the front-center of your stance for a 2-iron. The shorter shaft requires less time to square through impact than the 3-wood, which is why it should not be excessively forward.

Therefore, the bottom line is that a 3-wood carries a longer shaft than a 2-iron. Consequently, you should place the ball towards your front heel for 3-wood shots and closer to the center of your stance for 2-iron strikes.

Loft

The next difference between these golf clubs is the degree of loft. A 3-wood offers a stronger loft than a 2-iron and, on average, produces farther distance. The standard loft of a 3-wood clock is at 15 degrees, making it the second strongest lofted golf club in your bag after the driver.

Golfers seeking less loft for a lower launch can strengthen the face to 13 or 13.5-degrees. On the other hand, slow swingers can weaken the setup to produce 16 degrees of loft.

On the contrary, the typical loft of a 2-iron is 18 degrees, which makes you think it would produce a higher apex than a 3-wood. However, in my experience, I achieve a higher apex with the 3-wood on shots off the tee and the deck.

On a perfect day, I send my 16-degree 3-wood 32-yards in the air. Surprisingly, I generate 5-yards less height with my 2-iron, which has 18 degrees of loft.

Overall, the 3-wood carries a stronger loft but launches higher than its counterpart, the 2-iron. This point is further emphasized by golf coach Michael Newton in his test involving the two golf clubs:

His results highlighted that the 3-wood launched at an angle of 9.7-degrees, while the 2-iron came out at 9.3-degrees. On average, balls off the fairway wood ascended 32-yards in the air. Conversely, the 2-iron reached 26-yards.

As you would expect, additional backspin rpm prompted the high launch of the 3-wood. This caused the ball to roll less than shots with the 2-iron. The 2-iron sent balls rolling for 19-yards, compared to the 17 of the 3-wood. 2-yards is marginal, but that could be the difference between an eagle putt or a chip for 3 on a par 5.

 

Which Club Typically Hits Further?

In perfect weather conditions, I hit my 3-wood farther than my 2-iron. My average distance with a 3-wood is 224-yards, compared to 207 with my 2-iron.

Despite falling 17-yards short of my 3-wood on a clear day, the results differ in the wind. The lower flight and spin of a 2-iron shot keep the ball out of the wind to increase air time.

 

Which Club is Considered Easier to Hit?

I find that a 3-wood is a simpler task to get your ball airborne with a 3-wood off the tee. Its lower center of gravity (CG), flexible face, and enlarged sweet spot promote a consistent launch for improved distance and accuracy.

However, amateurs struggle to cleanly strike 3-wood shots off the deck. This is due to an imprecise ball position in your stance. Read about our 5 steps to a better stance if this is troubling your game.

Casual golfers use the same setup for a shot from the fairway or rough as they do off the tee. This means that the ball sits too forward in your stance, which often prompts you to top the ball.

Off the tee, your objective is to strike the ball moments after the low point in your swing. That allows the clubface to catch the ball on the up, sending it high and far. Off the deck, the mission differs.

You must strike the ball at the low point of your swing to boost compression. This accelerates ball speed and promotes increased carry and total distance. To achieve this, the ball must sit towards the front center of your stance. This gives you time to square the face at impact and strike it cleanly at the bottom of your swing.

The bottom line is that the average golfer may find an iron easier to strike off the deck because they do not need to alter their ball position as drastically as a 3-wood. Therefore, a 3-wood is easier to launch off the tee, while an iron brings more consistency off the deck.

 

Do You Need Both Clubs in Your Bag?

I carry both clubs in the bag to give me the option for a low and high launch club. Plus, I use my 2-iron for recovery and chip shots, while the 3-wood serves as an alternative to my driver. Now, as far as your setup goes, I do not think the average golfer needs both options.

The average moderate to slow swinging amateur may find it challenging to launch a 2-iron high and long. If this is your case, I recommend considering a hybrid instead of long irons. However, I believe a 3-wood is regulation inclusion in your bag. It offers an alternative to your driver and bridges the distance gap between the big stick and a 5-wood.

Ultimately, I do not think the average player should follow my lead. Go with the 3-wood, and leave the 2-iron out of the equation.

 

How to Figure Out Which Club is Right for You

Swing Speed

I mentioned earlier that moderate to slow swinging amateurs struggle to launch long iron shots high and far. The reduced flexibility of the clubface, combined with a refined sweet spot, demands precision on each strike.

Inaccurate strikes further reduce your spin and ball speed, encouraging a low flying ball that hits the ground prematurely, costing you yardage. Therefore, if clubhead and ball speed is an issue, I recommend sticking with the 3-wood.

Its longer shaft, fitted with a flexible face and enlarged impact zone, promotes accelerated ball speed on all shots. Even when you catch the ball off the heel or toe.

Golf Ball Flight

The next factor to consider is your preferred flight. Those battling to shoot the ball into the air will appreciate the assistance provided by a 3-wood.

The longer shaft helps you increase clubhead speed, while the flexible clubface and expanded sweet spot maintain ball speed on all strikes. This means that your ball launches high and flies long. This is ideal for the average golfer who struggles with ball flight and consistent distance.

On the contrary, a 2-iron is an excellent option for those aiming to fly the ball under the radar. You may not achieve the distance of a flushed 3-wood shot, but it eliminates the risk of ballooned shots.

Home Golf Course

Besides the performance features of the clubs, you need to factor in the layout of your home golf course. Do you play on a well-manicured course, where you are bound to receive minimal roll? Or is your home golf course a links setup, where maximum run is welcomed?

If your home course follows the approach of PGA-affiliated layouts, you need all the carry distance you can get. Your ball produces minimal roll because of the lush turf. Therefore, a low-flying ball will cost you yards. That is why a 3-wood is best on these layouts.

Conversely, a low-flying ball is ideal on a links course, as the firm ground helps your ball gain extra yardage upon landing. In this scenario, I feel that a 2-iron will serve you best if you consistently strike the ball in the sweet spot.

 

Related Reading: If you already carry a 3-wood and have no interest in swinging longer irons, learn how a hybrid club compares to fairway woods. Our review of a 5 wood vs 3 hybrid teaches you everything you need to know.

 

Matt Stevens

Matt Callcott-Stevens started playing golf at the age of 4 when Rory Sabattini's father put a 7-iron and putter in his hand. He has experienced all the highs and lows the game can throw at you and has now settled down as a professional golf writer. He holds a Postgraduate in Sports Marketing and has played golf for 28 years.