How Far You Should Be Hitting Your 3 Iron (Based on Skill)
Written by Brittany Olizarowicz

Britt O has been playing golf since the age of 7. Almost 30 years later, she still loves the game, has played competitively on every level, and spent a good portion of her life as a Class A PGA Professional. Britt currently resides in Savannah, GA, with her husband and two young children. Current Handicap: 1

Updated on January 12, 2024

When hitting a 3 iron, you may notice some inconsistency in total distance. The lower loft in this club makes it a bit less forgiving, and golfers often can’t hit the ball quite as far. These distances are based on shots that are well struck and have the ball flight that they should.

Beginner

A beginner golfer will likely get about 160 yards out of a 3 iron. I’ve taught many beginners that love their 3 iron because it gives them a low and penetrating ball flight that rolls for a long time.

At the beginning stages of the game, this may be appealing, but at some point, you will want a club that helps the golf ball get up in the air. The beginner golfer struggles with consistency and proper turf interaction.

These issues in the game end up creating problems with total launch and ball flight, so many beginner golfers have a hard time getting this club off the ground.

High Handicap

High-handicap golfers often have the same issues that beginners do with inconsistency. However, not all high handicappers are those with slower swing speeds. The range for high handicappers to hit a 3 iron is usually between 160 and 180 yards.

Again, most high handicappers will switch to a 3 hybrid simply because they are looking for a higher ball flight. The extra flight gives them increased distance and certainly more forgiveness.

Mid Handicap

The mid handicappers start to have more consistency in how they strike the golf ball. If you are a mid handicapper, chances are you are striking the center of the clubface more often than not.

In the mid handicap range, expect to see the distance of the 3 iron to be around 180 and sometimes even 190 yards. The longer distances would be for those that are playing with game improvement style clubs that are built for distance.

Hitting the ball on the sweet spot also gives you a few more yards, regardless of swing speed. The total distance that anyone can hit a 3 iron is greatly impacted by the accuracy of the strike.

Low Handicap

Low handicap golfers have the accuracy factor down. In addition, most lower handicappers are faster swing speed golfers. With this combination f accuracy of strike and higher club speed, the smash factor for low handicap golfers is quite impressive.

The total distances we see for these players usually start at around 200 yards for a 3 iron and continue up from there.

Some lower handicap golfers use a 3 iron utility club, and they see similar distance with a bit more forgiveness built in.

Pro

A professional golfer hits a 3 iron anywhere from 205 to 225 yards. Some players may get even more distance than that, depending on shaft length, launch angle, and swing speed. Pros can get a tremendous amount of length from their shots, but they are more concerned with accuracy.

One of the things that you will notice about professional golfers is that they don’t all carry the 3 iron. Some will use it, but others use a utility or even a hybrid to replace the 3 iron. This has been a change that has occurred only in the last few years.

 

golf course

When to Use Your 3 Iron

It may seem as though I’ve been a little leery calling the 3 iron a fantastic golf club. I have just seen too many golfers try to use this club for the wrong things.

So many newer players believe the 3 iron is helping them simply because it scoots along the ground quite far. I understand that it may seem as though it’s helpful, but this is a shot that you won’t need for long and one that doesn’t make much sense to keep around.

Here is where I would suggest using a 3 iron, and some tips on who should be using it.

Approach From Fairway on Par 5

If there is not much trouble between you and the flag, the 3 iron can be a great club to use. Even if you miss it a little and the ball stays low along the ground, you may get all the distance you need for the ball to make it to the hole.

Par 4 Tee Shot

One of the benefits of the 3 iron is that it can be good for a stinger-type shot where you keep the ball low and straight. If you are playing a par 4 with a lot of trouble and want to just place something in the fairway that rolls for a while, the 3 iron can be a good shot.

Long Par 3

A long par 3 is another situation where you may need to pull the 3 iron out of the bag. With the long par 3, pay close attention to your total distance on the 3 iron so that you don’t run the ball through the green.

 

Other Clubs That Could Replace a 3 Iron

The 3 iron is one of the most popular clubs in the bag to remove and replace with something easier to hit. Here are the clubs that golfers use to replace the 3 iron.

3 Utility

If you like the look of the 3 iron but need a bit more forgiveness with your golf shots, the 3 utility is a great club to choose. With a 3 utility in place, you can still get impressive clubhead speed and the iron-like feel. However, chances are the ball flight will be higher, and total distance could be higher as well.

I also find that the utility clubs are easier to hit out of the rough.

3 Hybrid

The 3 hybrid is one of the most common replacements for the 3 iron. Hybrids offer high launch, impressive total distance, accuracy, and some of the best performance out of the rough. If you have a 3 hybrid in the bag, you will have more versatility than you do with the 3 iron.

5 Wood

A 5 wood is another common replacement for the 3 iron. With a 5 wood, you can expect a much longer total distance, plenty of roll, and a different feel coming off the clubface.

I prefer the 5 wood, and I keep one in my bag. One of the things I notice on a full swing with the 5 wood is that the room for error in the final shot is a bit higher. The graphite shaft and the longer length of the club make it a bit harder to control.

However, overall, forgiveness in the clubhead of the 5 wood makes up for it.

I played a 3-iron for a long time and enjoyed that lower stinger like shot. However, over time I decided that it was not the ball flight I was looking for, and it was not versatile enough to keep in the bag.

 

Tips for Hitting Your 3 Iron Further

If you are carrying a 3 iron currently and want to make sure that you are maxing out total distance, here are a few of my best tips for hitting your 3 iron further.

  • Make sure your stance is not too wide, and play the ball up a little further in the stance, closer to the left heel (for right-handed players).
  • To get more consistency in the distance, you hit a better strike, take a ¾ swing and let momentum carry the club the rest of the way.
  • Don’t stand too close to the ball when hitting a 3 iron. It’s longer than other clubs in your bag, and standing too close will cause you to hit behind your shot.
  • It may be worthwhile having a graphite shaft installed in your 3 iron. The graphite can help increase total launch and distance.
  • Many golfers start to move inefficiently when they put a 3 iron in their bag because they think they have to really go after it to get a good shot. If you have to try that hard, take the 3 iron out, and you will get good results.
  • The longer the 3 iron is up in the air, the further it will go. Make sure to strike down and through the ball if you want the greatest total distance with this club.

 

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Brittany Olizarowicz

Britt O has been playing golf since the age of 7. Almost 30 years later, she still loves the game, has played competitively on every level, and spent a good portion of her life as a Class A PGA Professional. Britt currently resides in Savannah, GA, with her husband and two young children. Current Handicap: 1