How did the USGA know it would be so difficult to narrow our bags down to 14 clubs?
If you are deciding between a 3 wood and a 3 hybrid, there are a few distinct differences that you should be aware of. Each of these clubs could help your game, but for different reasons and in different ways.
I’ll explain how I go about choosing and how each of these clubs could impact your game.
Table of Contents
- Overview of a 3 Wood and 3 Hybrid
- Differences Between a 3 Wood and 3 Hybrid
- Pros and Cons of a 3 Wood
- Pros and Cons of a 3 Hybrid
- Do You Need Both Clubs in Your Bag?
- How to Figure Out Which Club to Use
Overview of a 3 Wood and 3 Hybrid
The 3 wood and the 3 hybrid can both be used to help improve your long game. On approach shots to long par 4s, par 5’s (and even off the tee of certain holes), these clubs often come into play.
A 3 wood is typically the lowest lofted fairway wood in the bag, which typically has around 15 degrees of loft. The 3 wood is a popular club selection for golfers that struggle with their driver off the tee.
With the 3 wood having lower lofts, it’s often difficult to get much forgiveness from the club. You can expect slightly lower, more penetrating ball flight and plenty of roll when a 3 wood hits the turf.
Many golfers have a set that goes from a driver to a 5 wood and skips over the 3 wood.
The 3 hybrid is a mix between a fairway wood and an iron. Expect the 3 hybrid to be really helpful when hitting shots out of thicker rough. This hybrid usually has about 19 or 20 degrees of loft.
With the hybrid’s clubhead having a little extra weight, getting the ball up in the air is easier. Most hybrids are forgiving due to a lower center of gravity.
Hybrids tend to transition quite well into the iron set and have become one of the favorite clubs for many golfers.
Differences Between a 3 Wood and 3 Hybrid
Before we can decide whether the 3 hybrid or the 3 wood is a better fit for your game, let’s get a better understanding of the differences between the two.
Clubhead Design and Look
Winner: 3 Wood
The most distinguishable difference between the 3 wood and the 3 hybrid is the look of the club head. I compare this to the difference between a mallet and a blade style putter.
The blade putter is is comparable in look to a hybrid, and the 3 wood is more like a mallet. Expect a wide, more rounded look on the 3 wood and a narrow design to the hybrid.
From the top down, my personal preference is the fairway wood. I have a hard time telling whether or not the hybrid looks like a wood or an iron, and sometimes it bothers me a bit. I’ve gotten used to hitting a hybrid and I hit it quite well, but it took me time to get there.
Both the 3 hybrid and the 3 wood work well – you just have to find the one that appeals to you.
Winner: 3 Hybrid
The loft of a 3 wood is lower than that of a 3 hybrid. With a lower loft, you can expect more distance.
If distance is what you’re after, the 3 wood is your best bet. The 3 hybrid (having around 19 degrees of loft) will not travel as far, but it will travel higher than the 3 wood. The higher ball flight is great for getting the ball to stop on the green.
I’ll get into this more later, but it’s important to remember that a club with more loft also makes it easier to get the ball off the ground.
Golf manufacturers have come a long way with their manufacturing techniques, so even a lower lofted 3 wood can still look like it has enough loft to launch the ball quite high.
Performance from The Rough
Winner: 3 Hybrid
The 3 hybrid is hands-down the winner when hitting from the rough.
Until I put a hybrid in my bag for the first time, I was completely unaware of how forgiving they could be.
That being said, it’ still entirely possible to hit a 3 wood from the rough. In fact, if my ball is sitting up nicely in the rough on a longer par 5, I sometimes find it to be a better club selection than an iron.
The key is the ball has to be sitting up to get the 3 wood to perform correctly. With a hybrid, even if your golf ball is buried a little, you should be able to hit your shot on or close to the green.
The bottom line is that if you struggle from the tee and often find yourself in the rough, the 3 hybrid is the better choice.
Winner: 3 Hybrid
I like putting clubs in my bag that are versatile and can be used from a variety of locations on the course.
The 3 wood is great from the tee, and that is where it really shines. Of course, it’s a good distance club, so if you can hit it cleanly from the fairway or the rough, you will get plenty of distance.
However, the 3 hybrid feels a little more versatile to me. A 3 hybrid works from the tee on a shorter par 4 or a longer par 3. In addition, you can hit out of the rough or from the fairway with the 3 hybrid.
I also find the 3 hybrid a good selection for hitting knockdown shots. Some golfers even learn how to chip from the fringe with their hybrid.
Performance from The Sand
If you have a nice lie in a fairway bunker, you can use either the 3 wood or the 3 hybrid. However, if there is any type of lip on that sand trap, the 3 wood is going to be tough for it to carry over.
Be smart about the lie, the height of the edge of the bunker, and your rotation and movement to hit these types of shots.
Years ago, I would have told you that the hybrid is more forgiving than the fairway wood. Today, I can’t say that.
Forgiveness comes down to the model you are playing with and it’s club makeup. There are some 3 woods out there that are more forgiving than hybrids.
It’s really important to consider the model of the club you are playing and determine if it is the player’s version or something built for a higher-handicap golfer.
If you compare a forgiving 3 wood to a forgiving 3 hybrid, the 3 hybrid gives you better performance out of the rough, but the ability to hit the ball straight off both faces will be equal. Be smart about the type of equipment you put in your bag, not just the loft of that equipment.
Many 3 woods and 3 hybrids come with adjustability. To perfectly loft gap and then fine-tune your golf game to work for your needs, I recommend choosing something with adjustability.
If a 15-degree 3 wood is just a little too unforgiving for you, going with an adjustable clubhead that can quickly turn to 16-degrees will make it all that much better.
The same can be said for hybrids and making sure that the hybrid performance and total distance fit directly between your longest iron and the fairway wood or driver.
When looking at current products on the market this year, there are just as many adjustable 3 woods as there are 3 hybrids. However, I find the adjustability in the 3 wood to be essential for golfers that are unsure if a club is for them.
Pros and Cons of a 3 Wood
The 3 wood can travel a long way, and that’s why so many people enjoy it, but it’s also got a few negatives.
- Long club produces longer distances
- Larger club head with a big sweet spot
- A great alternative to a driver off the tee
- Penetrating ball flight
- Lower lofted club can be difficult to launch
- A longer shaft is harder to control
- Hitting out of the rough is more challenging
Pros and Cons of a 3 Hybrid
The 3 hybrid is known to be one of the best clubs for getting the golf ball out of the rough. If you have a long par 4 and your shot ends up in the second cut, the hybrid can bring you right back into play.
- Shorter golf club with plenty of ease of use
- Very forgiving from the rough
- A higher trajectory leads to a quick stop on the green
- More workability than fairway woods
- Comes in a variety of lofts to cover many yardages in the bag
- The head can look and feel a little bulky compared to irons
- Distance is typically a little strong and can create distance gaps in bag
Do You Need Both Clubs in Your Bag?
In the end, you could place both of these clubs in your bag if you have the room. I would recommend this for golfers that do not like fairway woods but instead think that they perform better with hybrids.
With a 3 wood and a 3 hybrid, your set will probably transition right into the 4 and 5 hybrid. Your bag could end up with two to four hybrids with a setup like this.
I wouldn’t recommend having a 5 wood and a 3 hybrid. Of course, there are some players that make this work, but the 3 hybrid and 5 wood have more similarities from a loft perspective, so it’s generally not worth it.
How to Figure Out Which Club to Use
Now you have a clear understanding of the difference between the 3 wood and 3 hybrid, it’s time to look at which is best for your game. Here are the criteria I would use to make sure that you are putting the right club into play.
- Loft gapping: what other clubs do you have in the bag, and how will a 15 degree club or a 19 degree club fit in with those lofts.
- Driver accuracy: if you hit your driver relatively well, and it’s often in the fairway, go with the 3 wood; if you are constantly hitting from the rough, the 3 hybrid is a better choice.
- Handicap: don’t use handicap to choose between 3 wood vs. 3 hybrid; instead, look at personal preference and which clubs you feel more confident with.
- Irons vs. Woods: if you thrive with your woods, choose the 3 wood; if you hit your irons better, choose the 3 hybrid.
- Swing speed: slower swing speeds often have better luck with the shorter and easier-to-swing hybrid; faster swing speeds can max out the distance on the 3 wood.