Golf would be much simpler if every club had a specific loft and it stayed consistent. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The 3 wood in your bag may have an entirely different loft than the 3 wood in your friend’s golf bag.
In addition, the loft of the 3 wood may vary even more because of adjustability in fairway woods. Essentially, you need to understand what loft is standard for a 3 wood and how that compares to what you play.
If you think a 3 wood can only be 15 degrees, think again!
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What is The Loft of a 3 Wood?
The standard or average loft of a 3 wood is 15 degrees. However, some golfers play a 3 wood as low as 13 degrees, and others may play a 16 degree or even 17 degree 3 wood. At some point, when the loft gets a bit higher, you will be looking at more of a 4 wood than a 3 wood.
The 3 wood is designed to bridge that gap in loft from the driver to any other fairway woods in the bag. If you have a 5 wood that is 19 degrees, it is often best to have a 3 wood around 15 degrees.
This loft gap tends to make the most sense and incorporate varied performance when you need it the most.
How The Difference in Loft Changes Your Shot
The loft of your 3 wood is going to impact a few things. These things include total distance, forgiveness, and ball flight.
The lower the loft of your 3 wood, the further you should be able to hit the ball. Total distance is impacted by the loft on your golf club. For players seeking the furthest shots, the 13 degree 3 wood is likely the better choice.
However, as the loft of a golf club lowers, you will see some additional issues with the forgiveness and spin.
The higher the loft of a fairway wood, the more forgiving it will be. For higher handicap golfers looking for added forgiveness, the 3 wood loft is certainly better in the 16 degree range.
To be honest, the 3 wood is not a very easy club to hit, especially from the fairway. It can make sense even for better players to have slightly higher lofts on their 3 wood.
Another troubling thing about the 3 wood is that the shaft lengths are long, much longer than a 5-wood or 7-wood. Therefore you have to ensure that your swing speed can handle the length of this club and still allow for straight and accurate golf shots.
The ball flight factor is another important impact that loft will have on your golf club selection. A higher lofted 3 wood will often have a higher trajectory. The loft angle of a lower loft 3 wood will produce a lower trajectory and sometimes a bit more roll.
Overall the ball flight of a 3 wood is considerably lower than that of other woods in the bag. You will not have to worry too much about keeping the flight down when you have this club in your hands.
How to Determine Which Loft You Should Use on Your 3 Wood
The loft you use on your 3 wood is determined by a few different factors. Golfers have to pay close attention to the loft gapping in their golf club set. If your golf clubs are not properly loft-gapped, expect to see large distance gaps in the game. Here is how I would decide which 3 wood is best for your game.
Lower handicap golfers tend to have an easier time hitting a 3 wood well. It takes a bit more precision and swing speed to hit a 3 wood well, and for some players, it makes sense to leave a 3 wood out of the bag.
Take the club out, put in a 5 wood, and use that as your alternative. If you hit it better, it’s not worth forcing the 3 wood to work.
Lower handicap players can go with the lower lofted 3 woods and use them for tremendous distance off the tee. The higher handicappers will need something with a higher loft to ensure it gets up off the ground.
Lofts of Other Golf Clubs
When choosing a loft for your 3 wood, you must also consider the lofts of the other golf clubs in your bag. For instance, you may want to consider what your current 5 wood is. Most golfers have a 19 degree 5 wood, while others will have an 18 or even 17 (sometimes considered a 4 wood).
If your 5 wood is already 18 degrees, you may want to choose the 14 degree 3 wood so that you keep the larger gap between these woods.
Loft gapping is becoming an even more important issue in the golfer’s bag because the clubs continue to get lower and lower to give golfers more distance.
Number of Woods in The Bag
Some players only carry one fairway wood; others will have two or even three fairway woods in their bag. If you only carry one fairway wood, it may make sense to have something more like a 4 wood loft.
This could be around 17 degrees, and it will bridge that gap between your driver and the hybrids or long irons in the bag.
For those with several woods in the bag, it typically makes sense to have a 15, 19, and maybe even 22 degree wood. Keeping that 4 degrees of loft between the woods allow you to have some variation in performance.
Area of The Game That Needs Attention
All golfers have areas of their game that need attention. For some, distance is a problem, while others struggle with ball flight or loft angle. Here are the 3 wood lofts based on what you are struggling with in your golf game.
Alternative Off The Tee Box
If you need an alternative to a driver, consider a lower lofted 3 wood. If you are one of those golfers that can hit it 30 yards left one day and 30 yards right another, try a 14 degree 3 wood from the tee. Chances are you will see a bit more accuracy.
Launch Angle Is a Concern
The launch angle is a concern with the 3 wood because of how precisely you must hit the ball to get it up in the air. Most golfers find that a higher launch angle with the 3 wood is best to get more carry distance.
If you have difficulty getting a golf ball up in the air, go with something like the 16 degree 3 wood to have that extra bit of ball flight.
Golfers That Need More Distance
Ball speed is a major concern for some players. Without enough ball speed, you may notice that your 3 wood and 5 wood fly the same distance.
At some point, slower swing speed golfers should think about adding in another wedge or hybrid to the bag to focus on accuracy. Distance will max out with certain swing speeds, and it’s not worth pushing it.
If you have high swing speed and want more distance go with the lowest lofted 3 wood you can launch. In addition, clubs that are adjustable may give you some wiggle room when it comes to the combination of forgiveness and total distance.