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Driver vs 3 Wood, Which Club Should You Use for Your First Shot Taken at The Tee Box?

Oct 26, 2023 Mileseey tools

The 3 wood vs driver debate

Many golfers face a common dilemma: Should they use a Driver or a 3-wood off the tee? There's a widespread belief in golfing circles that using a shorter club like the 3-wood typically improves accuracy from the tee.

While it's often true that a shorter club can enhance control, it's essential to consider the impact this choice has on the remainder of the hole. Specifically, we should understand the actual degree of accuracy gained with a shorter club and how this option affects the subsequent approach and potential scoring opportunities.

The Common Belief of Golfing Shots

For those familiar with golf strategies, it's common knowledge that playing conservatively by using a less powerful club off the tee is often recommended on certain holes. The principle here is that shorter clubs, by nature, provide better control.

This leads to more precise shots. This approach holds true on specific holes that require a cautious strategy or a lay-up shot. However, the data Mileseey gathered from a prestigious swing monitor manufacturer tells a different story: choosing the Driver as frequently as possible to maximize your advantage on the course. This article will explore the rationale behind using the Driver more regularly, backed by data insights.

How The Authoritative Data Tells the Truth

The data we gathered provides clear insights into golfers' performance, and particularly highlights the difference between using a Driver and a 3-wood for tee shots. On average, golfers hit the ball 20-30 yards further with a Driver than with a 3-wood.

A detailed info graphic shows the average driver distances and average 3 wood distance.

average performance of Driver vs 3 wood

Among golfers of five handicap levels. In the extensive analysis, which includes 30 million shots, golfers hit an average of 229 yards with a Driver and 208 yards with a 3-wood. Simply put, you're likely to cover more ground with a Driver, no matter your skill level.

So, we know Drivers can hit further, but how does this affect your game on the rest of the hole? Essentially, using a Driver can make your next shot shorter because you're closer to the green. But does a longer drive mean you're playing from the fairway or risking the rough?

Here's where it gets interesting with our data. You might think hitting a 3 wood distance keeps you more precise than a driver distance, meaning you're on the fairway more often. However, the numbers tell a different story.

Fairway accuracy of Driver vs 3 wood

A related image shows that accuracy actually goes down as players' handicaps increase. But the real surprise is that the accuracy is almost the same whether you use a Driver or a 3-wood — both show an average of 49%.

The specifics? Drivers are accurate 48.6% of the time, and 3 fairway woods 49.4% of the time, a tiny difference of only 0.8%. This fact might surprise golfers who thought the 3 wood was the surefire option for staying on the fairway.

This tiny difference between the Driver and the 3 wood highlights an important point: when it comes to accuracy across all handicap levels, choosing a 3 wood over a Driver doesn't offer a significant advantage. Essentially, both clubs are nearly equal in keeping your shot accurate from the tee.

3 wood vs driver, why is there such a small difference in accuracy

The answer lies in the design of the clubs. Fairway woods, like the 3 wood, can be tricky to hit properly.

They usually have shafts nearly as long as a driver's but with much smaller club heads. So, you're standing almost as far away from the ball as you would with a Driver, but you have a smaller striking surface. This makes Drivers more generally a better choice for average amateur golfers off the tee.

But what makes hitting a Driver off the tee advantageous? To fully understand this, we need to look at several factors, including the distance of tee shots of a Driver and 3 Wood, their accuracy in hitting the fairway, and average approach proximity of different iron clubs on the approach shot. Let's use the situation of an average 8-handicap golfer as an example for further explanation.

1. The distance and fairway hit accuracy of tee shots of a Driver vs 3 Wood

Driver vs 3 Wood

On average, golfers hit the ball 28 yards further with a Driver than with a 3 wood. Considering the accuracy is nearly the same with both clubs, the Driver should typically be your go-to choice for tee shots.

2. Higher rate of hitting the green

Hitting a Driver instead of a 3-wood off the tee gives you more 28 yards, which often means you can use a shorter iron for your next shot. Why does this matter? Well, statistics show that using a shorter iron (thanks to the extra yards from the Driver) increases your chances by 13-18% to land on the green.

Using a Driver at the beginning makes your second shot simpler. This, in turn, increases your chances of hitting the green more frequently and getting closer to the hole.

3. Closer to the hole

Average approach proximity of a club means how close the ball gets to the hole after a player's approach shot. A shorter iron will result in a shorter approach proximity (i.e., the ball ending up shorter from the hole) than a longer iron because it is designed for distance rather than precision. If you use Driver for your first shot, you'll need a shorter iron club. This will help you get closer to the hole when you putt on the green

When we piece together all these stats, the takeaway is straightforward: being closer to the green for your next shot is a big advantage. Regarding the 3 fairway wood vs driver debate, losing 20-30 yards by opting for a 3 wood isn't a good trade-off. The numbers reveal that hitting with a Driver from the start generally enhances your play, offering no real reason to choose a 3-wood for your opening shot.


In the debate between using a driver or a 3-wood, the answer is clear: go with the driver distance whenever you reasonably can. This strategy will reward you, enhancing your game without requiring big changes to your playing style.



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