Just as 60 is the new 40, then 3-wood might be the new driver. Or at least a solid choice as a second driver.
Certainly we see this quite often on the professional tours. But is this something everyday players should embrace? Golf Digest ran a test a couple years ago with players at high swing speeds (over 105 miles per hour) and slower swing speeds (95 m.p.h. and lower) to determine just how much those players lost in distance from their big stick to their next big stick. The faster swingers lost 27.6 yards (260.05 yards with the driver to 232.45 yards with the 3-wood). The slower swingers, however, dropped only 14.35 yards (219.3 to 204.95).
The difference makes sense as slower swingers often benefit from added carry from the extra loft while faster swings produce extra spin on a 3-wood that robs them of distance. Though the springlike effect has continued to improve on fairway woods, which probably accounts for adding a few yards, the fact is that for slower swingers, 205 yards off the tee probably isn’t enough except for the shortest of par 4s.
One thing to consider, too, for those who struggle with accuracy in their driver, that a shorter shaft can help with control. Additionally, the large head and higher moment of inertia on a driver provides more forgiveness on mis-hits.
The call here is to keep swinging the big dog unless it’s become impossible for you to find a fairway.
Editor's Note: This story first appeared in the June 29 issue of Golf Digest Stix.