Fairway WoodsMay 8, 2017

Three shots you've never used your 3-wood for, but should

Know when to use your 3-wood
Stephen SzurlejAlthough the 3-wood may be an appealing club to swing on a spacious par 5, only use it if you can reach the green. Butch Harmon says, "The 3-wood is the hardest club to hit off the fairway, so using it to just advance the ball is crazy. Hit your 5-wood instead. The 5-wood has more loft, so it's easier to get the ball in the air. And unless you're a powerful swinger, you probably hit it as far as your 3-wood anyway, certainly far enough to knock your next shot on the green."

More: Bench Your 3-Wood

, by Butch Harmon

If you're like a lot of golfers, you have an okay -- but not great -- relationship with your 3-wood. You use it off the tee occasionally and in the fairway on par 5s. But there's a lot of versatility in that club that you could be taking advantage of. Next time you encounter one of these three types of shots, grab your 3-wood and give it a whirl.

1. Hard Pan

You know those super-tight lies where your ball is sitting on firm, dry, solid ground with little grass? That’s hardpan. And it’s a good opportunity to get your 3-wood out.

Golf Digest Best Young Teacher Mackenzie Mack of Rogers Park G. Cse. in Tampa says the 3-wood is a good option here because its wide bottom will help keep it from bouncing off the firm ground, and you don’t have to worry about swinging hard at it.

“To hit this shot, set up to the ball as if it were a putt,” says Mack. “The goal here is to keep the ball low to the ground and roll it to your destination. Since the 3-wood has a little more loft and size than a putter, the ball will have enough lift to get over small obstacles, but will pack enough of a punch to propel your ball back onto a playable surface.”

2. Trapped in the trees

You’ve probably missed a few fairways, found yourself jailed behind trees, and grabbed your lowest iron to punch out to safety. Mack says your 3-wood is actually a great option for these punch-out shots.

“The goal in this situation is to keep the ball close to the ground but advance it as far as possible,” says Mack. “Your 3-wood can do exactly that. With lower loft than your 4-iron you can swing a little more aggressively without worry that the ball will get too high too fast. But, be careful. If the rough is thick in those woods, you want to make sure you get the ball high enough to make it over the grass.”

3. On the fringe

You might be the kind of player who only likes that one wedge around the green. And that’s great to be comfortable, but you should really give a few other clubs a chance. Longer irons and even your 3-wood can be great for when you’re on the fringe, trying to decide if you want to chip or putt. Mack says your 3-wood is great for those awkward shots where your ball is on the edge of the fringe, right up against the rough, making it hard to get your club behind the ball.

“Using a wedge or even a putter can lead to unpredictable results,” says Mack. “With the 3-wood, set up to the ball like you’re going to chip it with the ball in the back of your stance. Then, take a putting stroke. The ball should pop out of the awkward lie and roll towards the hole. Just make sure that you have some green to work with, the ball may come out a little hot if you’re not careful.”


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