Why Can I hit 3 Wood but Not Driver?

Common Problem: Why Can I Hit 3 Wood but not Driver

Do you hate your driver? Does it terrify you when you pull it out of the bag?

If you’re like a lot of golfers, chances are you wonder, “Why can I hit 3-wood but not driver?” It’s a good question and one we’ll address today. 

Hitting both clubs well is a combination of the right equipment, expectations, and proper technique. The sooner you can learn how to hit both clubs, the sooner you can improve your driving skills and have a lot more scoring opportunities. 

Debating Driver vs. 3W 

Most beginners golfers hate their driver… while advanced golfers love their driver. 

Learning how to hit the longest club in the bag makes it easy to score lower and play to your potential. While you need to hit 3-wood sometimes, leaving the driver in the bag isn’t a winning strategy. 

Key Takeaways 

  • A 3-wood is easier to hit straight thanks to the shorter shaft and more loft than a driver.
  • A driver is easier to hit longer though thanks to the longer shaft, lower loft, and larger clubhead.
  • Hitting a 3-wood for better accuracy isn’t always guaranteed and a good reason to track your statistics. 
  • Learning how to use both your 3-wood and driver is key to playing your best golf. 

Why Driver is Hard to Hit

A driver is a challenge for so many golfers, especially new players, for a few reasons.

First, it’s the longest club in the bag. The longer shaft makes it harder to control the face and leads to much bigger misses left or right. This is why it’s so much easier to hit a pitching wedge than a fairway wood or driver. 

Second, it has the least amount of loft in the bag (learn more about driver loft). Most drivers range from 8 to 12 degrees for male golfers. This is why it’s easier to control a wedge or iron than a driver or fairway wood. 

Driver Loft for Maximum Distance

Third, it swung the fastest of any golf club in the bag. It’s common to swing a driver 10-20 mph faster than irons or wedges (and 5-10 mph more than a 3-wood). This is mainly due to the longer length. 

More speed, a longer shaft, and less loft makes it much harder to hit consistently well. While new technology has made hitting drivers easier (not to mention adjustable clubheads) it’s still a challenge for a large percentage of the golf population. 

But a 3-wood has a shorter shaft (1-1.5 inches) which makes it easier to control. It also has a smaller clubhead and more loft than a driver, which also helps improve accuracy. 

So, should you leave it in the bag and opt for 3-wood? Not so much… 

Golf Monthly Study 

If you’re like a lot of golfers, chances are you think that hitting 3-wood is the “safe play” and that it’ll lead to more fairways. Which should lead to more approach shots and hopefully more birdie putts. In theory, this makes sense… but this Golf Monthly study done using Arccos Golf Smart Sensors show it’s not always the case.

The study used more than 540 million shots from 11.5 million rounds. The full article is worth the read, but here’s what stuck out to me.

“You might think that 5 handicappers find fairway after fairway, but the data shows that they actually hit just under 50% of fairways with driver. Taking a 3 wood ups that chance by just under 3% at 52.6%, showing that maybe 3 wood isn’t always worth hitting compared to driver.”

That’s right, for five handicap golfers – which are statistically much better than average golfers (14.2 according to the USGA) – only hit 3% more fairways. Not to mention, they are 10, 15, or 20+ yards behind a typical driver distance, which leads to longer approaches. 

Don’t leave the driver in the bag all day – you’re only making golf harder on yourself! 

How to Hit Driver Better 

If you want to break 90 or break 80 consistently, you can’t leave the driver in the bag. You’re going to leave yourself too many longer shots into the green, which increase your total scoring average. 

So, how do you hit the driver better?

Follow these three steps. 

How to Properly Hit Driver in Golf

1. Get the Right Driver

The first step is making sure your driver is right for your swing and game. 

You want to make sure it has the right driver loft and the right shaft. Too many golfers don’t think twice about the shaft and lose out on tons of distance and accuracy.

Shaft flex is dependent on your swing speed. While shaft weight is more of a personal preference. In general, a lighter shaft is easier to swing faster and hit longer. But a heavier shaft can lead to more control.

This is why it’s a good idea to invest in a custom fitting with a club fitter. You can easily test out different driver heads and shafts to see which works best for your swing. 

2. Improve Your Fundamentals

Once you have the right club, it’s important to work on the basics to set up to the ball properly. Here are some of the biggest factors to hitting driver better: 

  • Proper alignment.
  • Ball position off your front foot.
  • Feet slightly wider than shoulder width with slight externally flared feet. 
  • Back shoulder lower than front shoulder to promote an upward angle of attack. 

Create a Good Tee Box Strategy 

Once you have the right club and fundamentals, you need a tee box strategy for every hole. 

To stand over the shot with confidence, you need to have a clear target, shot shape, and pre-shot routine. This will help get your mind and body prepared for the shot and give you the best chance to hit it well. 

A golf GPS can help as you can get an overview of each hole. Plus, make sure you always pick a target to give your mind a clear objective for the upcoming shot. Be specific too – don’t just say “the fairway” as it’s too vague for your mind.  

Optional: TaylorMade BRNR Mini Driver 

Now that you have a better understanding of driver and 3-wood, let’s present one other option – a mini driver. If you’re like a lot of golfers, you might not know what this club is, but it’s developed a strong following in the golf community. 

The best example is the TaylorMade BRNR, which is the only true mini-driver on the market. It’s an upgraded version of the TaylorMade 300 Mini Driver.

This mini driver is a cross between a driver and a 3-wood – think of it more like a 2-wood. It’s smaller than a normal size driver by about 160 cc and much bigger than a 3W. 

What is a mini driver in golf?

It has more loft than most standard drivers and is available in 11.5 or 13.5 degrees with a slightly shorter shaft than a standard driver. Like most drivers, it does have an adjustable hosel sleeve for maximum customization. Not to mention, it has two adjustable weights to minimize spin depending on your spin preferences. 

So why choose a mini driver? It’s the best of both worlds – you can hit it from the tee nearly as long as a driver and it’s much easier to hit from the deck. Plus, it has the accuracy of a fairway wood thanks to the smaller head and shorter shaft.  

As TaylorMade mentioned on their website, “The K-SOLE design helps the club glide smoothly through the turf while reducing resistance and promoting a consistent strike. This enables golfers to have “driver off the deck” distance with the consistency of higher lofted fairway woods.”

If you’re struggling with a standard driver, this is a great option. 


Do you have more questions about hitting your fairway woods and driver better? If so, keep reading through the most frequently asked questions now. 

Why can I hit my 3-wood better than my driver?

The main reason you might hit a 3-wood better than a driver is because it’s a shorter club. A 3-wood is typically 1.5 inches shorter, making it easier to control and find the sweet spot more often. 

Can a 3-wood replace a driver?

It can’t necessarily replace a driver, but it’s a good alternative on certain holes. For example, tight fairways with out of bounds or water on both sides, a 3-wood might be a better option. 

How much farther should I hit my driver than my 3-wood?

You should hit your driver 10–25 yards farther than your 3-wood, but it depends on several factors. First is the loft of each club – the closer the lofts are together, the less distance between the two.

For example, if you use an 11-degree driver and 13-degree 3-wood, you won’t see a huge difference. But if you use a 9-degree driver and 15 or 16.5-degree 3-wood, you’ll likely notice a huge difference. 

Can a high handicapper hit a 3-wood?

Yes, but I’d probably avoid hitting it off the fairway, as it’s the hardest fairway wood to hit from the deck. The longer shaft and lower loft than a 5 or 7-wood makes it more difficult to make solid contact. But if it’s teed up, it’s a lot easier.

Additionally, having enough loft can help too. If you’re a high handicapper, use 15 or 16.5 degree loft. Learn more about different 3-wood lofts here

What is the standard 3 wood loft

Why can’t I hit my driver consistently? 

It could be from a lot of issues as each person is different, but some of the most common causes are a weak grip, incorrect ball position, and an inside takeaway. Record your swing and learn to analyze it properly, or work with a golf coach for more help. 

My Experience 

If I could give one piece of advice to my younger self, it would be to make the driver your favorite club in the bag. When you can hit tee shots well, golf gets a lot easier. 

The data shows that the longer you hit it, the easier it is to shoot lower scores. 

Hitting it longer is more important than accuracy. Tiger and Phil are perfect examples, both sprayed their drives all over the golf course (they were also long) but found a way to win. 

The first step is making sure your driver is right for your swing. Then, I suggest practicing with it a lot and try to only hit one shot shape. Play a fade or draw 99% of the time to make it easier to pick targets, stop thinking about your golf swing mechanics, and eliminate the double cross

Final Thoughts 

You’re not alone if you prefer 3-wood to driver. But the sooner you can make driver a weapon, the sooner you can shoot lower scores.

Picture of Michael Leonard

Michael Leonard

Michael is an avid golfer of 25 years who played in high school, college, and now competes in Arizona amateur events. He is a full-time writer, podcast host of Wicked Smart Golf, and mental golf coach.