How to Hit a 3 Wood off the fairway

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How to hit a 3-wood off the fairway

Learn how to hit a 3 wood off the fairway the right way by a Scatch player.

Flushing your 3 wood off the fairway is a shot we dream of. The sound and power from these shots are incredible. Simply put, almost nothing feels better.

But in most cases, we are too afraid to use the 3 wood off the deck. In most cases, we see it as a ‘miracle’ if we manage to hit it off the fairway.

Though playing the 3 wood off the tee seems easy (and definitely something you should do more), the technique and concept of hitting the 3 wood off the ground are different.

That’s what we’ll be going through here. 

P.S. If you’re looking to improve your fairway game in general, we covered the best approach to hitting out of a fairway bunker too!

1. Create The Ideal Shoulder Setup And Ball Position For 3-Wood Off The Fairway

Hitting consistent bombs with your 3 wood from the fairway begins by having the proper setup at address.

Most amateur golfers try to hit their 3 wood from the fairway with a similar body and ball position to their driver, with their shoulder angle pointing above the horizon and the ball very forward in their stance. 

While it would naturally make sense to play the second longest club to a similar position to your longest, the critical distinction between these two clubs is that the driver is always hit off of a tee, while the fairway wood can be off of both the tee or the ground (hence the word fairway)!

How to hit a 3-wood off the fairway ball positioning

Your ball position for 3 wood off the fairway should move closer to center. If we try to make contact from a forward ball position and upward shoulder angle we’ll hit the ball on its equator or higher, which results in a topped-shot that dribbles down the fairway or a thinned-shot that never goes above shoulder-height!

When watching Rory McIlroy hit his 3 wood from the fairway at the 2021 Ryder Cup, we noticed he plays the ball very close to the center of his stance with his shoulders near level

By playing the ball close to our center or a ball-width forward of center, and having our shoulders closer to level rather than sharply angled upward, we put ourselves in the best position for center clubface contact for more length and height. 

2. Evaluate The Lie

Most golfers hit their 3 wood every opportunity they can, without realizing a bad lie might’ve caused their bad result! 

When hitting a 3 wood off the ground, you want to be sure you’re either on a flat lie or on a very slight upslope. We don’t even bother attempting this shot off a downslope or when the ball is sitting down in an unflattering lie. 

3 wood golf clubs are short in clubface height, unforgiving in sole shape, and have very little loft (only 14-17 degrees usually), meaning they’re incredibly unforgiving to bad lies and cause poor contact without necessarily a bad swing!

When we have a flat lie or we’re on a slight upslope, we increase our chance of hitting the ball flush and presenting as much loft as possible at impact for ample height and distance. 

3. Weight Positioning

A common misconception about hitting 3 wood from the fairway is trying to “help the ball in the air” by keeping your weight on your trail side during the swing. 

While this may be our first instinct to help the ball generate more height, we’re actually accomplishing the exact opposite of our goal. Since the 3 wood has such little loft, we need to create a very slight downward angle of attack on the ball to generate height.  

How to hit a 3-wood off the fairway weight distribution

Start with your weight distributed 50/50 between both legs and feel it shift toward your lead side during the 3 wood swing. This feeling, combined with a center clubface contact, will result in higher and longer 3 wood shots from the fairway. 

4. Tempo and Follow-Through

Since the 3 wood is the second longest club in most golfer’s bags, it’s easy to let your tempo get too quick and swing the club faster unknowingly. 

Additionally, swinging faster makes it easier to lose balance and forget a proper follow-through. 

Feel a “flowing swing” that doesn’t require 100% of your strength, and complete your follow through with balance. This technique helps avoid unintentionally swinging faster than normal, and focusing on your follow-through helps you maintain much better balance.

5. Hit Fades Instead of Draws if Struggling With Height

Since the 3 wood has such little loft, it can be difficult to hit it high consistently. We’ve discovered that opening our stance and hitting a fade creates much more spin, which ultimately results in more height when we need to guarantee our 3 wood gets over danger.  

As a right-handed golfer, I open my stance to point left of my target and feel my hands travel along the line my feet point toward to ensure I produce fade spin on my 3 wood. While it might not carry or roll out as far as a draw, it guarantees you generate more spin for a higher peak apex of your ball flight to get over danger. However, if you struggling with slicing with the fairway wood, then be careful of this newer stance as it may result in a severe push slice. With that in mind, you may want to learn how to swing on plane before anything else.

If you find yourself in a position to need to immediately carry a bunker or water-hazard with your fairway wood, and you’re worried about being able to generate enough height to carry the danger, set up for a fade and be sure to do it! 

6. Find the Easiest Fairway Woods to Hit of the Deck With

It’s no rocket science, but if you want to learn quicker, then using some of the easiest fairway woods to hit off the deck with is a recipe for success. Some fairway woods require you to hit dead center on the face every single time, and that’s likely not what we would be achieving anytime soon. 

Instead, going with a fairway wood that resist twisting on mishits and has a higher loft setup would make things much enjoyable and easier.

FAQ About The 3 Wood

Why is it difficult to hit the 3 wood from the fairway?

The 3 wood is challenging for many golfers from the fairway because its low amount of loft and thin club head requires a very precise strike for great results.

Additionally, improper ball positioning, shoulder angle, and/or the club’s overall length can cause players to swing faster or with worse mechanics than their other clubs. 

Do you hit a 3-wood like an iron? 

Your 3 wood swing takes aspects from your long iron swing undoubtedly, but it isn’t exactly the same. 

You should feel your shoulders more level like a long iron swing, and you should feel a bit of a “pinch” at impact as you take a small divot or just brush the grass like a long iron (very different from driver). 

How different is a 3 wood from hitting a 5 wood off the fairway? 

The 5 wood is much easier for many golfers off the fairway than the 3 wood for a number of reasons. 

The 5 wood has more loft for easier height, a more “hybrid-like” sole that cuts through the turf more effortlessly, and is shorter in overall length so it’s easier to swing with more control. 

Should I hit down on the ground with my 3 wood? 

Short answer: Yes, depending on the lie. 

Off a slight upslope (like Hideki’s first 3 wood shot in the video above) you don’t necessarily need to take a divot because the lie will naturally add loft. 

On flat lies, it’s completely natural to take a small divot. 

Taking a small divot after the golf ball lets you know you had a slight downward angle of attack, which creates more spin and a higher launch angle for more distance. 

What Next?

Wrapping it all up, swinging your 3-wood off the fairway with panache is an art in itself, and we’ve just shared the secrets to mastering it. The journey starts with the perfect setup – ball position, shoulder angle, the works. 

Keep an eagle eye on the lie before you take a swing and remember, weight distribution matters more than you think. Maintain a smooth tempo to get that long, high flight and if you’re in a bind, try a fade – it might just be the trick to clear those pesky hazards. It’s a different game with the 3-wood compared to your driver or 5-wood, but with these tips in your arsenal, you’ll be painting masterstrokes on the fairway in no time. Practice makes perfect, so tee up and get swinging!

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ScramblingTom is a writer for Golf Leap and has been playing golf competitively for the last 13 years. He loves to dive deep into different subjects within the game to further his knowledge and help others along the way. Currently, he is hovering around Scratch.

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