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3 Wood vs. 3 Iron: How to Pick The Right Club for You

3 Wood vs. 3 Iron: How to Pick The Right Club for You

The 3 iron and 3 wood are two of golf’s most difficult clubs to hit for amateurs. They can be used to advance the ball down the fairway by using a lot of forward spin and roll.

Have you ever been in a dilemma about whether to carry a 3-wood or a 3-iron? What about knowing the difference between a 3-wood and a 3-iron?

I’ll fill you in on all of this and give you some insight as to what I would put in my golf bag.


Table of Contents

  • The 3 Wood and 3 Iron
    • 3 Wood
    • 3 Iron
  • What is the difference between a 3 wood and a 3-iron?
    • Length/Distance
    • Difficulty to hit
    • Ball Flight
    • Forgiveness
    • Shaft
  • Which club is more likely to hit harder?
  • Which club is considered easier to hit?
  • Do you need both clubs in your bag?
  • How to Choose the Right Club for You
    • Swing Speed
    • Handicap
    • Personal Preference
    • The Gap In Your Bag

The 3 Wood and 3 Iron

To determine the difference between the 3 iron and the 3 wood, we must first examine what these clubs are.

3 Wood

The 3 wood is your lowest loft wood before you reach the driver. Most golfers use a 3 wood that has a 15 degree loft. However, golf club adjustability allows you to change it to 16 or 14 degrees as needed.

You can use a 3 wood to hit shots from the fairway, or even as a substitute for a driver.

The 3 wood has a low lofted, penetrating flight.

The longer shaft of the 3 wood can be a disadvantage. You will have to work harder to square up this club when you swing. The lower loft also means that hitting the 3 wood from the deck will require a little more effort.

3 Iron

The 3 iron is considered a long iron. Most golfers don’t have irons that are lower than a 3 iron. But there was a day when a 2-iron or even a 1-iron were available. They are now much harder to come by.

A 3 iron has a thinner profile and a lower loft. It is usually around 19 degrees.

The 3 iron is a standard iron with grooves on its face. You can expect a good amount of spin on the green when you hit the ball (not as much as a wedge).

The 3 iron is a long iron in terms of length, about a few inches more than a wedge iron or a 9-iron.

Golfers who use longer clubs may have some problems.


3 iron distance

What is the difference between a 3 wood and a 3-iron?

There are a few other differences between the 3 woods and 3 irons, besides the fact that the one is a wood while the other is an Iron.


The 3 wood has a loft around 15 degrees, while the 3 iron is around 19 degrees. The 3 wood is therefore supposed to go further, and most people find that it does.

The 3 iron distance will be similar to your 5 wood which has the same amount loft as a 3-iron.

The swing speed is important, as well as the centering of the strike. If you don’t hit the 3 wood in the center or have a hard time with turf interaction and your fairway woods, expect to lose quite a bit of distance on this shot.

The same can be stated for a 3 wood. The average distances of a 3 iron or a 3-wood can vary depending on your skill level.

Difficulty to hit

The 3 wood and 3 iron are not the easiest clubs to hit. Golf clubs have become more forgiving in recent years as golf technology has improved.

The new 3 woods and even 3 irons will be easier to use if you have trouble with launching or even slicing.

Amateur golfers tend to carry more 3 woods than 3 irons. The modern game improvement set of golf clubs doesn’t even have the option to purchase a 3 iron.

Many players have switched from longer irons to hybrids or woods. This trend has made it difficult to find even a game-improvement style 3 iron.

Ball Flight

A 3 iron or a 3 wood both have a lower and more penetrating flight than a 4 hybrid, or even a 5-wood.

Certain 3 woods have been made easier to launch by improvements in the center gravity. If the club head is adjustable and the weight can be moved, it will be easier to add a little height to the 3 wood.

If you hit your 3 iron or 3 wood low, that’s not a bad thing. Make sure you’re still hitting the ball at a height that will allow maximum distance. If the ball stays too low to the ground, you won’t actually be capitalizing on your golf shots.


The 3 wood and the 3 iron are equally forgiving if you compare a player’s model to a player’s model. When comparing a game improvement style 3 wood to a player’s 3 iron, you see much more forgiveness from the 3 wood.

The question of forgiveness in this situation is less about 3 wood vs. 3-iron than it is about the specific model.


A 3 iron may have a graphite or steel shaft, while 3 woods are made with graphite. Clubs with graphite are lighter and easier to generate clubhead speeds.

The shafts you choose for your 3 wood and 3 iron should match the speed of your clubhead and your playing ability. However, keep in mind that graphite is standard on the 3 wood.


Which club is more likely to hit harder?

The 3 iron should be able to go further. A 3 wood is more likely to go further than a 3 iron. This is because it has a lower loft, a longer club head, and a clubhead that was designed for distance.


Which club is considered easier to hit?

Some golfers might disagree with me here, but the 3 wood is my favorite club. This fairway can be used as a driver replacement on a tee. It is easier to learn.

The modern 3 wood also has a large clubhead size and sweet spot.

Since the release hybrid golf clubs, utility irons, and rescue clubs, we have seen a decrease in the forgivingness of 3 irons. If forgiveness is the main concern for you, a 3 hybrid club will be a better choice.


Do you need both clubs in your bag?

There is only room for 14 clubs in a golf bag, so having both a 3-wood and a 3-iron can be a problem. To fit 14 clubs in your bag, you will need to loft gap your set to suit your needs.

It may not be worth the cost if you have to sacrifice a wedge in order to use both the 3 iron and 3 wood. Or if it creates a gap from the longest iron to the fairway wood. It is important to prepare for long approach shots, but you are more likely to use wedges and shorts irons for these shots.


How to Choose the Right Club for You

If you still find yourself stuck between whether the 3 wood or the 3 iron is the better club selection, here are a few considerations you should take…

Swing Speed

The faster you swing, the easier it will be to hit a solid 3 iron. The 3 iron has a longer, less forgiving shaft and golfers with slower swing speed often struggle to maximize the distance of this club.

The lower center of gravity will help to increase launch and distance.


Lower handicap golfers are more likely to seek out a golf club with greater workability than higher handicap golfers. High handicappers are looking for distance and consistency and the 3 wood could be the better choice.

The lower handicapper will also sometimes look for a ball flight that is lower or higher.

When trying to change the ball’s flight, the 3 iron is easier to use. The 3 wood offers less control, but it can be used to achieve greater distance.

Personal Preference

Some golfers are better with irons. This can be because of the way the club is set up or the plane on which you swing. When choosing a club, personal preference should always be considered.

One of the most interesting things that golf club fitters find is that players will often see that their numbers are perfect for a specific club type or model, but when they look down at it, they just don’t like it.

I know that I feel more confident when I look down at a 3-wood than I do when I look down at a 3-iron. That thinner 3 iron blade makes it look more difficult to hit out of a  less-than-ideal lie, and my personal preference is to carry the 3 wood because of this.

The Gap In Your Bag

You must choose between the 3 iron and the 3 wood to fill in the gap. The 3 wood is the best option if you have a big gap between your driver and longest iron. If you have an iron that you prefer and the gap between them and your fairway wood is greater, the 3 iron may be a good choice.

You can find out the holes you have in your golf set-up by using a loft gapping or a portable monitor.