3 Wood vs 3 Iron: Which One Should I Carry?


One part of playing your best golf is to ensure you have the right clubs in your bag.

Too many golfers fail to carry enough fairway woods, hybrids and wedges to properly score and reach their full potential.

The advancements in all clubs is supposed to make the game easier, but scores struggle to improve for most golfers.

Golfers get to carry up to 14 clubs, so it is important to know how far you hit each club and what you can expect from a ball flight, carry distance, curve of the ball and all of the key factors in selecting the right club in different situations on the course.

The 3 wood vs 3 iron is a question we often receive.  With the advancement of the 3 iron with the newly improve driving iron or utility iron, the 3 iron can be consider by the single digit handicap golfer.

Most higher handicap golfers should select the 3 wood over the 3 iron.  I will dive further into this topic and give you the pros of both the 3 wood and the 3 iron.  At the end, I will recommend a great addition to your golf game to help you map your bag, while understanding your carry distance, spin rate, ball speed and other vital information to improve your swing as well.

Some quick facts: The 3 wood is generally between 42 and 43 inches, while the 3 iron is around 38-39 inches. The 3 wood will also have slightly less loft than a 3 iron. This results in the 3 wood typically being hit further than a 3 iron.

3 Wood vs 3 Iron: Which One Should I Carry?

The majority of the golfers should select the 3 wood over the 3 iron.  If you are single digit handicap golfer with a higher swing speed, the 3 iron might become a viable option depending on your preference of hitting a long iron vs a fairway wood.

They key for any golfer is to test out the options, have some data to help you make a decision and pick the club that provides the most confidence based on the data and the feel of the clubs.

Below, I will provide the following key information to help you make a decision for your golf game!

  • Pros of the 3 Wood
  • Pros of the 3 Iron
  • Who should carry the 3 Wood
  • Who should carry the 3 iron
  • How to measure what is best for your game!
The long par 3 shots might require a 3 wood for some golfers!

Pros of the 3 Wood

The 3 wood is a great option for all golfers.  There are many benefits that include:

  • More Distance
  • Lower Ball Flight
  • Better of the Tee

Additional Resource: 3 Wood vs 4 Wood

More Distance

The 3 wood will fly further than the 3 iron due to the extra length in the shaft and lower loft.  This could come into play with three different key shots that the golfer faces:

  • 2nd shot on a par 5.
  • Tee shots on narrow par 4s.
  • Long par 3s

This extra distance could come into play and be a benefit if you are seeking to hit more par 5s in two, you plan on hitting 3 wood off the tee and do not want to give up too much distance and you play some long par 3s that require your 3 wood distance.

If you settle for the 3 iron, you might be able to play the course as aggressively as you want or need to in order to compete.

Additional Resource: When To Use A 3 Wood

Lower Ball Flight

The lower ball flight can help if you play frequently in windy conditions and need to keep the ball lower.  The 3 wood can help the golfer produce a lower, penetrating ball flight that helps when you have those longer shots into the wind.

The 3 wood will provide versatility for the golfer that is able to launch the ball high enough when needed, but also wants to hit a stinger shot with a 3 wood.

Better of the Tee

The extra distance when compared to the 3 iron, might encourage you to hit more 3 woods off the tee, if you are nervous about giving up too much distance.  Most golfers battle and debate between when to hit the driver and when to go with the 3 wood.  Golfers have to give up distance off the tee for accuracy, but the 3 wood will have a smaller gap between the driver, than a 3 iron.

Additional Resource: 3 Wood vs 2 Hybrid

The 3 utility iron is an impressive club if you have a higher swing speed!

Pros of the 3 Iron

The 3 iron is a viable option for the low handicap golfer. It has several benefits that include the following:

  • Accuracy and precision
  • Ball flight control
  • Workability

Additional Resource: How to hit a 3 iron (7 Tips)

Accuracy and Precision

It is one thing to hit a ball 215 yards, but if you hit the ball 205 yards one time, 225 the next and 215 only one time out of 3, the elite golfer may struggle on certain approach shots on reachable par 5s, long par 4s or those 200 yard plus par 3s.  The key is to be able to control the carry distance and reach a level of precision that allows the best golfers to control their distance with a 5-7 yard range on these 200 yard pus shots.

The start line with the 3 iron may supersede that of the 3 wood.  The extra weight, shorter shaft and the ability to control the swing path and club face allows the golfer to better control their start line.

Ball Flight Control

Overall, the best golfers want to be able to flight the ball. When they have a shot into the wind, they want to be able to hit the low, stinger-like shot to keep the ball out of the wind.  When they need to launch one higher, they want to be able to execute this shot as well.  Overall, the 3 iron is easier to control the ball flight of the ball when compared to a 3 wood.  The 3 wood may have a tendency to fly too high in those situations where it is essential to keep the ball low.

Additional Resource: When to use a driving iron

Workability

The elite golfer will want to hit a draw on demand and then turn around and hit a fade on demand on the next hole.  The 3 iron is the better option for the golfer that wants to work their way around a course with precision and working the ball both ways. 

When a golfer takes into account the ability to work the ball both ways, this could lead to several saved shots during a round.  Oftentimes, for the best golfers, it is more about the quality of the misses vs how great the best shots are.  The 3 iron can be a great option for this.

Who Should Carry the 3 Wood vs the 3 Iron?

All golfers should really consider carrying a 3 wood. 

However, if you are someone that has a mental block with hitting a fairway wood off the fairway or a tight lie, the 3 iron might be the better option.  For the low, single digit handicap golfer, that has plenty of swing speed, the ability to control the precision with the 3 iron might be what your game needs.

I would highly recommend checking out the 3 iron in the utility iron or driving iron space.  The extra thickness at the bottom of the club really helps with stability, off centered hits and overall distance.

Most golfers will benefit with the 3 wood, especially those that are shorter hitters and often have more than 200 yards remaining into the green on their approach shots.

Recently, I added a 2 utility iron and have been amazed at the ball flight and the ability to really launch the ball.  Having hit the 3 utility iron, I know this club is a viable option as well.

How to measure what is best for your game!

I would highly recommend every golfer highly consider adding a portable launch monitor to their golf collection.  Whether you are going to use at the driving range, on the course, in your garage or part of a golf simulator setup you can benefit from the numbers provided with these rather impressive devices.

I went with the SkyTrak Launch Monitor and get the following data:

  • Carry and Total Distance
  • Ball Speed
  • Spin Rate
  • Spin Axis
  • Launch Angle

This data has been a game changer as I have been able to do the following:

  • Map the average carry distance of every club in the bag.
  • Understand the impact of spin rate on all shots.
  • Improve my start lines with irons.
  • Hit more fairways with my driver.
  • Increase my ball speed through efficiency.

While the SkyTrak is an amazing tool, there is also the Mevo Plus and Mevo that are worth checking out as well.  All three have various price points, but are worth checking out below:

Here are the top 3 options to check out:

5 Trackman Alternatives: Get Started Today!

One of the greatest advantages is to be able to create a distance chart with your wedges or even your entire golf bag.

ClubCarry Distance (100%)90%80%
Pitching Wedge128118108
Approach Wedge118110102
SW Club1059791
LW Club908274
The ultimate game improvement area! See below for more details!

3 Wood vs 3 Iron: Final Thoughts

The key to making these decision is first knowing the benefits of each club and then of course testing out for yourself.  You might find that one club is best for your game or that you want to have both clubs available and then select the right club for your game base don your swing at the time or the course you are playing most frequently!

The great news is that you have plenty of options.  Some prefer fairway woods, while others prefer the long irons or sometimes even the hybrids.

Understand your swing speed, launch angle, spin rates and other key information that impacts performance.  You no longers need to spend over 16K dollars for a launch monitor.  The affordable entry price points for these launch monitors is impressive!

Final Thoughts: My Secret To Golf Improvement

Let’s face it, in order to get really good at golf, we must practice frequently.  About three years ago, I made the leap and invested in a golf simulator build for my garage.  

I went with a SkyTrak Launch Monitor and the TGC software and can now play over 100,000 courses including Augusta, Pebble Beach, Bethpage Black, Whistling Straits. St. Andrews and many other of the top 100 courses in the world.

This golf simulator setup, which is more affordable that you might imagine, has been a game changer.  I can now play golf everyday of the year regardless of rain, snow, cold weather or time of day.  I can practice or play rounds of golf.  I can stand in the 11th fairway at Augusta and with the auto-rewind feature I am able to practice my approach shots from various differences.

It is worth checking out through Rain or Shine Golf as they offer some incredible packages along with financing offers that are difficult to beat.

Some direct links to Rain or Shine Golf for pricing and financing:

Take Action – What You Can Do Today to Get Better

What does this mean for you?  I believe in the following recipe to get better:

1 – Improve your motion in the golf swing by identifying a golf instructor.  Here are some options:

Here is a list of golf instructors that we have reviewed:

2 – Train to swing faster and improve your swing speed.  Here are some options:

Looking to gain more Speed and Distance in your swing. Two Options:

3 – Understand course strategy and work to break through your next barrier.  Here is a series on breaking through:

We have provided guides on how to break 100, 90, 80 and 70. Check out more below, if interested.

4 – Practice Frequently

Did you know that I build a golf simulator in my garage and have played over 500 rounds of golf on my SkyTrak system?  It has been a game changer and one worth checking out. Here are some of my other posts on golf simulators frequently asked questions:

Who Should Carry the 3 Iron

The single digit handicap golfer thay frequently shoots in the low 70s that is seeking precision and accuracy should consider the 3 iron.  The golfer should test out the traditional 3 iron vs the utility iron 3 iron and see what is best for their game.  I would highly recommend getting on a launch monitor or testing out clubs that some of your friends may carry.

I was highly convinced of the 3 utility iron from a friend who had purchased one.  Several hits with the utility iron and I knew that I needed one.  It has provided the precision, yet has enough distance to attack par 5s in two and in the several months of owning one, I have increased my birdie rate on par 5s.

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