Driver or 3 Wood off the tee, what should you use and why?

Driver or 3 Wood off the tee, what should you use and why?

29 January 2021

[Updated Jan 2021]

Driver or 3 wood – What club hits more fairways? What club should you use more often off the tee? Why?

A question many golfers ask themselves; Should I hit Driver or 3 wood off the tee? The common ‘myth’ in the golf industry is that golfers on average are more accurate when using a short club off the tee. Now yes, this may be the case, but just how much of an affect does hitting the shorter club have on the rest of the hole? How much more accurate are golfers with a shorter club?

Those of you who have read up on this area will have found that you should look at some holes on the golf course more conservatively, and hit less club off the tee. The concept behind this being that the shorter club you hit, the more accurate you are with it. For some golf holes, this is definitely the case and they may well require a lay up off the tee. However, Shot Scope data tells us that you should hit Driver as often as possible, and this article explains why….

The Shot Scope statistics show the average distance a player hits their Driver and 3 wood off the tee. It is evident that on average, a Driver will go around 20-30 yards further than a 3 wood, which is probably what you would expect. The image below highlights the Shot Scope performance average distance off the tee with both Driver and 3 wood, across 5 handicap levels. The overall average across the entire Shot Scope database of golfers (80 million shots), is 225 yards for a Driver and 203 for a 3 wood.

Driver or 3 wood distances by Shot Scope
Shot Scope P.Average Driver and 3 Wood Distances

So, Drivers go further, but what does this mean for the rest of the hole? Well naturally hitting Driver will leave a much shorter shot to the green, but is that shot more likely to be from the fairway, or the rough?

Shot Scope also allows us to see overall if golfers are more accurate with a Driver or 3 wood off the tee and this is where the results are perhaps not what you would expect. The image below shows that as handicap increases, accuracy decreases. However the surprisingly thing is that overall, the accuracy with Driver or 3 wood is much the same, both with an average of 47%. To be specific; Driver = 46.6% and 3 wood = 47.4% so there is a 0.8% difference between the 2 clubs. This may come as a surprise to most golfers.

Fairway Hit %

Fairway hit percentages, Driver or 3 wood
Fairway hit % from Shot Scope

Obviously this is such a small difference between Driver or 3 wood, which just goes to show that accuracy wise, across all handicap levels, there is very little benefit to hitting a 3 wood off the tee for accuracy.

Why might this be the case?

Fairway woods can be difficult to hit correctly, they often have a similar length of shaft to a driver but a much smaller clubhead. This means you have to stand about the same distance away from the ball as with a Driver, but have a much smaller area to strike the ball with. In other words, Drivers are easier to hit and we would not recommend an average amateur golfer to attempt hitting 3 wood off the tee. There are of course anomalies to this, as like all things in golf.

So what are the benefits to hitting a Driver off the tee? To really understand this a number of factors should be considered; tee shot distance, fairway hit % and average proximity to the hole with the approach shot. We will take the example below of an average 8 handicap golfer.

Shot Scope Performance Average Distance off the tee

Driver or 3 wood tee shot distances
Shot Scope example stats

The average tee shot distance with a Driver versus 3 wood, is 28 yards longer on average. Pair this with the same level of accuracy – the club of choice, should always be a Driver. Another element to factor into the decision in approach play, more specifically, Greens in Regulation and Approach proximity.

Greens in regulation by club
Shot Scope Greens in Regualtion by Club

A 28 yard difference between Driver or 3 wood off the tee, would mean around a 2 club difference for the second shot. Looking at the above GIR by club statistic, it means that golfers are 12-15% more likely to hit the green, if they hit a Driver off the tee, instead of a 3 wood. If golfers are hitting more greens in regulation, they must also start hitting it closer… The image below takes a look at approaches average proximity by club.

approach proximity by club
Shot Scope Approach Proximity by Club

The overall average in this example is 63ft. Taking a closer look at the difference between hitting Driver versus 3 wood off the tee (which we discovered would mean on average 2 clubs less for the approach shot), you can see that the difference between a 6 iron and an 8 iron is nearly 20ft. Now I don’t know about you, but I certainly fancy my chances at holing a putt that is 20ft closer, or if not holing it, reducing the chance of a 3 putt significantly.

Pulling all of these statistics together, it is clear to see that the closer a golfer is to the green, the closer they hit their next shot. To settle the Driver or 3 wood debate: the consequences of the 20-30 yard distance sacrifice are simply not worth it. The statistics have proven that there is no real benefit to hitting a 3 wood instead of a Driver off the tee.

Conclusion: Driver versus 3 wood

The overall conclusion on the Driver or 3 wood debate is that you should hit Driver wherever it is reasonable to do so. Do this and you will reap the rewards without changing or having to improve your game drastically.

About Shot Scope V3

Shot Scope design and manufacture golf GPS watches, shot tracking systems and laser rangefinders. Shot Scope’s mission is to help golfers improve on course strategy and make the game more enjoyable for all.

The Shot Scope V3 is a stylish and lightweight GPS watch available in 4 colours. The V3 can be used on the course as an advanced GPS watch or simply use in watch mode for your daily life off the course. The Shot Scope V3 comes preloaded with the Shot Scope’s in-house course database of 36,000 worldwide courses, allowing changes to a course to be instantly uploaded within as little as 48 hours. The V3 automatically tracks each shot hit on the course, without interfering with your game.

what is strokes gained, final shot scope image
Shot Scope mobile app and performance statistics

Shot Scope V3 users have unlimited access to Tour-quality performance statistics with the touch of a button. More than 100 different analytics can be reviewed via the Shot Scope V3 mobile app or Shot Scope’s online dashboard on different clubs, tee shots, approaches, short game and putting.

My Golf Spy: Best Value GPS Watch 2020

Check out this review on Shot Scope V3.

V3 is available to buy at, Dicks Sporting Goods – USA, PGA Superstore – USA, American Golf – UK and Golfbox Australia.


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