3 Wood vs 3 Hybrid Differences and Benefits

Introduction

The hybrid or rescue club is a relatively recent phenomenon in golf. This sector of the market was kickstarted by TaylorMade in the late 90s with their rescue club.

It tried to combine the best features of an iron and a fairway wood to give a more versatile utility club.

We have now reached a point where some manufacturers are producing almost complete sets of irons as rescues or hybrid clubs.

The 3 wood or “spoon” as it used to be known historically is like all other woods in that it is now made of metal or some combination of space-age materials.

Until quite recently woods were still sold in sets of three. They would have comprised a driver, 3 wood and 5 wood. Unfortunately, the prices from most of the major manufacturers now mean you could be looking at $1200-$1500 if they still followed that trend!

Like drivers, fairway woods are now sold one at a time for the most part. Beginners’ package sets may still have the traditional package of woods though.

Let’s take a look at the differences and see why you might want a 3 wood or 3 hybrid.

Ping G400 3 Hybrid
Ping G400 3 Hybrid

Clubhead

The most obvious difference between fairway woods and hybrids is the design of the clubhead.

Modern fairway woods have a much larger head than they used to be 30+ years ago although the difference is not quite as marked as with a driver.

Most hybrid or rescue clubs offer much smaller club heads with wide bodies but narrow from back to front.

The theory being with a hybrid or utility that you can still escape from certain rough lies.

You could actually further subcategorize hybrids to iron-like or wood-like. For example, the Ping crossover irons are much more like traditional irons and would suit players who prefer irons rather than woods. This would suggest that their golf swing is probably a little more upright and therefore better suited to hitting irons.

Some hybrids are significantly more wood-like and would suit players who are happier with fairway woods.

The center of gravity in a fairway wood will be further back from the face than in a hybrid because of the depth of the clubhead.

Some fairway woods may be constructed with larger club heads in order to give beginners a confidence boost. The larger head will be more forgiving if the player fails to hit the middle of the face.

3 Wood vs 3 Hybrid
Ping Fairway Wood

Length

Shaft length will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. The length of shafts in fairway woods will be roughly two to three inches longer than the equivalent numbered hybrid.

Straightaway you can probably guess that there is likely to be a significant distance difference between how far you can hit a 3 wood versus a 3 hybrid.

The longer shaft in a fairway wood will also make it more difficult to hit consistently from the sweet spot compared with a hybrid club.

Ping G400 hybrid testing

Loft

3 wood lofts will vary by manufacturer and also by the type of player the club is being aimed at. You might find lofts around 13° for tour models up to 17° or 18° targeting players with slower swings.

By contrast, a 3 hybrid is probably going to be somewhere between 18° and 22°.

Combining the shaft lengths and clubhead loft you can quickly see that a 3 wood should hit the ball further than a 3 hybrid.

ping g10 3 hybrid face
Ping g10 3 hybrid face

Distance

The two biggest factors that will determine the distance a club can hit are shaft length and clubhead lofts. Given that you can see that a 3 wood should be hitting the ball quite a lot further than a 3 hybrid.

“Wooden” clubs are primarily designed to maximize distance. Irons and hybrids are more about achieving consistent distance with each club.

Accuracy

Hybrids are meant to be replacements for the equivalent numbered iron so a 3 hybrid is meant to replace your 3 iron.

While most amateurs aren’t that accurate with a 3 iron they will almost certainly be more accurate than they would with a 3 wood.

This is the tradeoff between shaft length and club loft. To achieve greater accuracy and consistency you need shorter shafts and more loft.

Fairway wood face
Ping G20 fairway wood face

What to Buy?

The first question you should be asking is where is the largest distance gap in my bag?

You should be trying to achieve consistent distances between the clubs in your bag.

So for example, if you currently had a driver and then the next longest club in your bag was a 4 iron then you are going to need up to three clubs to cover that gap.

A 3 wood for an average player will probably go 20-25 yards shorter than their driver and a 4 iron another 20-25 yards shorter than that.

So in this particular scenario, you might want to add both a 3 wood and a 3 hybrid to give you two options to cover that 40 to 50-yard gap.

Many amateurs will probably find their 3 iron and 4 iron travel similar distances. You may find that a 3 hybrid would give you better separation from your 4 iron as it is easier to hit. Particularly for a golfer with a slower swing.

You also need to consider the course you play most often. Are there a number of long par-3s which might require fairway woods to reach? Does the course have several par-5s that you might be able to get on in two shots?

You need to come up with a mixture of clubs to suit the bulk of the golf that you play and the distances you are able to achieve.

Manufacturers of iron sets have dropped the 3 iron pretty much entirely and even the 4 iron is often now omitted. The assumption being that players are more likely to purchase hybrids at that end of their golf bag. Sets of irons now being sold are 5-SW or even 5-PW!

You have to remember that you need a decent amount of clubhead speed to get good results with 3 and 4 irons.

An increasing number of tour professionals now use hybrids rather than long irons. Don’t forget they spend all day, every day working on their game so if they can see the benefit then I’m sure you could too.

3 Wood vs 3 hybrid – Pros and Cons

The pros of a 3 wood are the distance you can achieve with the club. Both from the tee and from the fairway.

A 3 wood can be a good choice if you’re swinging your driver poorly without sacrificing a massive amount of distance. In fact, slower swinging amateurs will probably carry their 3 wood almost as far as their driver.

It can also be a great choice from the tee when playing a hole with a lot of trouble.

The biggest con of the 3 wood is most amateurs struggle to hit the club consistently from the fairway.

A 3 hybrids biggest pro is the reduced shaft length and increased loft making it much easier to hit both from the tee and when approaching a green.

Its higher launch and flight should also make it easier to hold your shot on the green.

You should have more chance of success 3 hybrid than a 3 iron from a wider range of lies.

Mizuno JPX-EZ Hybrid face
Mizuno JPX-EZ Hybrid face

3 Wood vs 3 Hybrid Differences and Benefits: Conclusion

Hopefully, you can now see the difference between a 3 wood and 3 hybrid. You can also make a decision whether you want to carry both clubs or just one or the other.

It should be clear that one is not a replacement for the other. They are designed to perform different jobs.

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ]

Does a 3 hybrid replace a 3 wood?

In short no.
A 3 hybrid is designed to replace your 3 iron. The shaft length and club loft angle will be similar to a 3 iron.
However, the design of the head makes it easier to get the golf ball airborne particularly for golfers with slower swings.

What hybrid is equivalent to a 3 wood?

There isn’t a direct replacement. The closest equivalent would probably be a 1 hybrid which would hit similar distances to a 4 wood.

How far should I hit a 3 hybrid?

It all depends on your swing speed, quality of strike, loft and shaft length.
A male amateur with a driver swing speed of around 90 mph could expect to hit a 3 hybrid around 180-190 yards.

When should I use 3 wood or hybrid?

A 3 wood is primarily a club used for distance.
You might use it for approaches on long par-4s, when attempting to reach par-5s in two shots or on a long par-3.
It might also be a good choice from the tee when there are lots of hazards in play or if you aren’t hitting your driver very well.
A hybrid is most likely to be used for approach shots to the green from the fairway or possibly from the rough.
It usually comes down to how far you need to hit the ball. If you need to hit a 230-yard shot and that is how far you hit a 3 wood then that is the club to hit!
You should always take note of the lie of the ball however before selecting a club.

Is a 3 hybrid the same as a 5 wood?

While many players are likely to hit a 3 hybrid and a 5 wood similar distances they are not the same.
A 3 hybrid is designed to replace a 3 iron, especially for higher handicap golfers. Their design usually means players who prefer irons will have more success with them.

Is a 3 hybrid easy to hit?

It is definitely easier to hit than a 3 iron. The design of the clubhead means the ball will launch higher than with a 3 iron meaning even players with slower swings can get acceptable results.

What is the best 3-hybrid in golf?

There is no one “best”. The best 3 hybrid for you is the one that best matches up to your swing and physical attributes and also allows you to cover a yardage gap in your bag.

Should high handicappers use hybrids?

Given the number of touring professionals that now employ hybrids, I would suggest the answer is an emphatic yes.
Hybrids are going to be much easier to hit than the equivalent iron due to their design.
Even players with slower swings should be able to produce decent results with 3 and 4 hybrids.

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