Three woods can be easier to hit off a tee and in my 25 years of playing golf with thousands of golfers, a three wood is often the answer for the wayward tee shots. Three-woods are not easy to hit off the ground though which is where it is valuable.
That is why I do not recommend the traditional 3 wood - I recommend higher loft. I believe this concept will revolutionize your game.
For the most forgiving 3 wood I recommend something 16° or higher. Traditional 14 or 15 degree 3-woods are much more difficult to hit for the average golfer.
Most Forgiving 3 Wood in Golf
- PING G430 MAX (most forgiving fairway wood around)
- Cleveland Launcher XL Halo (best fairway wood for most golfers)
- Cobra LTDx (best fairway wood to stop ballooning shots)
- Callaway Rogue ST Max (best large clubhead for confidence)
- TaylorMade SIM 2 Max (best fairway wood in last 5 years)
- Titleist TSi2 (best for mid handicappers who want single figures)
- Srixon ZX 5 (best low spin, long carry forgiveness)
Forgiving fairway woods as good as their drivers
The shape of the G430 when looking head-on to the face definitely appears to be more of a hybrid shaped face. It's not a tall face like a mini-driver at all. This makes it really feel easy to hit off the fairway.
The sole is much flatter than what you would expect in fairway woods and sits very nicely on the ground behind the ball. Coupled with the low profile face, and it feels like an easier to hit hybrid. This will help getting the ball off tighter lies like fine-grass fairways and of harder pan ground.
It comes in 3, 5 and 7 wood with a 9 wood also included. I also play a 7 wood. Highly recommended. You can adjust the loft 0.6 to 1 degree up or down.
THE ONLY 3-WOOD I CAN RECOMMEND EVEN IN LOWER LOFTS
I play the older G425 3 wood and I can say, this is one of the only clubheads I would suggest that you can use a lower loft. The club is just that easy to get the ball airborne and fly far and land soft. My Callaway Epic Flash was more brutal in terms of massive distance but not nearly as easy to control as the Ping G425 and the newer G430 is exactly the same basically.
The club is light but the head is just heavy enough to actually feel it which is important to know where the face is in the swing. This fairway wood will fit most levels of golfer and is right in line with their drivers...easy to hit and high launching. I play off between 1 and 3 handicap and this is forgiving.
Reasons to buy
Forgiving fairway wood for majority of double digit handicappers
Cleveland driver, irons and fairway wood ranges offer some of the most forgiving woods and irons around. I used Cleveland exclusively for many years as my choice for driver and fairway woods.
The hallmark of Cleveland clubs is the lack of fiddly adjustability. The Launcher XL Halo is simple looking and easy to hit.
From the top, at address, the club looks like their old school HiBore clubs. What that means is Cleveland have a tall face on the club but there is a step down from the face to the crown to place more weight lower down. This is to make the club function like an easy to hit hybrid instead of a mini-driver.
On the sole of the club are two guiderails. It's a similar concept to the Cobra fairway woods where the rails stop the fat shots being really bad and help the club glide through the turf easily.
WHICH DO YOU VALUE? ACCURACY OR DISTANCE?
The Launcher XL Halo FW is a counterbalanced club, meaning reduced swing weight, because of 8g of weight in the grip area. Lighter swing weight can mean more distance because you can generate more speed, but it's always good to check what your swing weight should be. You can however, get the option without the counterweight in the grip in the Accuracy Build version. The club in the Accuracy Build is also 0.5 inches shorter than the standard issue.
The usual understated graphic on the top of the crown makes aligning the matte-finish club head simple. As you normally find, this Cleveland wood has minimal face decal which means your eye is not distracted when sitting at address.
It's a very basic point-and-shoot club and as always with Cleveland, is maximum forgiveness for almost any golfer looking to get a fairway wood that doesn't feel like a mission to hit.
Reasons to buy
Very forgiving 3 wood for massive distance
The Cobra LTDx uses a tungsten weight low and forward in the sole to reduce spin and increase ball speed for more distance.
The crown is made of a carbon composite to reduce crown weight. The remaining weight allowance means Cobra created three different weighting options for different players. For players who need pure forgiveness, the LTDx is the best choice.
The LTDx is the most forgiving because of an extra weight chip in the back of the head for better ball flight. The Max has more weight in the heel of the head to try stop slices and the LS is really for more advanced players looking to tweak minor things to adjust workability.
Cobra have become famous for the rails under the club which are hollow trips of metal designed in a way to improve the way the face flexes. They've been removed on the 3 wood in the range because the 3 wood needs a sweeping motion and the rails are less effective for most golfers on this club. That's why I recommend higher lofted clubs for the majority of players.
GOOD NEWS FOR YOU
I mentioned earlier that the 3 woods in most ranges do not offer much forgiveness compared to slightly higher lofted options. In the LTDx range, the 5 and 7 wood, which are really the ones we're interested in, have those hollow T rails so you don't dig your club into the turf and get nice high, soft landing shots with more carry.
WHICH ONE'S FOR YOU?
The LTDx is made for straight distance and forgiveness. You'll get a high-launch/low spin shot for better carry and rollout. There's a fixed 8g weight in the back of the club which is the ingredient that creates the magic.
Reasons to buy
Easy to hit point-and-shoot weapon
Callaway have improved on the Jailbreak support structure in the Rogue ST Max. I have reported on the difference the Jailbreak tech makes in prior posts and in their drivers. I'm not really INTO the overhyping of technology in most clubs but the Jailbreak tech was one I felt actually worked.
Instead of two bars attaching the crown and sole right behind the middle of the face, Callaway moved that framing to the extreme ends of the toe and heel. On top of that, the bars that attach the crown and the sole are now diagonal and not straight up and down. Instead of stiffening the face, the bars now are far enough away to let the face flex more. You can be sure of a hotter face than prior models.
There's a tungsten weight forward in the head to lower the center of gravity for high launch with lower spin. Callaway offer their fairway woods in 14 different lofts over three versions. The model we are most interested in for pure forgiveness overall is the Rogue ST Max. Other versios are the Max D for a draw bias club and the LS.
SO MANY CHOICES
The Rogue ST Max mixes stability with low spinning ball flight. The launch is mid to high, while the shot shape is a slight draw bias. You can get these bad boys in lofts from 15 to 27 degrees and I highly recommend anything in the 16 to 18 degree range as well as a 7 wood around the 23 or 24 degree range. You'll have tons of fun.
The tungsten weight on the sole weighs between 27 and 28 grams and helps you get the ball in the air and flying farther for those fairway finders and long approaches. The fairway wood is used as the longest club you hit without a ball on the tee peg.
One of the biggest fears is hitting it low in the face but that's where Callaway have focused so your mis hit shots on the low part of the face have less spin on them to stop the severe loss of distance. You know, those ballooning, thin shots that seem to fly fine, but go much shorter.
That also includes strikes low on the toe and the heel as the weight extends across the bottom of the sole.
Reasons to buy
One of the best TaylorMade releases in the last 5 years
These are TaylorMade’s most forgiving fairway woods with larger faces to make mis hits less penal.
The Max uses a 190CC head with V Steel in the sole for smoother turf interaction and forgiveness when making contact with the ground.
Where the SIM 2 Max wins for forgiveness is not limited to the strike. The look of the matte finished crown with the much-more-pleasing-on-the-eye chalky grey line helps to align the face. On top of the alignment, the lighter grey color helps to frame the ball without looking intimidating to get the ball airborne.
The range of fairway woods also wins because there are a variety of lofts to choose from and not limited to the standard 15 and 13 degree options.
Pick the HL (High Launch) model if you really want to maximise your ability to get the ball in the air and make the game more fun.
I always say it, the higher the loft and launch, the more fun you're going to have on the course. Nobody wants to send those ground balls down the fairway every shot.
Try the 16.5° fairway wood if you need some help getting the ball in the air.
Reasons to buy
Low spin high launch for golfers using fairway woods to approach
Srixon are easily the most unspoken-of top brand on the market. Matsuyama won the Masters with them and I play their irons. This fairway wood is excellent for those approaching the par 4 greens with fairway woods.
They are creating some of the best clubs in the market and the ZX range is the improvement on the prior Z785 and Z585 clubs. Srixon don't release new clubs every 6 months like some manufacturers, preferring to actually make impactful changes in their clubs, releasing every couple years.
Even though the ZX fairway wood has some offset to, when you place it at address, the face sits nice and square to the ball. The head has a shiny crown and a more triangular chape than a lot of fairway woods.
Srixon have created a “Rebound Frame” which separates the face from the crown and makes a sort-of ridge across the head, which looks quite close to the PXG and Callaway.
The fairway woods create a low spin number but couple with a high launch to be able to stop on the greens instead of bounding on. This means longer carries that land at a steeper angle of descent for quicker stops.
Reasons to buy
Great for a go-to club off the tee
The TSi2 is the first time I can recommend a Titleist wood of any sort. I have never viewed Titleist's clubs as being aimed at the average golfer but this is the first time they've released really easy to hit clubs.
Immediately the face is what stands out. It's decorated simply with white lines across the face. The classic look continues into the clubhead which is a very traditional shape although quite big. This gives it a more "driveresque" feel which covers the ball, giving a dense of confidence.
For the mid handicapper on the cusp of single figures
While this club is forgiving, it's going to need a level of skill of a mid handicapper (15 and under) to hit, as the feedback from off center hits is clear and you'll known when you haven't hit it well. It's very easy to hit off the tee and sometimes can be hit low in the face off the fairways. l.
A lot of other fairway woods for a higher handicap are much more forgiving in terms of mis hits and feedback into your hands. That's why I say this TSi2 is for slightly more skilled golfers especially if the driver is a trouble club - this works great off the tee. Once again the 16 or 18 degree loft is going to be ideal for anyone trying to break into the 70's so they can get that all-important go-to club off the tee on tight holes.
Reasons to buy
Forgiving 3 Wood Buying Guide
The most forgiving 3 wood is not a 3 wood!
From my experience, I very strongly urge you to get a 3 wood with a loft of 16 or 17 degrees, which is essentially a 4 wood.
And I'm not just spinning you a line. I put my money where my mouth is and I gamed a 16-17 degree four wood for 10-15 years. Granted, some manufacturers make 15 degree heads that are easier to hit, like PING and Tour Edge. But in general, more loft is better for most people.
It's my go to club off the tee and approaches over 230 yards. It's simply MUCH easier to hit than anything with lower loft.
If your swing speed is slow all the way up to average...
This setup will benefit you a lot more than a 14 or 15 degree 3 wood. You'll see more carry and have way more fun hitting a higher lofted 3 wood than with the standard loft of 15 degrees. Often the higher loft will get you MORE distance than a lower lofted 3 wood.
Why, you ask? Well, for average swing speeds, more loft means it's easier to get the ball off the naked turf in the fairway and into the air to carry longer distances. Higher lofted woods are the most forgiving fairway woods in a similar way a pitching wedge has a higher loft than a 4 iron and is easier to hit.
If you swing at a faster swing speed (100 mph+) though, feel free to try 15 degree 3 woods as you won't have much difficulty getting it in the air. The lower the loft, the higher the dispersion so keep that in mind if you're a wild and wooly fast swinger.
Why you need a 3 wood
A lot of press is given to the driver because it's the club everyone wants to hit like Bubba Watson or Dustin Johnson. Drivers take up most of the hype in the marketing campaigns but there is the little brother that should be a superstar too...the 3 wood.
For ordinary golfers like you and me, the 3 wood presents an alternative to a driver. Sometimes we struggle with the driver, slicing it OB or topping it and not even reaching the ladies' tee (embarrassing). But enter the 3 wood and we can use it in so many situations:
- For long par 3's you can't reach with your irons/hybrids
- For long approach shots just outside your hybrid range
- Excellent distance off the tee, often equal to a driver!
- Accurate shots due to increased loft which increases forgiveness
- Reaching par 5's in two shots
- Customization of modern 3 woods means you can adjust settings to suit your needs
Choosing a 3 Wood Loft - How Many Degrees?
My next suggestion is where I might deviate from conventional thought...
I highly and super strongly recommend a 3 wood with 16 or 17 degrees loft for the majority of golfers instead of a 14° or 15° club.
Essentially this is a 4 wood loft. This club is going to benefit the majority of players out there. The extra loft is easier to get the ball up in the air off the fairway and will actually produce far more consistent results than a 14° or 15° club.
Some golfers are very skilled and with their skill level they can get the ball airborne easily with a low lofted 3 wood. While this is good for them, I want to help the average golfer and the most forgiving 3 wood in my opinion is a 4 wood.
What to Expect with 3 Wood Distance
This is a tough question. It all depends on your swing speed, your hitting ability and the loft of the club.
If you're a slower swinger you would benefit more from a higher lofted 3 wood (16°-17°) because you'll get more carry. This will translate into longer shots. The lower lofted 3 woods (14°-15°) will be MUCH more difficult to get travelling in the air and would actually perform too poorly for you. As a slower swinger, you could hit the 16 or 17 degree 3 wood around 180-200 yards.
If you're an average swinger of 80-90mph then you'd also gain more from a 16° or 17° 3 wood. You'll be able to get it to travel 190-215 yards easily. In fact, a higher lofted 3 wood might go FURTHER than a lower lofted.
If you're a faster swinger and want to use a stiff shaft (90-100 mph) then you could benefit from 14° to 17° 3 woods. You have the swing speed but it depends on your reliability. I still suggest selecting from the upper range of lofts. Even lower handicap players prefer a higher lofted 3 wood for ease of use. You could find yourself hitting the club anywhere from 200 to 240 yards.
When to use a 3 wood
- When you've lost confidence with the driver off the tee
- On a long par 3
- Only when you can reach the green in two on a par 5. ONLY when you can actually reach 100%
- Off the tee on shorter par 4's or par 4's with tight fairways
- Getting the ball out of a fluffy like that would tangle around your irons - the head of the 3 wood glides through the grass thanks to its round edges
- When you're playing into the wind
- When you have room to roll the ball up to the green
When NOT to use a 3 wood
- If you're a slower swinger and/or a higher handicapper then a forgiving 3 wood (higher loft, softer shorter shaft) will help you gain more distance.
- When you want to get close to a green in two shots on a par 5. Hit it only when you know you can reach. Leaving a half shot into a green is never ideal.
- When you're "a long way out" just to advance the ball up there somewhere. This is a big reason golfers have blow-out holes because the 3 wood is not the most forgiving club. If you're 260 yards from a green on a par 4, get it to your favorite distance so you have an easy 3rd shot in. That might mean hitting a 6 iron and then a wedge for those 260 yards.
- When there's water around the green and you're at the edge of your 3 wood range
What's the difference between a 3 wood vs a 3 hybrid?
A 3 wood is the equivalent of a 1 iron. A one iron is impossible for 99% of golfers to hit whereas a 3 wood is actually quite easy.
A 3 hybrid is there to replace a 3 iron. 3 irons are infamous for being difficult to hit for most golfers. The creation of hybrid clubs means that a lot of golf iron sets now start at 5 iron because you're expected to buy a 3 and 4 hybrid separately. A bit cheeky from the manufacturers, but it's clear no one misses their long irons after hitting a hybrid.
- Better from the fairway and tee
- Potentially longer carry
- Lower ball flight
- Rolls much longer
- More forgiving than a driver and long irons
- Difficult from fairway bunkers
- Needs a sweeping swing like a driver
- Better from the rough
- Potentially shorter carry
- Higher ball flight
- Lands softer
- More forgiving than a wood and long iron
- Easier from fairway bunkers
- Best results from a steep swing hitting down on it like an iron
Modern 3 wood design & materials
The heads of the 3 woods are made from steel, titanium and composites. Technology has advanced so much that some 3 woods can be as long as drivers. Henrik Stenson prefers his 3 wood to the driver.
3 woods now all come with a graphite shaft. The shaft length makes a big difference - a longer shaft means more distance while a shorter shaft means more accuracy. Talk to your local club fitter about shortening your shaft length to make the club even more forgiving for you.
Conclusion for forgiving 3 woods
A high lofted fairway wood will serve all golfers better than lower lofted woods. The premise is simple. More loft = more forgiveness. As I mentioned in the beginning of this guide, my 17 degree wood is my go-to club and when I have no confidence with the driver, I reach for it in a heartbeat.
What will most surprise you is the extra distance you'll get when increasing the loft especially if your swing is a bit slower. Any of the clubs on this list will serve you well and get you in the right areas of the course more often.