3 Wood vs 3 Hybrid: What’s the difference?

I’ll never forget my first birdie on the golf course. It was all thanks to my 3 hybrid club. What a rush! 

It was a fairly long par 3 hole of around 185 yards. I knocked my tee shot about two feet from the cup and tapped in for a score of two! There’s nothing like your first birdie!

Although fairway woods have been a part of golf since the beginning, hybrids have only been a popular choice of golfers for a couple of decades. If you’re new to the game, you may be wondering what the difference is between a 3 wood and a 3 hybrid. Though these clubs have plenty of similarities, they have several differences as well.

This article will dive into the differences between these two clubs as well as answer some common questions regarding them. After reading this article, you should be able to decide whether to keep a 3 wood, 3 hybrid, or both in your golf bag.

1. Distance

The biggest difference between the 3 wood and the 3 hybrid is how far each club will travel in distance. On average, the 3 wood will travel anywhere from 30 to 50 yards further than the 3 hybrid. However, the 3 hybrid offers more accuracy than the 3 wood so keep that in mind when deciding which club to hit.

How far will each club go when hit correctly? The average golfer will hit a well-struck 3 wood shot anywhere from 210 to 230 yards. The same golfer will hit a solid 3 hybrid shot somewhere between 160 to 200 yards.

The average PGA Tour golfer will hit their 3 wood around 260 yards and their 3 hybrid about 240 yards! Most pros keep both a 3 wood and some hybrid in their bag for each tournament. Some pros will throw a 5 wood into their bags from time to time, depending on the layout of the course.

2. Accuracy

The 3 hybrid is much more accurate than the 3 wood. The 3 hybrid may not travel as far as the 3 wood, but the more balanced clubhead weight makes it more accurate. Hybrids used to be called rescue clubs or utility clubs back in the day.

The center of gravity on all fairway woods is toward the back of the clubhead. On the other hand, hybrids have a center of gravity that is more toward the front of the clubhead. This allows the hybrid to have a higher level of both accuracy and forgiveness.

While many golfers get hung up on distance, accuracy remains a key factor in playing your best golf. If you’re just learning to play, don’t feel bad about hitting your 3 hybrid more often than your 3 wood. Distance is useless if you end up in the water or in the woods!

3. Loft

Why does a 3 wood carry so much further than the 3 hybrid? The main reason is that the 3 wood has a much lower loft than the 3 hybrid. 

It sounds counterintuitive, but less loft equals more distance. Going with a higher loft means you’ll have the ability to hit higher shots, which can be handy on approach shots.

Most 3 woods have a loft of 10-16 degrees, while 3 hybrids have a loft of 18-23 degrees. 

4. Material

While all fairway woods used to be made out of wood, most golf club manufacturers nowadays use stainless steel or titanium to make their 3 woods. Most companies make 3 woods from the same material they make their drivers.

3 hybrids are made out of a mixture of three different materials: steel, iron, and graphite.

5. Shaft

Many people assume that there’s a big difference in the shafts of a 3 wood and 3 hybrid. However, you may be surprised to learn that the shaft length of a 3 wood is usually only half an inch shorter than a 3 hybrid. Some golf club manufacturers even make their 3 woods and 3 hybrids the same length!

Another intriguing fact is that the shaft of the 3 hybrid is a tad bit heavier than the 3 wood and even the driver! Both clubs’ shafts are made from graphite. The graphite material makes the shafts of both clubs lighter.

6. Clubhead Size

The 3 wood clubhead is much larger than the 3 hybrid. The larger sweet spot of the 3 wood makes it easier to make solid contact, especially when hitting off the tee. The 3 wood’s large club face is also extremely forgiving.

However, that big sweet spot of the 3 wood comes with the risk of hitting inaccurate shots like hooks and slices. Golf, just like life, has plenty of risk-reward scenarios.

The smaller clubhead of the 3 hybrid is one reason why it’s more accurate than the 3 wood. 

What hybrid is an equivalent to a 3 wood?

The club that performs the most like a 3 wood is the 19-degree hybrid. Most club manufacturers call it the 3 hybrid. Keep in mind though, that the yardage will not be the same because of the difference in loft.

I carry a 19-degree hybrid in my bag and find it much easier to hit than my 3 wood! The best part about hitting a 3 hybrid is that you can hit it like you would a regular iron. This can take some getting used to though, because of the different look of the 3 hybrid’s club face.

The 3 wood however, requires a sweeping swing that is similar to a driver. This can be difficult for many golfers to execute consistently, especially when hitting the 3 wood off the deck and not the tee.

Does a 3 hybrid replace a 3 wood?

No, a 3 hybrid doesn’t directly replace a 3 wood. Some golfers may choose to take the 3 wood out of their bag and replace it with a 3 hybrid. Though there’s nothing wrong with that decision, keep in mind that you’ll be giving up a little bit of distance.

The 3 hybrid more closely resembles (and can replace) a 3 iron in terms of distance. Many golfers struggle to hit the long irons (3,4,5), so a hybrid is usually the better choice because of the added forgiveness and larger sweet spot. Keep in mind that the hybrid is the perfect mix of fairway wood and a long iron.

Should I carry a 3 wood, 5 wood, or 3 hybrid?

Like lots of decisions in golf, this one comes down to personal preference and comfort level. Most golfers carry a 3 wood and at least one type of hybrid in their bag. I carry a 3 wood and a 3 hybrid while leaving out the 5 wood.

The answer also depends on what type of course you are going to play. If there will be lots of long par 5’s, you definitely want the 3 wood in your bag for the added distance. On the other hand, if the course is somewhat short, you may opt to leave out the 3 wood altogether and keep both the 5 wood and 3 hybrid in your bag.

You may be shocked to learn that PGA golfer Wyndham Clark doesn’t use any fairway woods! Instead, Clark opts for a hybrid with 15.5 degrees which means it should perform similar to a 3 wood. This just goes to show that every golfer has different strengths and preferences.

Here’s a previous article that provides a more in-depth look at 3 woods and 5 woods. I know plenty of golfers that carry a 3 wood, 5 wood, and a 3 hybrid. Having all three options at their disposal makes them feel more comfortable on the course.

When is it better to hit the 3 wood instead of the 3 hybrid?

If your primary concern is distance, choose the 3 wood as long as you’re comfortable hitting it. For example, let’s say you’re hitting your second shot on a long par 5. Hopefully, you crushed your driver off the tee and are trying to get home in two!

If the hole is fairly wide open and you’re not worried about slicing or hooking the ball out of bounds, hit your 3 wood. You’ll get greater distance and a better roll out. You’ll also be more likely to make an eagle!

Another good time to hit your 3 wood instead of your 3 hybrid is when you struggle to find the fairway with your driver. The 3 wood will provide you with similar distance and better accuracy when the “big dog” keeps letting you down off the tee. I employ this strategy from time to time when my driver gets a little wild.

When are you better suited to hit the 3 hybrid instead of the 3 wood?

If accuracy is your main concern, choose to hit the 3 hybrid instead of the 3 wood. The higher loft (and slightly shorter shaft length) of the 3 hybrid will allow for more precision and be much more forgiving than the 3 wood. You won’t give up too much distance by going with the 3 hybrid, either.

For example, let’s say you are hitting your second shot on a long par 4. You notice trees to your right and water to your left. In other words, it’s going to be a tight second shot.

The safer choice is to hit your 3 hybrid because it’ll give you a greater chance of staying out of trouble. You’ll also be able to get more height with a 3 hybrid and give yourself a better chance of sticking your approach shot on the green.

Is the 3 wood or 3 hybrid easier to hit?

It depends on what the situation is. If you’re hitting the ball off the tee, the large clubface of the 3 wood makes it easier to make solid contact than the 3 hybrid. You’ll also be able to take the same sweeping type of swing as you would with your driver.

If you’re hitting the ball off the deck, the 3 hybrid is easier to hit. This is because the extra loft of the hybrid makes it easier to get the ball in the air. Also, most golfers struggle to make consistent contact off the deck with the sweeping swing that a 3 wood requires.

What’s the difference between a “strong” 3 wood / hybrid and  a  “weak” 3 wood / hybrid?

It all has to do with the loft of the golf club. Like I mentioned above, 3 woods have a loft range of 10 to 16 degrees. Golfers who prefer a strong 3 wood opt for a lower loft of 10 to 12 degrees, while folks that want a weak 3 wood go with much more loft.

The 3 hybrid works the same way. The loft range of the 3 hybrid is 18 to 23 degrees. A strong 3 hybrid would have 18 to 20 degrees of loft, while a weak 3 hybrid would have 21 to 23 degrees of loft.

A Final Word Before Heading to the Clubhouse

Both the 3 wood and the 3 hybrid are outstanding golf clubs. Both clubs are versatile and allow you to hit the golf ball a fairly long way. Lots of golfers choose to carry both of these clubs in their bags.

While 3 woods are better for distance, 3 hybrids offer a higher level of accuracy. Beginner-level golfers and those with high handicaps will find that the 3 hybrid is much easier to hit than the 3 wood unless they’re hitting off the tee.

A well-rounded golfer will learn how to hit each of these clubs properly. Spend as much practice time as you can on the range with each of these clubs to further advance your overall game. Until next time, enjoy the warm summer weather on the links!

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Joe Morelli

Joe Morelli is the founder of TopRankGolf, a passionate golfer with 25 years of experience playing and coaching golfers around the world. He's dedicated to helping golfers learn and enjoy the game of golf.