Most Forgiving 3 Wood in 2018

I'm sure you'll agree that drivers are hard to hit straight. And sometimes we need a little help from the fairways on those long approach shots when our hybrids just won't get us there.

That's where a forgiving 3 wood steps in to give you a safe "go-to" shot on tight holes and that extra reach when you're just out of range of the green.

I love the confidence I have on tree or water-lined par 4's, short par 4's and long approaches - all thanks to my trusty 3 wood. But keep reading to find out why I don't use or recommend an 'official' 3 wood - I really think it could revolutionize your game.  

As great as traditional 14 or 15 degree 3 woods are, they're tough to hit at first so I have a slightly different take on what the best or most forgiving 3 wood is.

Four is the new three in fairway woods!

The most forgiving 3 wood is not actually a 3 wood!

From my experience helping hundreds of fellow golfers, I very strongly suggest 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've gamed a 17 degree four wood for the last 10 years. It's my go to club off the tee and approaches over 210 yards. It's simply MUCH easier to hit than anything with lower loft.

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.

Top '3' Wood: Taylormade M2 HL

With 16.5 degrees of loft, the M2 HL is long and forgiving with extra loft to promote higher ball flight with less sideways movement. Don't worry that it's a couple years old - it's a great club.

Most Forgiving 3 Wood in 2018

  1. Taylormade M2 HL  (super distance and easy to hit for ANYONE)
  2. Callaway XR 16  (large club head feels like a driver)
  3. Tour Edge Hot Launch 2 (best for slicers)
  4. Taylormade M4 High Loft (straightest shooter)
  5. Cobra King F7  (most consistent and best from tough lies)

Taylormade M2 HL Fairway Wood

Most forgiving 3 wood for massive distance

I've picked the Taylormade 3 Wood HL as the best 3 wood out there. The beauty of this club is it comes with the "HL" (High Loft) modification to make it even easier to hit high in the air.

The 16.5° loft is 1.5° more than a standard 3 wood. This is perfect for most of us, from low handicappers to high handicappers. Slower swingers will especially love the extra loft to get more distance than usual.

The 2016 Taylormade M2 is long. It's easily one of the longest fairway woods off the tee or the ground. I've seen my golfing buddies pick up an extra 15 yards after upgrading to the M2.

Oodles of distance and forgiveness

But with that distance, the bonus is you get oodles of forgiveness.

This 3 wood won't punish those strikes low on the club face you and I have so often when we're hitting off the fairway. The ball just keeps going an going and going. When you do hit the sweet spot the ball flies with precision to the target and you feel that tuning fork ringing in your loins. What's more is mishits don't hurt you as much as you're probably used to. The extra forgiveness means your ball still ends up around your target instead of 50 yards short.

One weird characteristic of the M2 3 wood is that it's not the easiest to hit in thicker rough, but then again, that's what hybrids are for.

Like with the M2 driver which I think is outstanding, the black and white crown helps to align your club to the target. The contrast with the grass is very effective indeed.

What about the 2017 model?

You might be wondering why I haven't recommended the 2017 M2. While the 2017 edition is a fantastic club, would you like to fork out all that extra dough just to find out it's not much better than the old model? I like giving you advice on clubs that also helps save some money especially as a high handicapper or beginner. In fact, I think the 2016 M2 is one of the finest fairway woods I've ever hit.

Pros
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    Ball flight cuts through the wind easily - great wind club
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    Goes a LOOOOOONG way
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    16.5° HL version suits 90% of golfers
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    Extra forgiving to get the ball closer to your target even with bad shots
Cons
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    Sound and feel is quite bland
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    Not great out of the rough
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    Minor: loft is not adjustable

Easy to hit point-and-shoot weapon 

I liked the 17 degree Callaway XR16 immediately. The 15° is a great option if you have a faster swing speed or play off a lower handicap. Slower swingers and mid to high handicappers are going to love the 17° for that extra forgiveness and distance in the air.

If you're unsure of your ability with a lower lofted club I whole-heartedly endorse a 17 degree  XR16.

Callaway have made a fairway wood that works anywhere: tee, fairway and rough. And that's the best thing about this club: its all-round hitability from anywhere. Couple that with the massive forgiveness and it's easy to see why the XR16 is one of the most forgiving 3 wood on the market

Straight shooter from any lie

The club just wants to hit the ball straight. I don't know how else to put it; gentle fades and draws are possible if you really want, but in general expect a flight that doesn't shape too much. You can hit it off the tee with certainty on those tight holes and if you've got a long approach, that big 175cc club head behind the ball does fill you with a lot of confidence.

I love fairway woods but I also love hitting the ball in the rough off the tee. I think my ball is allergic to the fairway. but the long grass is no match for the XR16. The head glides through the grass and makes crisp contact with the ball and results in a much better result than you'd expect.

Well-struck shots fly straight while the mishits don't veer dramatically off-course - maybe a few yards left or right. What is strange is the club is not particularly a bomber but every now and then it produces a real bomb that comes out of the blue. That can be a problem when you end up 15 yards over the green! Otherwise this is a very consistent and forgiving 3 wood with a lot of meat behind it.

Pros
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    Extremely forgiving and you can hit the ball anywhere on the club face and produce a good result
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    17° is a the perfect loft for a forgiving 3 wood
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    Big pear-shaped head covers the ball for added confidence
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    Matte finish prevents glare from the sun
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    Performs well from any lie condition
Cons
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    Graphics on the face are ugly to me
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    Loft isn't adjustable
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    Visual aid on the crown is not prominent enough

Tour Edge Hot Launch 2 Fairway Wood

High value and wallet friendly 

Here's one you probably won't hear much about but provides big time bang for your buck and is one of the best 3 woods for the money right now. I don't like seeing you spend too much on golf equipment and if you're looking for a cheaper option that will actually perform and not fall apart, the 17 degree Tour Edge Hot Launch 2 fairway wood is easily the best option in the budget range. 

But do you hit a lot of slices? I know I used to as a newer player. Because the nice thing about the Hot Launch 2 fairway woods is they come in a couple of lofts but also have an offset version to counteract slicing. The 15 degree 3 wood comes in a flat face version if you hit the ball quite straight and an offset version for those hitting it to the right a lot. The 17 degree option comes in standard face settings only, with no offset option. 

Famous for fairway woods for a reason

Tour Edge are famous for their fairway woods and famous for producing clubs that are affordable to the average Joe like you and me. Usually you associate cheap with crappy, but not Tour Edge.

They've used a variable face thickness on this club to make a huge sweet spot which produces faster ball speeds. Translation: long and straighter shots all round the face.

The shallow design of the face means you launch the ball higher for long and soft-landing bombs. Definitely one of the most forgiving 3 woods in the budget category.

Pros
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    Variable face thickness means a huge sweet pot
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    Very very forgiving on mishits
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    Maximum bang for your hard earned $$$
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    High launching 17° is perfect for mid and high handicappers
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    Famous Tour Edge fairway wood quality
Cons
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    Lack of brand awareness due to low marketing costs
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    Loft isn't adjustable

Taylormade M4 High Loft Fairway Wood

Extra loft to get it airborne easier

I've included another Taylormade on the list of best 3 woods because Taylormade have expanded on the M2 listed above and made the M4 even more forgiving with longer distance off more of the club face. They've made the face thinner so it catapults the ball further with less effort. This 'high loft" comes in 16.5° without a sliding weight so it's a simple point and shoot wood to avoid decision paralysis when finding your "ideal" settings.

Most noticeable is the extra distance you get from a shot hit lower in the face and there's no more white all over the crown which was a trend that died quicker than Ed Hardy t-shirts. The top has a silver piece which offers the same contrast to the black crown for easy alignment, without the blinding white.

A simple point and shoot, decision-free club

Taylormade's new M3 is a similar club with similar lofts but you can adjust the lofts as well as move around a little weight on the sole of the club. The M4, featured here, is a set 16.5° and reduces the anxiety that the adjustable lofts and weight plate can introduce to your game. I'm a firm believer in making this game simple but if you like tinkering, then the M3 would be more up your alley. Keep in mind, the M4 is more for the mid handicapper, while the M3 would be for mid to low handicappers.

The M4 however is a great piece of weaponry and goes a little further than the M3 from what I have seen. Club head size is also a little larger than the M3 which gives you that feeling of covering the ball, making it difficult to hit a bad shot.

Pros
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    Modern looking and the latest as seen on the tour
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    Goes very very straight
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    Like the M2 with a little extra boom boom
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    Explosive feeling and sound at impact
Cons
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    No adjustable lofts or weights if you re into that
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    Larger head if you like classic shaped fairway woods

Cobra KING F7 Fairway Wood

Most forgiving 3 wood for consistent strikes

Cobra have put the Baffler Rail technology they experimented with last year with Rickie Fowler into their KING F7 lineup. See those two silver colored rails on the sole? That's the technology they've put into this one.

Baffler Rail Technology, say what?

So what is the point of the rails on the sole of the F7? The theory goes that you will get through the turf and the longer grass easier with the rails at the bottom without losing club head speed. because the rails channel all that stuff away waiting to wrap around your club head. They're there to make better contact with the ball. 

Adjustable and forgiving

The Cobra F7 range of fairway woods is adjustable and the 3-4 Wood loft can be adjusted between 13° and 16°. We recommend using the upper end of this range because a 13 degree 3 wood is definitely for more advanced players.

Like the Callaway Alpha 815, there are two weights in the bottom of the club to adjust your ball flight. Swapping them with each other produces different results that you can experiment with on the range. Heavy in the back, higher flight. Heavy in the front, lower spin. Heavy in the back is the setting that'll benefit you and me most often.

As you've noticed with Rickie Fowler dressing in bright colors, so Cobra has extended that tradition by offering three flash colors in the KING F7 range. The combination of adjustable lofts, switchable weights and Baffler Rail tech make this an amazing pick.

Pros
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    Very simple hosel and weight adjustments
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    A definite long bomber
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    Alignment aid makes it easy to hit the target
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    Baffler Rail system on the sole gets the ball out of anywhere
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    Excellent value price point
Cons
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    Can be draw biased
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    Not very 'workable'

3 Wood Buying Guide


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

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    When you've lost confidence with the driver off the tee
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    On a long par 3 
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    Only when you can reach the green in two on a par 5. ONLY when you can actually reach 100%
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    Off the tee on shorter par 4's or par 4's with tight fairways
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    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
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    When you're playing into the wind
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    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.

3 Wood

  • 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

3 Hybrid

  • 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

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.

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