Lou Stagner's Newsletter #40

Driver vs 3 wood

A big thank you to our sponsors who keep this newsletter free to the reader:

Today’s issue is brought to you by Public Rec:

Last minute holiday shopping? The Workday Pant 2.0 by Public Rec is the perfect gift for any golfer. This stretchy, 5-pocket pant looks as great on the course as it does around the holiday dinner table. Save 15% with code LOU15

Start shopping here.

And also brought to you by Divot Board:

My low point control has improved A LOT using Divot Board. I made a video showing one of my training games. Check it out below.

Divot Boards are $40 off plus save an extra 10% with code CROSSFIELD10

Click here to get one.

Weekly Quiz!

To see the correct answer, click the “CONTINUE” button at the bottom of the next page.

Good luck! 😀 

The typical scratch player will make 8 or more bogeys (or worse) in what percent of their rounds?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Driver vs 3 wood

This is an interesting topic that I could dedicate an entire book chapter to. Driver vs 3 wood. Which one should you hit? This is a question I get on a regular basis. Someone will typically send me an overhead google maps view of a hole and write:

“This is the 4th hole at my club. I play from 375 yards. What club should I hit?”

There are many variables in play when trying to answer this question. How far do you hit each club? What is your offline dispersion with each club? How long is the hole? What trouble is on the hole? Where is that trouble? How much “safe” room do you have? What direction is the wind? How strong is the wind? Did you crush a few hot dogs at the turn? 😃 etc… etc… etc…

First I am going to give you some general info across handicaps. Then I am going to go through an example where driver is NOT the play.

Off to the Arccos database we go (Arccos has a HUGE holiday sale going on. 20% off plus use code DATALOU15 to save an EXTRA 15%).

In order to qualify for this analysis, within a calendar year, a player needed to have at least 100 tee shots with driver and at least 60 tee shots with 3 wood (only on par 4s and 5s). In this dataset the fewest number of rounds by a player was 35 and the most was 227!

Here are overall numbers for different handicaps in this dataset:

Notice that the difference in distance (for the typical player) between driver and 3 wood is about 27 yards. Also notice that offline Standard Deviation is relatively similar across handicaps.

A few nuggets.

  • Only one out of every 210 players hits their 3 wood longer than they hit their driver.

  • 13% were 40+ yards longer with driver than they were with 3 wood.

  • 4% were longer with driver by only 10 yards or less.

  • 22% had an offline STDEV (Standard Deviation) that was 5+ yards larger with driver than it was with their 3 wood (e.g., 3 wood is “noticeably” more accurate than driver).

  • 13% were more accurate with their driver.

  • 20% had a STDEV with driver that was within one yard of 3 wood.

As a general rule, you should be hitting driver as often as you can… but one of the key takeaways is you need to know your numbers. How far you hit each club. How big of an area you hit each club into. These will influence club choices.

Let’s look at a few examples. The numbers below are based on the “typical” 10 index player. I took the dispersion patterns for the typical player and ran through simulations where I would hit a million tee shots. I calculated shots to hole out for each second shot (how far was it from the hole and what was the lie). I averaged all of these second shots to come up with an expected score for the given club.

Both example holes are very simple. They are both 375 yards long, with a fairway that is 32 yards wide. There are no fairway bunkers in play. To the left and right of the fairway is playable rough. There is OB on both sides.

This first example has 70 yards of room between OB stakes (19 yards left and right of the edge of the fairway). What would the expected score be for the typical 10 index player for different clubs? In addition to driver and 3w, I also looked at the next longest club in the bag. This tended to be a 5w or 3 hybrid for many players. For the typical player this club went about ~190 yards and had an offline STDEV of 17.0 yards.

  • Driver: 5.04

  • 3w: 5.07

  • 190 club: 5.02

The second hole has 64 yards of room between OB stakes (16 yards left and right of the edge of the fairway). Here are the expected scores:

  • Driver: 5.15

  • 3w: 5.16

  • 190 club: 5.08

My Thoughts

As you can see in the two examples above, for the typical 10 index player, the 190 yard shot resulted in the lowest expected score! What?!?!?! I thought you said to hit driver?

Hitting driver IS typically the play, but when you bring penalty shots into the mix, and there is not a lot of room, it starts to be very important you keep shots in play. This is why you need to know how big of an area you safely need for each club (and how far you hit each club).

I am going to be building extensively on this topic in my upcoming online class where I will teach you how to map out a plan on google earth using YOUR info. Stay tuned for that!

See you next week!


  • Advertise your business to 29,000+ readers of this newsletter.

  • Listen to the “Hack it Out Golf” podcast on Apple or Spotify.

  • Join Team Titleist here.

  • Submit ideas or feedback here.

    Have a great week!

Lou Stagner