When selecting what fairway woods to have in the bag a senior golfer has a multitude of options.
The choice of loft, shaft flex, grip and design all come into play. As seniors advance in years and the amount of club head speed created through the ball diminishes, they need more help in achieving distance with the fairway woods. Many seniors are reluctant to trade in their 3 wood because of the theory a lower loft equals more distance. This sounds logical but unfortunately for most golfers it simply isn't true.
Many seniors don't realise they could have 10 to12 yards more distance by giving up a standard 15 degree 3 wood and using a 16 or 17 degree 4 wood. This is because a 3 wood hit with a lower swing speed will not have the sufficient launch angle to carry any meaningful distance. To achieve a higher launch angle, more loft will be needed.
Also many 3 woods brought out by manufacturers could have even less loft than 15 degrees. This coupled with a large club head design make the modern 3 wood difficult to lift into the air for the senior golfer, especially off the fairway. The senior golfer shouldn't worry about losing distance or even credibility with their playing partners as some of the longest tour players have a 4 wood in their bag, Bubba Watson, for example.
If the senior golfer wants to clinch the matter one way or the other there are a number of ways to test out the fairway woods and see which one would be best. Either on a course or at a golf store with a driving range, the senior golfer should find a fairway wood which they feel comfortable with in the way of looks.
The senior golfer should start hitting balls using face tape which will give an indication of where on the club face the ball is being struck. Hitting 10 balls with each club and taking note of where the balls are flying and where out of the club face the ball is launching, the senior golfer should be able to get a sense of which loft, either 3 wood or 4 wood, is flying the highest, furthest and straightest. Hit another 10 balls off a low tee-peg and measure the difference again. The senior golfer should keep in mind what they are looking for. Are they looking for a fairway wood to be mostly hit from the tee-box or predominantly the fairway?
An even better way of measuring the difference is finding a local professional or golf shop with launch monitor technology which uses radar to track a balls progress through the air giving feedback on distance, flight, ball speed, spin and dispersion.
For many senior golfers the outcome may be a surprise with the 4 wood coming out on top.
Why Choose a 4-Wood Instead of a 3-Wood?
For most golfers, the three wood is an automatic entry in the bag. In addition to staples like the driver and putter, most players put a three wood into the bag without really even thinking twice. And, to be sure, there is a lot to be said for the use of a three wood. It is a great club to use from the tee, most three woods are easy to hit from the fairway, and you can even hit little chip shot with your three wood from the side of the green.
However, despite all that, you might want to consider swapping out your three wood for a four wood in the near future. A good four wood will offer many of the same capabilities as a three wood, along with some additional advantages. The use of a four wood won't be the right choice for all golfers, but it is an idea that is at least worth closer consideration. There are plenty of quality four woods on the market to pick from, and you may find that you quickly fall in love with what these clubs have to offer your game.
While you might think first about spending time on the driving range when you wish to improve your game, there is also something to be said for making sure you have the right equipment in your bag. No, your clubs are never going to be able to hit the shots for you, but using the right gear is a big step toward shooting consistently lower scores. Professional golfers spend countless hours with making sure they have the proper gear in their bags. While you won't have access to the same resources as the average playing professional, you can still take some time to make sure your equipment is serving you well. Not only do you want to pick out the right club heads and shafts, but you want to be sure that the 14 clubs you select come together to form a cohesive, versatile set.
The nice thing about spending time working on the makeup of your set of clubs is that the effort you put in now can pay off for years to come. As long as your clubs continue to perform properly, you may be able to keep the same set for the foreseeable future – only making minor changes like swapping out grips as they wear down. The golf clubs that are in your bag are the tools that you will use as you make your way around the course. Just like tools used in any other trade, you need to be sure that your clubs are making your life easier rather than harder. A carpenter would have trouble building a quality house without the right saw, hammer, ladder, etc. In the same way, you are going to have a hard time putting together a great round of golf without the right equipment.
All of the instruction that is contained below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
What's the Difference?
Before you rush out to go shopping for a four wood, you should have a clear picture of what it is that separates a three wood from a four wood. Obviously, the main difference between these two kinds of clubs is loft. Where a three wood will generally have a loft of somewhere between 13-15 degrees, a four wood is going to range from 16-18 degrees. The exact loft on the four wood you decide to purchase will depend on the manufacturer and the model, but it is going to be somewhere in that general range. With added loft is going to come a bit of added height, so you should expect to hit your new four wood slightly higher than your three wood. At the same time, that added height is going to take some distance off of your shots, so a few yards of distance loss should be expected.
In addition to adding a couple degrees of loft, you are also going to find that a four wood will have a slightly shorter shaft than a three wood. The difference here is not going to be significant, but you will likely notice the change when you stand over the ball at address. By swinging a club with a shorter shaft, you should be able to better control your ball flight with a four wood as compared to a three wood, just as you can control your short irons better than your mid-irons. Control is one of the main reasons people decide to switch to four woods, as they only have to sacrifice a few yards of distance in exchange for added control over the golf ball. Since golf is a game that is all about control and accuracy, this is a trade that you should be willing to make without as much as a second thought.
As part of this discussion, it is important to keep in mind the place that this club is going to have within the rest of your set. Since you are likely to hit your four wood a few yards shorter than your three wood, you need to make sure there is still a proper gap between the four wood and the next club down the line. Do you carry a five wood, or maybe a hybrid club? How far do you hit that club compared to the four wood? You never want to have two clubs in your bag that travel the exact same distance, so it is important to think about this point as you assemble your full set. If you find that your new four wood is going to travel a similar distance to your longest hybrid, for example, you may need to alter the loft arrangement of your hybrids to form a more logical set.
Getting back to the topic of differences between four woods and three woods, another often-overlooked point is the advantage of getting to use a four wood from the rough. Three woods are extremely difficult – and sometimes impossible – to hit from the deep grass. A four wood, on the other hand, it going to be a little bit more forgiving in this situation. When you face a long shot from the rough, you will have a better chance to get the ball up into the air with a four wood as compared to a three wood. You would still rather be playing from the short grass, of course, but having the option of reaching for a four wood is going to make your long shots out of the rough just a little bit more manageable.
So, to review, some of the differences you will notice when switching to a four wood from a three wood include added loft, a shorter shaft, and an improved ability to play the ball from the rough. Four wood shots are usually going to fly higher and shorter than three wood shots, all other things being equal. So, is a four wood going to be the right choice for you? Let's continue this discussion to get to the bottom of that question.
The best thing you can do when assembling your set of clubs is to put together a set that always allows you to have the right club in your hand for the shot that you are facing. In other words, you never want to look into your bag and find that you don't have a good choice for the next shot. While you aren't going to be able to be perfect in this regard – you can't plan for every possible shot you could face – you can strive to give yourself the right club for the job as often as possible.
It is this point that is at the heart of the discussion when it comes to picking either a three wood or a four wood. Which one are you going to use more frequently? Which club is going to allow you to handle the challenges that you face when playing your favorite course? While it would be ideal to test out both clubs on the course to see which one works better for you, that might not be possible. At the very least, you can think about your typical round at your home course and determine which of these clubs you would use more often. If you think that the four wood may find its way out of the bag more often than the three wood, then that is the club that you should include in your set.
If you are trying to figure out what kind of shots might call for the use of a four wood over a three wood, check out the list below.
- Tee shots on short par fours. Of course, this is an area of the game where the three wood is used often. When you find yourself on the tee of a short par four, and you decide that driver is not the smart play, you probably reach for your three wood. However, even by clubbing down from driver to three wood, you still might not have as much control as you would like or expect. So, moving down a little farther from three wood to four wood may make sense. With the four wood, you should have plenty of control to keep your ball in play and on the short grass, yet you won't lose that much distance as compared to your three wood. Players who do carry a four wood often love it for the purpose of keeping the ball in play on short par fours.
- Tee shots on long par threes. Another great opportunity to use your four wood may come in the form of a long par three. When you step to the tee of a par three that is measuring around 200 yards or more, you might find that you can't reach the green with any of your irons. At the same time, a three wood might actually be too much club for the distance at hand. Often, it is true that a four wood winds up being just the right club for this kind of job. The extra loft of a four wood will bring the ball in higher and softer, meaning you will have a better chance of holding the putting surface with a good shot. If your home course has at least a couple of long par threes that usually give you trouble, it just might be that a four wood could save you a stroke or two on those holes alone.
- Second shot on par fives. If you hit a great drive on a par five, you might be able to think about reaching the green in two shots. However, it isn't necessarily easy to get the ball high up into the air with a three wood when playing from a fairway lie. Sure, you should be able to hit a decent shot in that situation, but that shot might not be high enough to actually stop on the green. With a four wood, however, you will have added height and a better chance to bring the ball to a stop. Even if you only get to go for the green in two on a par five every once in a while, it is nice to have the four wood in the bag for this occasion. A great shot from the fairway could set up an eagle opportunity – and there are few things in golf as exciting as the chance to putt for an eagle.
There is no lack of situations around the golf course that call for the use of a four wood. You may already use your three wood quite frequently in your current game, but that doesn't mean you wouldn't use your four wood even more often.
Height Gives You Options
The ability to hit the golf ball high in the air is a big advantage. When you watch professional golf on TV, it is no coincidence that the players who are able to hit the ball the highest are often those near the top of the leaderboard. Distance is important as well, of course, but the ability to hit the ball high is something that simply can't be replaced.
Why is it an advantage to be able to send the ball high into the sky. There are a couple of reasons. First, hitting the ball high allows you to stop the ball quicker on firm golf courses. This is why professional golfers see a high flight as such an advantage. They typically play their tournaments on firm, fast courses, so sending the ball up into the air gives them greater control over where it comes to rest. Players who have to hit the ball lower will always have more trouble accessing tough pins because they will be forced to play closer to the center of the green.
The other advantage of hitting the ball high actually comes into play when the course does get soft. If you are playing on a soft golf course that has been soaked with rain, and you hit the ball low, you are going to suddenly lose a significant amount of your distance. A low drive that rolls out 30 yards under normal conditions may only roll out 10 yards when the course is wet – if it rolls out at all. Therefore, hitting the ball high will allow you to maintain more of your usual distance when playing in wet conditions. Since you aren't used to putting much roll out on your shots, your distances won't change significantly on a soggy course.
So, bringing the discussion back to three woods and four woods, the advantages of a high ball flight are a compelling reason to opt for the four wood. Hitting the ball just a bit higher, as you should be able to do with a four wood, can lead to significant benefits out on the course. You should be able to control your ball more effectively on firm courses, and you should be able to carry the ball longer distances on soft courses. To that point, you might actually find that you hit your four wood farther than your three wood when playing a soft course, since the former will stay in the air longer than the latter.
There is one other thing that should be said about using a club that naturally wants to hit the ball high – you can always alter your swing to play the ball lower, when needed. For instance, if the wind comes up and you are carrying a four wood, you can move the ball back in your stance a bit to play a lower shot under the breeze. It is hard to do the same thing in reverse, however. If you carry a three wood, it is difficult to add loft to the shot in order to hit a higher ball. That trick is not impossible, but it is something that can only be pulled off by a highly skilled player. Just about anyone can adjust their swing to hit the ball lower, however, making the four wood a more versatile choice.
Around the Greens
Most of the use that you get from your four wood (or your three wood) is going to come in the form of full swings from the tee and the fairway. However, you don't have to ignore these clubs completely when you get up around the green. If you draw a good lie on the short grass right near the edge of the green – such as if you are on the fringe – you may be able to use your three or four wood to play a bump and run up toward the hole. These kinds of shots are easy to execute, they are reliable under pressure, and they take away the nerves that can be present when chipping with a lofted wedge.
The advantage of using a four wood rather than a three wood to play a bump and run is the fact that you have a little more loft on the four wood to help the ball carry onto the green. Chipping with a three wood is barely going to get the ball off the ground at all, meaning you have to have a clear path between your ball and the hole to choose this option. With a four wood, you still aren't going to get very much height on your shots, but you will get just a bit more. That extra height might be sufficient to carry your ball over the edge of the green, allowing it to land cleanly on the putting surface.
If you are going to try this shot during an upcoming practice session, grip the club just the same as you would when putting. You are going to use your putting stroke, with the same ball position and generally the same stance (you may need to stand a bit taller to accommodate for the length of the club). The ball is going to come off the face of your four wood quickly, so some practice time is going to be needed in order to learn how to manage your distance properly. After some practice time has been invested, you can add this shot to your short game repertoire, and you will have one more option to help you get up and down when you miss the green.
As you can tell from the content of this article, there is a lot to like about four woods. Sure, you can stick with your three wood and you will probably be just fine, but there are a few shots around the course that a four wood would make easier as compared to your three wood. Think about the makeup of your current set and decide for yourself if swapping your three wood for a four wood could help you in the quest for lower scores. Good luck!