If the golf hole is more than 450 yards from the tee, most golfers start with their drivers. However, there are times when I choose to skip the driver and start my first swing with a 3-wood.
So, can you play golf without a driver in your bag? You do not require a driver to play golf. Many golf instructors recommend that beginners start with a 3-wood for swinging off the tee. The longer shaft and lower loft of the driver are often difficult for beginners to handle. The lack of control may cause the ball to land far off the fairway or green.
Benefits of Using a 3-Wood Instead of a Driver
A driver is not always the best option for hitting the ball from the tee. In fact, there are times when using a different club may help take one or two swings off your game.
As drivers send the ball at a lower trajectory compared to other clubs, they allow golfers to hit the ball further. Due to the extra distance, when the shot cuts to the left or right, there is a greater chance of missing the mark.
When you find that you struggle to keep the ball on course with your driver, using a 3-wood helps provide more accuracy without significantly reducing the total distance. You may even discover that you can start with a 5-wood or 7-wood on some holes.
An experienced golfer can hit the ball roughly 230 yards with a driver and 210 yards with a 3-wood. When you are learning to play the game, accuracy is more essential compared to distance as landing in the rough or a sand trap can cost additional swings.
Differences Between the Driver and the Fairway Woods
There are several different categories of golf clubs. Each club has its own distinct features that impact the trajectory, control, and distance of your shots. While a bag containing 14 clubs is considered a full set, you may not need all 14 clubs when you first start swinging.
The main groups of golf clubs include:
Woods are typically used for hitting longer shots. In most cases, golfers use one of their woods when they are 175 yards or further from the green. The driver, or 1-wood, is the most used club for teeing off, especially for par 4 or par 5 holes.
The fairway woods include the 3-wood, 5-wood, 7-wood, and 9-wood. A higher number equals a higher loft angle, which determines the trajectory of the ball.
The loft refers to the angle of the club’s face that hits the ball. With a lower angle, the ball launches at a lower trajectory, which can typically provide greater distance. A higher angle allows the ball to fly at more of an arch, reducing the distance but allowing more control.
Drivers traditionally have a lower loft with angles ranging between 7 degrees and 13 degrees. In recent years, many pros have started using higher-lofted drivers with angles between 10 degrees and 11 degrees. They realized that if the trajectory is too low, they get less distance.
The 3-wood and 5-wood are common woods to carry. The 3-wood club has a loft angle between 15 degrees and 18 degrees. A 5-wood often has a loft angle between 20 degrees and 22 degrees.
The 3-wood, 5-wood, 7-wood, and 9-wood clubs are called the fairway clubs as they are often used for hitting shots on the fairway. They are also shorter compared to the driver.
The 3-wood is often a half-inch shorter while each successive club is another half-inch shorter. However, some golf club manufacturers keep the 5-wood, 7-wood, and 9-wood at the same length.
The driver is a type of wood but it is not always the best option for teeing off. If you are learning how to play, consider sticking with a 3-wood for par 4 or par 5 holes. For par 3 holes featuring shorter fairways, you may even want to try swinging the 5-wood or 7-wood.
Understanding the Other Golf Clubs in Your Bag
The woods are just one category of clubs. You also have irons, wedges, hybrids, and putters. While most of these clubs are rarely used for teeing off, they are still essential to your overall game.
Irons are often used when hitting the ball from the fairway to the green. They tend to offer a little less distance compared to the lower-lofted woods, such as the 3-wood or 5-wood.
A standard set of irons includes numbers 3 to 9. As with the woods, the lower numbers have lower loft angles, resulting in lower trajectories and greater distance. A higher number equals higher loft angles and shorter shafts.
Irons and wood are no longer made from iron and wood. Irons are typically made from graphite or steel while woods are often made from various metals. Graphite irons weigh less, which can make them easier to hit compared to steel irons.
Many beginners find the 3-iron and 4-iron difficult to hit. There is a growing trend among golfers with higher handicaps to replace these irons with the 7-wood and 9-wood clubs. They offer similar distances and are often easier to control.
Besides replacing the 3-iron or 4-iron with woods, some people switch out these clubs for hybrids. Hybrids offer a median between the irons and the woods. The 3-hybrid is close to the 3-iron when comparing loft angles. However, the hybrid is more forgiving and typically provides greater distance.
The wedges have the highest lofts. They are specialty irons that are used for closer shots or special situations. The main types of wedges include the pitching wedge, approach wedge, sand wedge, lob wedge, and high-lob wedge.
These wedges range in loft between 46 degrees and 64 degrees. The approach wedge is used when approaching the green while the sand wedge is often used for getting out of sand traps. The lob wedges are typically preferred for reaching an elevated green from the approach.
The final club is the putter. It is designed for straight shots to the hole while on the green. While you can play golf without a driver, it is incredibly difficult to play without a putter.
How Do You Know Which Club to Use?
One of the biggest challenges of golf is deciding which club to use for each swing. The distance to the green or hole is the main consideration. However, you also need to analyze the following:
- The weather conditions
- The locations of hazards
- The current location of the ball
- The elevation of the green
- Your experience and control
It is important to consider these details when selecting a club. When teeing off, you may want to evaluate the wind, hazards, and your overall experience.
If you are worried about hitting off the fairway, switch to the 3-wood. The shorter distance should offer a little more control, which is better compared to landing out in the rough.
When hitting from the fairway, high handicappers should typically use a 7-wood or 9-wood. These clubs are easier to hit but may not provide a lot of distance.
As you get closer to the green, continue to consider hazards, obstacles, and the weather. It is often better to choose the club with more control and a higher trajectory when conditions may keep you from delivering a straight shot.
Irons are preferred as you get closer as the higher trajectory results in less roll when the ball hits the ground. As wedges offer the most trajectory, they are used on the approach to the green. When you finally reach the green, it is time to take out the putter.
Which clubs should a beginner carry? When you first start learning how to play golf, you do not need a bag containing a full set of 14 clubs. There are five irons in the typical full set. Most beginners may only use the 5-iron. Beginners should also carry a pitching wedge for short shots and a putter.
When adding woods, start with the 3-wood and a 5-wood or a 7-wood. While you may play without a driver, it is still good to occasionally practice your drive. With these options, you may only need seven or eight clubs.
How far should a beginner drive a golf ball? Experienced golfers often drive balls up to 230 yards. Recreational players often hit the ball between 195 and 205 yards.
However, beginners should focus less on distance and more on accuracy and trajectory. Mastering these areas is necessary for driving the ball further with greater accuracy.
What loft driver should a high handicap golfer use? A higher loft provides a higher trajectory, which should result in less roll when the ball hits the fairway and more control. Drivers are available with angles up to 13 degrees. If you have a high handicap, consider starting with this higher-lofted club.
Conclusion: You Do Not Always Need to Start with a Driver
Can you play golf without a driver? There are many golf clubs that you can add to your bag but you may not need them all. Instead of lugging 14 clubs around 18 holes, start off with the essentials. You can also choose to skip the driver and replace it with a 3-wood or 5-wood, depending on the distance.
For longer drives, work on your swings with a 3-wood. When playing a shorter hole, use the 5-wood to gain more control compared to the driver. As you get better, you begin to gain a better sense of distance and control, allowing you to select the right club for each swing.