The rules of golf allow you to have up to 14 clubs, but there are endless ways to build your set.
The starting point is of course the driver and given golf’s continuing obsession with distance it is always the most talked about club in the golf bag.
But as you continue to put together your set of golf clubs from there what should your approach be? If you find a driver that works well for you should you be thinking that your driver and woods should automatically be the same?
There is no requirement to match your driver with your woods. Brand, club head, shaft, weight and length are all parts which can match but golfers are best focusing on the combinations which deliver the best results for each club individually. The only exception is the grip which should be the same.
That’s not to say some components of your driver should never be the same as your fairway woods.
It’s just that you need to have confidence in every club that you have and that should always be the overriding decision factor in any club choice decision.
The best approach is therefore to take each club one by one rather than as a group and focus on what individual club set up gives you the most consistent results.
Golf can be a very expensive game to play and for us amateurs who don’t have clubs given to them like the pros an approach of aiming to simply ‘match’ your driver and woods could prove to be a very costly strategy.
Costly both in terms of scoring and your hard-earned money!
Should my Driver’s Shaft, Length, Grip Etc. Match my Woods?
When it comes to asking the question of whether your driver should be the ‘same’ as your woods it’s critical that we first consider what we actually mean by the ‘same’.
Golf clubs consist of a series of variable elements or components – club head, shaft, weight, length, loft, lie angle and by last but no means least the grip.
And that’s not to mention the different brand options of course.
So when we are considering whether your driver should ‘match’ your woods it’s clear that there are many elements that would need to be same for them to match exactly.
It’s not as simple therefore as saying that if you have a Taylor Made driver your 3 wood and 5 wood ‘match’ if they are also made by Taylor Made.
Drivers and woods all obviously have different lofts but they also may have very different club head designs, shaft flexes, weights etc.
But surely since manufacturers when designing clubs, apply their research and development ideas and expertise to a family of clubs with consistent performance characteristics, it makes sense to match your drivers and your woods at least at a brand level?
Club fitting experts often comment that the standard drivers and fairway woods that they test have very inconsistent lengths, shaft flexes and weights from one manufacturer the next.
So yet more evidence surely of the need to ‘match’ the brand of your woods with your driver, especially if you’ve finally found a driver that’s working well for you?
The short answer to that question is however still no.
And that no answer applies to almost all the components which make up your driver and woods.
Just because your driver has a standard flex shaft doesn’t automatically mean your woods should also have a standard flex shaft.
The most important thing when it comes to putting together your combination of driver and woods is to dismiss all the preconceived notions you’ve heard or read about ‘rules for matching’ specific components and focus solely on feel and what individual clubs give you the most confidence and best results.
Your driver should match your game first, second and last and not your woods!
While one player may have success with having the same shaft in their driver and 3 wood for example what works for one player’s swing will never automatically work for another.
It may give one player confidence to see a similar shape, colour and look of club in their driver and woods but for others it won’t matter.
If you are good player you may be aiming for a low penetrating flight with your driver but want to be able to hit your 3 wood nice and high to give you best chance of stopping your long shots on the green.
The manufacturers offer different options for all the components of drivers and woods – club head, loft, shaft flex and weight etc – for the very reason that they know different player’s swing speeds and shot requirements require different combinations of these.
So the correct approach to coming up with your best driver and woods combination should always be to try everything out and then only use what works.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to golf equipment simply because we all have our own swing and preferences.
And this approach will set you in very good stead particularly if you are going to play golf for a long period as it will save you money in the long run.
Beginners and high handicappers typically have slower swing speeds than better players and as a result, a general rule is that they will have more woods in their bag.
Focus on always ‘matching’ your driver and woods rather than focusing on what individual clubs feel the best and give you the most confidence will make golf a very expensive sport especially if you find yourself changing one them now and again.
In other words it’s too expensive ‘not’ to have all your golf clubs, including your driver and woods, usable at all times in all conditions.
Focusing on what drivers and woods work the best rather than ‘match’ or look the best will stand you in much better stead both from a scoring and cost point of view.
Yes manufacturers aim to match their drivers and woods but if it doesn’t feel right then don’t bother.
The key is keeping the feeling with the swing from your driver to your woods and simply finding the combination which best helps you do this regardless of whether they are the same or not.
There is one caveat we would add to this however and that would be when it comes to the grips that you have on your driver and woods.
This is the one and only element we would advise to ‘match’ between your driver and woods and every other club in your bag with the exception of the putter.
Should Your Driver & 3 Wood be the Same? Get Fit to Find Out
Now let’s get a bit more specific and discuss the relationship between your driver and your 3 wood.
Before you get a matching pair just make sure you do your research. Even if you buy the same brand and model, you may be getting very different clubs.
Quite often golf manufacturers invest heavily in new technology for their driver release, but don’t put as much into their 3 wood for the same line or model.
This is for the simple reason that they sell, and want to sell, more expensive drivers and that can therefore sometimes lead to a 3 wood feeling very different from the driver.
“Golfers can just about get away with playing the wrong shaft flex, but getting the wrong weight can absolutely kill your game.”Club fitting expert talking, James MacNiven talking to Golf Digest
Club fitting experts such as the D’Lance Golf Performance Center, one of Golf Digest’s Top 100 Clubfitters in America since 2011, have found in most of the stock shafts that they test from manufacturers that they use the same weight of shaft in fairway woods as their driver models.
But as a general rule your 3 wood should be slightly heavier than your driver. D’Lance suggests between 5 to 15 grams heavier but of course this is just a guide as what weight works best for one player will not automatically work for another.
Weight is critical when it comes to golf clubs and is often overlooked when golfers come to choosing their best combination of driver and 3 wood.
Large differences in golf club weight can lead to vastly different shot results – ball speed, launch angles, spin rates, ball flight etc.
And no matter what you hear or read golf club makers are all agreed that shaft weight is more important than shaft flex when it comes to golf shots.
Manufacturers do continue to experiment and develop new shafts but it’s a general rule that 3 woods are heavier than drivers as this can often help create a more consistent swing between the 2 clubs as the added weight helps deliver a similar feel between the driver and the shorter 3 wood.
Golfers should therefore never automatically have the same shaft in their driver and 3 wood. Club fitters generally advise a 3 wood shaft be 10 grams heavier & more flexible but the decision point for each golfer should mainly focus on what shaft delivers the best results for each club individually.
From a length perspective 3 woods for male golfers will typically vary in length from 42.75 to 43.5 inches and be between 1 to 3 inches shorter than the driver.
Finding the right length of 3 wood can help players hit the ball more consistently in the middle of the face and hitting too often on the heel or toe can be a sign of your 3 wood being too long (heel) or too short (toe).
So how should you go about choosing your driver and 3 wood? A new one of each is a significant investment and not a decision to rush into.
For this reason we would always recommend you get fit for your driver and 3 wood or at the very least try as many models out as you can to find out what works best for you.
I know alot of golfers shrug these days when it comes to this point with the answer to every club choice seemingly being ‘to go and get fitted’.
But the reason for proposing this is not just performance related but also financial. And especially when it comes to the often expensive driver and 3 wood combination.
From a performance perspective there’s a reason why manufacturers offer different options in lofts, shafts weights and flex. And that’s because they know different players have different swing speeds and shot requirements and therefore want to offer the best option for everyone.
Today’s Golfer for example have found in some of their driver shaft tests that gains of 5mph+ of ball speed and up to 27 yards of carry can be achieved by getting the set up right in your driver and 3 wood.
And who doesn’t want to hit the ball further? So from a performance perspective it clearly makes sense to spend some time in the fitting shop to find the best driver and 3 wood combination for you.
But if you think about it getting fitted for your driver and 3 wood should also work out cheaper in the long term.
Because although a fitting can potentially lead to a higher individual spend on your driver and 3 wood, especially if you start choosing different shafts, if you have spent the time getting the right driver and 3 wood combination for you it should mean you get better results and therefore stick with the clubs longer.
Can you therefore afford ‘not’ to get fitted and potentially choose the wrong clubs which you will want to replace much sooner because they are not the best set up for your swing and game?
A fitting is a good solution surely therefore unless you have enough money on your hands to embark on a process of trial and error.
And don’t forget a good fitter will not try and ‘upgrade’ you to something you don’t need.
A good fitter will test your existing driver and 3 wood, discuss what you are aiming for and break down any preconceived notions of what ‘should match’ between your driver and your 3 wood.
If they can’t find anything that will offer better stats and results than your existing driver and 3 wood combination, whatever their brand, shaft, weight, loft etc set up they will tell you.
And you can then move on with the knowledge that you’ve got the best driver and 3 wood clubs for you and move on to focus on building up the rest of your set to match that good start!
What About Matching Your Driver & 5 Wood or Longest Hybrid?
Not all players carry a 5 wood and indeed not all players carry a hybrid although that is very unusual in today’s game for amateur golfers.
So given these are amongst the longest clubs in your bag alongside your driver should you also be considering how they match up?
In short the same rule applies as we discussed when it came to ‘matching’ your driver and 3 wood.
All that matters is what clubs feel best for you and allow you to hit the ball the most consistently.
Club fitters for example in general say that the shaft flex (e.g. regular, stiff etc) of your driver should be stiffer than your woods which in turn should be slightly stiffer than your hybrids.
In addition the weight of clubs on average should increase by approximately 10 grams as you increase the number on the wood to help create a more consistent swing between your driver and woods.
Once again however these are general guides from which no hard and fast rules should be taken for every golfer.
What club length, shaft weight and flex combination of driver, fairway woods and hybrids gives the best result for one player will not necessarily work for the different swing of the next player.
Confidence is once again key as it is with all clubs and of overriding importance is to find the combination of driver, woods and hybrids that work best for your individual game.
A couple of key things to note also when it comes to matching your higher woods and hybrids with your driver.
- Adjustability – Adjustability options (hosels, sole weight etc) common with many drivers are not common with fairway woods. This is because manufacturers have come to the conclusion that these adjustability elements have less impact on the smaller, heavier heads of fairway woods. In addition they have also found it not only makes the club much more expensive but that it also uses up weight which can be put to better use to improve the forgiveness of the wood for your average golfer.
- Lofts – Getting the ‘lofts’ of your driver, fairway woods and hybrids is critical. Manufacturers such as Callaway offer some of their fairway wood models in 8 different loft options from 13.5 to 25 degrees. That gives a lot of options but also the potential for players to end up with large distance gaps between their driver, fairway woods and hybrids. So make sure when you are building your driver, woods and hybrids combo you focus on the lofts and distance gaps between the clubs and ignore the number on the actual club. 10 to 15 yards between clubs is an ideal target but if you ‘match’ the wrong things you may end up having too big a gap between the clubs you take onto the course.
In the world of hybrids also an increasing option is a combo set of irons that include hybrids instead of long irons.
That may mean it makes more sense for you to ‘match’ your hybrids with your shorter irons rather than consider them in the context of your driver.
But again if you choose that path just make sure you have all your yardages covered! And also never forget the primary goal is always to select the best individual club rather than ‘match’ it with others.
For those better players who use a driving iron all the principles above once again apply. It doesn’t need to match any club in your set and again all that’s important is performance.
Not being able to follow a set of rules to ‘match’ your driver and woods and hybrids does unfortunately mean it will take you time to put the right combination together.
But if you work through the various options and find a group of those clubs that you find comfortable, consistent and gapped nicely your game will reap the rewards.
It may be they all match and are the same brand and look great in the bag.
But if they don’t and end up a mismatch of different brands, shafts and club designs and they lead to good scoring who cares what they look like?
Do the Pros Match their Driver and Woods?
If you watch the PGA Tour or European Tour on TV you may notice that a lot of the players have matching brands and models for their driver and woods and even driving irons and hybrids.
But what does that actually tell us?
Pros are getting paid to play those clubs and have an army of club fitters available at their dispoal every day they are on tour to make adjstments to their clubs on a regular basis.
As we are going to guess that you don’t have a contact to play certain clubs therefore we would argue that the combinations of drivers and woods the pros use actually don’t tell the amateur golfer very much.
At the professional level a lot of it comes down to money and players will use a ‘matching’ brand and model of driver and fairway woods simply because they are paid to.
It’s also not unknown for players to use one brand of club but have it ‘stamped’ as another brand so that they fulfil their contractual obligations.
Saying that, as you can see from the table below, the pros still end up with all manner of combinations of driver, woods and hybrids in their bag.
Just take a look at Bernard Langer! He carries 7 different brands of club in his bag of 14 clubs.
And that’s for the simple reason that the two-time Masters champion, and in 2020 the oldest player to make the cut at Augusta at 63 years old, has spent a lot of time working out what combinations work best for him!
In theory, the idiosyncrasies, tempo and speed of your swing will help you navigate to a preferred driver.
After that logically you would think that you should buy the ‘matching’ fairway woods.
However the reality when it comes to putting together a combination of driver and fairway woods that works best for you is quite different.
Match each club to your swing and ability and forget about matching anything else.
Even if you are a bit of ‘brand’ nut like I used to be and worry about having all your clubs made by the same manufacturer so they look good in the bag resist the temptation with all your might to match your driver, woods and hybrids simply because they are the same brand and model.
With golf there are no hard and fast rules with equipment because we all have our own swing and preferences.
Focus on feel, comfort, consistency and the distance gap between your longest clubs as a group.
If you’re hitting them well and scoring low, as a result, trust me you won’t care what they look like and if they match!
And if anyone tells you different they are either wrong or working on commission to sell you ‘matching’ clubs!