Golfers select a fairway wood to close the gap between the distance they achieve with a driver and the best that they get out of their highest iron. We take a look at the difference between the 3 wood vs the 5 wood.
The 3 Wood vs The 5 Wood
Which Wood To Choose
Choosing between the 3-wood and 5-wood comes down to personal choice. Beginners shouldn’t use the 3-wood off the deck unless they are convinced that they can reach the green.
The 3-wood is arguably the most difficult club to master and should be left in the bag until you are super confident in your swing and can achieve the distances regularly.
Rick Shiels gives some advice on hitting a 3-Wood off the deck in this video.
Many golfers try to hit the ball on the up with a 3-wood rather than sweeping it off the grass. The 5-wood is a little easier to strike confidently as it has more loft and the ball will become airborne much easier and build your confidence.
There is not much to choose in the distances achieved by the two clubs unless you have an extremely powerful swing that will make the golf ball travel much further from a strike with the 3-wood.
Placement of The Golf Ball
A driver requires the ball to be placed on the inside of your leading heel. Fairway woods are not meant to strike the ball on the way up but rather hit down on it as you do with irons or at minimum just sweep the ball off the turf.
For good contact between the ball and the fairway wood, you should place the ball a few inches inside your leading heel. It is good practice not to have to stretch to get to your golf ball. The ball placement for a 5-wood will be an inch further back than the placement of the ball for a 3-wood
Many golfers find the 3-wood difficult to hit because they get stuck on the trailing foot resulting in a stretch and commonly it results in a fade. Staying stuck on the trailing foot will cause you to have to stretch to get to the ball and possibly hit it on the up.
This is also the most common cause of golfers topping the golf ball with the 3-wood. By moving your weight off the trailing foot and onto the leading foot will move the low point of the club forward. This will result in contact on the way down and solid contact between the golf ball and the club.
Selecting Your Fairway Wood
As mentioned earlier fairway woods are difficult to hit and therefore many golfers neglect their investigations to determine which fairway wood will suit them the best. All clubs are aimed at achieving consistent distances for you to know which club to use on your approach shot.
The release of hybrid clubs has blurred the use of fairway clubs and the use of hybrid clubs. Some golfers feel much more confident hitting a hybrid club rather than a fairway wood.
The loft angle plays a significant role in the trajectory of the ball and the distance that the ball travels through the air. The lower the loft, the lower the ball should travel but it will provide more distance.
Your driver is commonly between 9 – 12 degrees of loft, a 3-wood between 15 degrees and 18 degrees and the 5-wood loft is between 20 and 22 degrees. A 3-iron and the 3-hybrid loft angle is mostly between 22 degrees and 23 degrees.
This shows that you may hit a 3-iron or 3-hybrid slightly shorter but most probably have more consistent contact. Remember that you may be able to get adjustable hosels and adjustable weights on fairway woods, but this is not generally available on hybrids.
Just as you find that the lofts increase as the number of the club gets higher, the length of the shaft decreases as the number of the club increases. You need a larger swing circle when swinging your driver than what you would require on your wedge.
The most commonly used lengths on a 3-wood are between 42 inches and 43 inches while the 5-wood comes in lengths of 41 inches and 42 inches.
Shaft Weight And Material
The material used to build shafts for drivers and fairway woods is graphite. This makes the shaft lighter and will aid in increasing your swing speed for more distance.
There are still some steel shafts available, but it is very rarely used. Professional golfers make use of graphite shafts on most fairway woods. If you have to choose between a fairway with a graphite shaft or a steel shaft, the wise choice will be to go for the graphite shaft.
Your swing speed will play a significant role in selecting the right flex of the shaft. Extremely fast swingers will use the X (extra stiff) flex, fast swingers that have a swing speed between 95 miles per hour and 105 miles per hour will benefit most from selecting an S (stiff) flex.
If your swing speed is below 95 miles per hour the R (regular) flex will suit your swing the best. Stick to the recommended shaft for your swing speed as you will be more likely to keep the ball on the fairway.
Off The Tee
A well-struck 3-wood will travel much further than a well-struck 5-wood on any shot whether off the tee or from the deck. Being able to tee the ball up it will be easier to make good contact even if you hit it on the up leaving you a shorter approach shot.
Every golfer wants a shorter shot into the green. So, if it is the distance you need off the tee your 3-wood could be a much better selection.
Once you have reached consistency in your swing and drive your golf ball a significant distance you will often have to decide to lay up or go for the green. As mentioned earlier it is not advisable to hit a 3-wood into a green unless you are confident in your swing.
Some golfers are aggressive by nature and will always go for the green while others select to lay up. If your nature is to be aggressive your preferred club should be the 3-wood.
The choice between a 3-wood and a 5-wood comes down to your personality type and the confidence you have in your swing. Looking at the difference in the loft angles of a 3-wood, a 5-wood, and a 3-iron / hybrid it is easy to understand why many beginner golfers would rather invest in a 5-wood or replace the 3-iron / hybrid with a 5-wood.
If it is economically possible it is highly recommended that you bag both the 3-wood and the 5-wood. What is important is that you understand both and know-how and when to use them.
- The 3 Wood vs 3 Hybrid – What’s The Difference and Which To Use
- 5 of The Best Fairway Woods For High Handicappers
Nick Lomas is the founder of GolfSpan, an avid golfer, not quite a pro but has over 15-years of experience playing and coaching golfers from all over the world. His mission is to bring the golfing community a better experience then it comes to choosing the right golf gear, and finding the right set up for your game.