3 Wood vs 5 Wood: What’s Better For Most Golfers?

Fairway woods can help you in several ways, whether off the tee, on the fairway, or even in a trimmed rough. But if you have to choose, you may wonder, is the 3 or 5 wood better?

Off the tee, the 3-wood will give you about 15 more yards with a lower loft, so your ball won’t get blown around as much. But a 5 wood is great from the fairway because it can give you more height to stop your ball close to the green. 

Golfers also 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. Here, we will look at the 3-wood vs 5-wood – how are they different? And how are they the same?

Read on to see which one better fits your game. 

3 Wood vs 5 Wood

Which Wood Should You Choose?

Beginners shouldn’t use the 3-wood off the deck unless they are convinced that they can reach the green.

How far should I hit a 3 wood? The 3-wood is arguably the most difficult club to master and should be left in the bag until you are 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.

How far does a 3 wood go? How far does a 5 wood go? The average 3-wood distance is 224 yards, ranging from 210 to 250 yards. The 5-wood distance averages about 216 yards, but it will be anywhere from 200 to 240 yards. That’s the average 5-wood distance, but it can be higher in some cases with the pros. 

3 Wood Vs 5 Wood: Distance Chart by Swing Speed

70 mph 80 mph 90-105 mph 110 mph
3 wood  220 yards 240 yards 250 yards 270 yards
5 wood  150 yards 195 yards 205 yards 248 yards

Who Is the 3 Wood For?

Because of its longer shaft and low loft, many golfers don’t use the 3 wood on a fairway. They can prove difficult to use properly in the beginning. However, most will use the 3 wood when the driver would send the ball too far. They have a similar but a smaller clubhead than a driver. The other reason that you would use it is to hit the 5 par in 2. 

Who Is the 5 Wood For?

In most cases, you pull out a 5 wood club when you can reach the green from the fairway. Because of its shorter shaft length and a higher loft, most golfers find them easier to use. The loft would mark the biggest difference between the 3 wood and the 5 wood. You can also use it from the semi-rough. 

Why Do You Hit 5 Wood Farther Than 3 Wood?

For the average golfer, 5 wood will go farther because you can hit it easier than the 3 wood. The 3 wood can, in fact, go farther when you know how to use it, but its longer shaft and low loft make it harder to use for most golfers. It’s arguably one of the hardest clubs to use well in golf. 

What is the Main Difference between 5 Wood and 3 Wood?

The biggest difference between the 5 wood and the 3 wood comes from its loft. The 5 wood offers greater loft. Golf manufacturers designed the 3 wood as more of an alternative to the driver in cases where the driver would hit the ball too far. Still, when done well, the 3 wood can still travel a farther distance than the 5 wood. 

Which is Easier to Hit?

Most golfers, especially beginners, will find the 5 wood much easier to hit compared to the 3 wood because of the shorter shaft length and its higher loft. As you improve in golf, you will find that the 3 wood will hit the ball farther than the 5 wood, but most golfers prefer to start out with the 5 wood. 

The 3 Wood vs The 5 Wood

Placement of the Golf Ball

A driver requires the ball to be placed inside your leading heel. The best 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 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 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. 

Weight Transfer

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 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, you 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 determining which fairway wood will suit them the best. All clubs aim to achieve 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. Some golfers feel much more confident hitting a hybrid club over a fairway wood.


The loft angle plays a significant role in the ball’s trajectory and the distance that the ball travels through the air. The lower the loft, the lower the ball should travel, providing more distance.

Your driver is commonly between 9 – 12 degrees of loft, a 3-wood between 15 and 18 degrees, and a 5-wood loft between 20 and 22 degrees. A 3-iron and the 3-hybrid loft angle is mostly between 22 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.

Shaft Length

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 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 increase your swing speed for more distance.

Some steel shafts are still available, but they are 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.

Shaft Flex

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 with 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 farther 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 choice.

Par 5

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, hitting a 3-wood into a green is not advisable unless you are confident in your swing.

When to use 3 wood is how when some golfers are aggressive by nature and will always go for the green while others choose to lay up. If your nature is aggressive play, your preferred club should be the 3-wood.

3 Wood or 5 Wood: Which is Better for a High Handicapper?

You will find that you can hit the ball farther with the 5 wood in most cases because it takes less time to learn than with a 3 wood. The extra loft and spin will play to your advantage as a high handicapper. Generally speaking, the 5 wood offers better accuracy as well. 5 woods are more forgiving than 3 woods, making them a better choice for high handicappers. 


Is It Better To Have a 3 Wood or a 5 Wood?

Generally speaking, most golfers will get more from a 5 wood over a 3 wood because of the shorter shaft length and the higher loft. The 3 wood is perhaps the most difficult club to hit well, but as you improve, it becomes a handy tool for farther distances. 

Does a 3 Wood Hit Farther Than a 5 Wood?

You will struggle to use the 3 wood as an amateur golfer, but you can expect to hit the ball around 20 yards farther. Later, as you improve, a 3 wood will hit the ball much farther than a 5 wood, but in the beginning, you may even find how a 5 wood offers you better consistency for distance. 

Is It Easier To Hit a 3 Wood or a 5 Wood?

Without a doubt, the 3 wood will take a longer time to learn over the 5 wood. The 5 wood has a much easier design that the average golfer will struggle less with learning how to use. 

Final Thoughts

The choice between a 5 wood or 3 wood comes down to your confidence 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.

Should you carry a 3 wood and 5 wood? If it is economically possible, it is highly recommended that you bag both the 3-wood and the 5-wood. Otherwise, if you have to choose between the 3 wood or 5 wood, many choose the 5 wood. It makes the most sense for average golf situations if you want to know when to use a 5 wood. You must understand both and know how and when to use them.

If you were to ask, “3 wood vs 5 wood for high handicapper,” I would say a 5 wood in most cases if you had to choose between them. 

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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.

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