3 Wood vs. 5 Wood: Which Should You Use?

Setting yourself up for success in golf is not guaranteed. Apart from your swing speed and style, the driver you choose will impact how you perform. Fairway woods can be challenging to hit as you have to hit them off the deck, but which should you choose between a 3 wood and a 5 wood?

Beginners should start with the 5-wood as it’s simpler to strike and has more loft. This allows you to build your confidence and master your swing. Advanced golfers are better with the 3-wood as they are confident in their swing and can reach the distances. 

However, there’s more that differentiates 3-wood from 5-wood. Read on to learn more about fairway woods and what you should choose between 3-wood vs. 5-wood.

What Is a Wood in Golf?

Wood is a kind of club used in golf. Unlike other club types, wood has large and longer shafts with rounder heads. These clubs swing further ball distances compared to different kinds of clubs.

Woods got their name because the head club was made from hardwood. However, modern clubs now have a metallic head, made mainly from carbon fiber or titanium. You’ll find that modern woods have more oversized heads.

Woods have an ascending order of numbers. The 1-wood has the lowest loft, which is between 9-13 degrees. Modern woods are sold as individual clubs, which allows the player to customize his/her club set.

Woods are also categorized into two-drivers and fairway woods. A conventional set will include a drive and one/two fairway kinds of wood numbered 3 and 5. Also, some modern sets have hybrid clubs that combine the elements of wood and iron to replace low-lofted irons,  

What Are Fairway Woods?

Fairway woods are high-number woods designed for shots from off the turf of the fairway that requires long-distance. These woods have a higher loft to lift the ball out of the turf and over low obstacles like hills.

They also have a shallow face height, enabling the player to hit a ball from the ground using the club’s center to provide great distance for these shots. 

Although most modern club sets have one fairway wood, you’ll find that the 3-woods are available in lofts of up to 9-wood. 5-wood is extra to 3-wood golfers that prefer fairway woods to play through the green. 

Fairway woods are versatile, and some golfers prefer to use them off the tee if they find a driver challenge. A 3-wood can achieve an average distance of 125-240 yards, while a 5-wood will accomplish a distance of 105-215 yards. However, you need to understand that the distance is also based on other factors like clubhead speeds, skill, and experience. 

A Basic Overview of 3-Wood

A 3-wood has a loft of between 15-18 degrees. This wood is usually ½ inch shorter than a driver. Shortening the club decreases the swing’s arc, which means less speed the golf club will have when it hits the ball. 

Pros of 3-Woods

Some of the benefits of 3-woods include:

Reduce the Drag

A 3-wood is designed to reduce the drag you experience when the club cuts through the air. That design allows the club to transfer more speed to the ball from the clubhead, something that adds distance to the shot. 

Give You That Appropriate Lift

If you have a problem hitting the ball off the tee, you should consider getting a 3-wood. A quality and robust 3-wood gives you that lift required to hit the ball off the tee. Moreover, this club has a low loft angle that enables you to hit the ball into the wind. You can comfortably handle low shots with 3-wood clubs. 

Help With Accuracy and Game Consistency

A 3-wood is an excellent alternative if you’re having a challenge with your driver when hitting the ball off the tee. That’s because this type of club will help you enjoy consistency and get an accurate shot. 

Cons of 3-Woods

Some of the drawbacks of 3-woods are:

Lack Loft

The loft is the angle of the clubface that affects distance and controls trajectory. Most fairway woods have a higher loft than drivers, with the 3-wood having a 15-18 degrees loft. 

The latest 3-woods lack loft, and you’ll find many that only have 15 degrees. While some golfers might argue that less loft will still hit a club, that doesn’t always happen. 

Have a Low Center of Gravity

You may struggle to get the ball in the air when using a 3-wood because of its high center of gravity. A club with a low center of gravity means you launch the ball high and spin the ball. It will throw the ball low and spin the ball less, which becomes a disadvantage. 

Reduced Club Head Speeds

A lower clubhead speed puts less spin to the ball, while a high clubhead speeds place more spin on the ball. You’ll find that golfers, particularly ladies and seniors, have slow clubhead speeds. The problem with the slow clubhead speed is that it adds to the low spin rate ball. 

Advanced players will opt for the high clubhead speed and hit a long iron or a 3-wood off the fairway. You’ll require more loft in your wood if your swing speeds are low. In such a case, a 3-wood won’t help. 

An Overview of 5-Wood

A 5-wood club is used by golfers looking to hit the ball at a distance of 180-240 yards. High handicap players use these clubs to hit second shots from the fairway on par 5’s and go further long par 3s. The ability to consistently hit a 5-wood will improve the game no matter the handicap. 

The size of the 5-wood makes it simpler to hit off a tee. A 5-wood resembles a 3-wood, apart from the additional loft. 

Pros of 5-Woods

Some of the advantages of 5-wood include:

  • Simpler to hit off of the tee: A 5-wood has the right size that allows you to hit off of a tee. That gives you an edge when handling longer par 3s or shorter, narrow par 4s. Moreover, 5-Wood comes with an extra loft that gives you the confidence required to hit it off a tee. A 5-wood is an excellent option if you find your driver challenging or prefer hitting something other than the driver for safety. 
  • Have a yardage advantage: The 5-wood may fly further and offer more overall distance when there is a perfect lie or an off of the tee situation. This type of club also adds to the yardage advantage due to the length of the shaft and size of the head. 
  • Don’t hook easily: If you struggle with the hook, you’ll need the 5-wood. 

Cons of 5-Woods

A disadvantage of a 5-wood is limited versatility. Unlike irons that can hit the ball from the tee, from the rough, from the fairway, from bunkers, and other places, you won’t find this form of flexibility with 5-wood golf clubs. Although these clubs work from the fairway and the tee, they struggle when you get off the track. 

Which Should You Choose Between 3-Wood vs. 5-Wood?

Here’s a look at some distinguishing features that can help you settle for one over the other.


A club’s loft angle determines the distance that the ball travels through the air and the ball’s trajectory. The lower the loft, the low the ball travels, but this offers more distance. A 3-wood has a loft of between 15-18 degrees, while a 5-wood loft ranges between 20-22 degrees. The best thing with fairway woods is that you get adjustable weights and hosels, which isn’t available on hybrids. 

Off the Tee

Whether from the deck or off the tee, a well-struck 3-wood travels further than a nicely-struck 5-wood. The ability to tee the ball up allows you to make contact even if you hit it on the up, which could leave you with a short approach shot. A 3-wood will be an excellent option if you’re looking for distance off the tee. 

Golf Ball Placement

Drivers require you to place the ball on the inside of your highest heel. However, fairway woods do not strike the ball on its way up. These woods hit down on the ball or sweep the ball off the ground. Experts recommend placing the ball some inches inside the leading heel for good contact between the ball and the fairway wood. Do not stretch to get to the golf ball. That means that placing a 5-wood will be an inch further back compared to the ball placement for a 3-wood. 

Weight Transfer

One of the problems 3-wood golfers face is getting stuck on the trailing foot. That leads to a stretch, which eventually turns into a fade. The problem with being stuck on the trailing foot is that it causes you to stretch to get close to the ball and hit it on the up. That’s why most golfers top the golf ball with the 3-wood club. 

The solution to this problem is to move the trailing foot’s weight and place it onto the leading foot, impacting the club’s low point. That results in contact between the club and the golf ball. 

Shaft Flex

The right flex depends on your swing speed. As a fast swinger, you need to use the extra stiff flex, also known as the X flex. Swingers with a rate of 95mph-105mph will find the stiff or S flex convenient. A swing speed below 95mph should opt for the regular or R flex. 

Choosing the recommended haft for your swing speed ensures that you maintain the ball on the fairway. Your swing speed determines the shaft flex to get, so fitting is essential to ensure you get the right club. 

Shaft Length

You’ll notice that with fairway woods, the loft increases as the club number goes high. The vice versa applies to the shaft length. It decreases as the club number goes up. A 5-wood has a shaft length of 41-42 inches (104.14-106.68 cm), while the 3-wood uses a size between 42-43 inches (106.68-109.22 cm). You’ll require a large swing circle when moving your driver. However, you should note that the length varies depending on the manufacturer. 

The shaft length produces the right balance of distance, trajectory, and feel. A short shaft won’t give you enough speed to maximize distance, while wood shafts that are too long tend to throw off the swing weight, making them feel too light. Getting the right fit is critical to understand how long the shaft needs to be. 

Shaft Material and Weight

Graphite is commonly used to build shafts for fairway woods. That makes the shaft light and increases the swing speed, which translates into a further distance. However, you can find some clubs made from steel, although this is rare. 

Steel shafts are preferred by advanced golfers looking for more accuracy and those not worried about the distance. When faced with graphite or steel wood, always go for graphite as there is a variety to choose from. A graphite shaft will help you get more distance without interfering with consistency or compromising the entire feel. 

Par 5

Once you’ve gained experience and can drive the ball in a significant distance and get consistency in your swing, you need to decide whether to go for the green or layup. Beginners who aren’t comfortable and confident in their swing should hit a 3-wood. The choice largely depends on your golfing nature. A few golfers are aggressive and will reach out for the green, while some would rather lay up. A 3-wood comes in handy for aggressive golfers. 


Back in the day, when you got a fairway wood, it meant you had to stick with it or get another one with a different lie angle and loft. However, thanks to technology, you can now get an adjustable fairway wood. All you need is a tool to adjust the lie, loft, and face angle. You may need to adjust your wood based on the course conditions or when the weather changes. 

You no longer have to carry a dozen clubs every time you come across. All you need is to set up one club five different ways to optimize its playability. That means you can have a 3-wood or 5-wood with more or less loft to make playing more comfortable. 

Can You Replace a 3-Wood With a 5-Wood Without Losing Distance?

One of the concerns some people have about replacing a 3-wood with a 5-wood is to lose distance. Nevertheless, a fact to note is that fairway woods have several lofts printed on the club, which acts as a guideline that shows the club’s static loft is as measured. That doesn’t mean that the number indicates how the club will perform for a specific player or how it will perform in a dynamic setting during a swing. 

You can replace a 3-wood with a 5-wood if you’re launching the club too low with a little spin. Switching to a 5-wood, a higher-lofted model within 16-21 degrees will help you improve your swing.

A 5-wood has more loft than a 3-wood, which means a player with an average swing speed can carry the golf ball within a range of 190-210 yards.

Which Woods Should You Carry in Your Golf Bag?

Now that you know the differentiating features between the 3-wood and 5-wood, you may be wondering which wood to have in your bag. The truth is that there isn’t one type of wood that you should carry. 

You may need to determine the type of golf courses you play. A traditional golf course needs shots that fly higher and land softly on the green and fairways. However, a links-style golf course requires lower shots that run along the ground. Golf courses that need soft landing spots mean you may have to carry both the 3-wood and 5-wood in your bag. 

Golf course conditions also differ, which is why you need to have a 5-wood and a 3-wood for par-5 approaches and tee shots. 

Is a 5-Wood Easier to Hit?

Some people may find the 5-wood easier to strike as it has more loft. Most 5-woods are three inches (7.62 cm) shorter, something that makes launching the ball simpler than when using a 3-wood. 


The choice between a 3-wood and a 5-wood will depend on your preferences and skill level. A beginner will find it easier to get the ball in the air with the 5-wood because it has more loft and is easier to strike. The ball becomes more airborne easily and enhances your confidence.

Advanced golfers may prefer the 3-wood because it’s more accurate than driving off the tee. Experts recommend having both 3-wood and 5-wood clubs in your bag; that way, you get to balance both clubs. The point to note is that you’ll need to know how to use each of them and understand how they work.

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