3 Wood vs 5 Wood – Which Club Should I Be Using And When?

Fairway Wood Image

We all have clubs in our bag that instil confidence in us when we pull them out for a shot. Even when we’re playing bad, these clubs don’t fill us with as much dread as others. Sometimes the fairway woods can be the club that helps you when the driver isn’t working.

Today we want to look at these fairway woods, specifically the 3 wood and the 5 wood. What are the benefits of these clubs and when would you use which club? Read on to learn more about these versatile clubs.

Intro To Woods And Why They Are So Important

The modern game of golf is putting a premium on distance more than ever. Courses are getting longer and the best players in the world are continually striving to hit the ball further. For this reason, fairway woods are important clubs to be able to play well.

You can use them from the tee on holes when the driver is too much or days when the big dog isn’t working. You can also use them for attacking par fives from a distance and trying to get some eagles.

Overview of 5 wood vs 3 wood

One of the first differences you will notice is loft, the 5 wood being more lofted. The 5 wood is more of a fairway club because of the increased loft whereas the 3 wood is a good alternative for the tee as well.

3 woods tend to have a loft of between 15-18 degrees compared to a 5 wood with 20-22 degrees of loft. This should lead to a club spacing of the same distance as between your irons, this means that many golfers should consider carrying both clubs.

Why You Would Choose A 3 Wood Over A 5 Wood

The 3 wood is certainly a better option from the tee as it will give you more distance and a more penetrating ball flight. Also, if you are further away from the green, the 3 wood is the club you need for that long range attack. And, if you prefer that club in your hands then it is certainly worth considering.

The 5 wood is a great option for approaches to the green from the fairway or even from the semi-rough. If you need more height to approach a tough green then the 5 wood will help you out there too. It creates a softer landing with more spin which will help you stick the ball on the dance floor.

What Is The Difference In Shaft Length?

Hitting A Fairway Wood

One of the reasons that people find 3 and 5 woods easier to hit than drivers is that they are shorter in length. The 3 wood has a shaft length of between 42 and 43 inches whilst the 5 wood is a little shorter again at between 41 and 42 inches. This is, of course, another contributing factor to the length they go.

Many top players use slightly shorter shafts to increase their accuracy with the longer clubs. The notable exception would be Bryson DeChambeau who is testing extra-long clubs to maximise distance.

What’s Better For Beginners?

For those of you who have just started playing, firstly thanks for choosing golf and the 3 wood will be your friend. This is a great club for playing off of the tee as it will really help develop your confidence. You can also start to learn how to hit it from the fairway.

Instead of a 5 wood, for beginners, I would recommend getting a good hybrid club. These are halfway between a wood and an iron and are so forgiving. They will help you develop as a player and soon you’ll feel great with fairway woods off the deck.

What’s Better For Mid-Handicappers?

Once you have got your game to the mid-handicap level, you will be in a place to make an informed decision about what you want in your bag. I would say that this is always about personal preference but a 3 wood is a must then you need to decide between the 5 wood and a hybrid.

The 5 wood is a hugely underrated club, in my opinion. Many golfers, especially mid-handicap golfers, would find it really useful in the bag instead of a hybrid. Try them out and try different lofts until you find the right club for you.

Which Is Easier To Hit?

With enough practice, they are all easy to hit. However, in the real world of intermittent lockdowns and work etc, you need all the help you can get. The good news is that both the 3 wood and 5 wood are fairly forgiving clubs.

Of the two, the 5 wood is slightly easier to hit as it has more loft and a shorter shaft. This means that you can be more accurate with the strike and should produce less side-spin.

3 Wood vs 5 Wood Distance

It is very common to see golfers using 3 woods from the tee, it is a great alternative to the driver and it goes a good distance. Trackman release the average distance that PGA and LPGA Tour players hit the ball every year so you can see the difference with elite players here.

For the average golfer, your 3 wood will probably go around 15 yards further than your 5 wood and you can probably add around another 10 yards if you hit it from a tee. You need to do the work to find out your yardages. That will help you decide the best lofts to carry, have your club pro help you with this invaluable exercise.

What’s Better From The Tee?

The 3 wood is a better club for playing from the tee as an alternative to the driver. Whilst the 5 wood can work, it will tend to fly a little higher due to the higher loft and you could give up valuable yards or risk it’s course being altered by any wind. On a long par 3, the 5 wood is perfectly useable.

The 3 wood isn’t just a safety club from the tee either. You can use this to shape the ball more, you will often see elite pros use the 3 wood on doglegs as it is easier to get side-spin on the ball and shape it around corners.

Some high handicappers will also have trouble getting the required trajectory with their driver and will use a 3 wood for almost every shot.

Fairway Woods With Adjustable Loft

The adjustable woods have taken over and this kind of agility has a huge benefit. Personally, I carry a 15 degree 3 wood but have it tuned to 13.5 degrees as I use it from the tee more than the fairway. They just give you a little more flexibility.

The more loft your club has, the easier it will be to hit but you will lose distance. With these clubs you have the ability to make that choice. You can also switch shaft very easily too so you can give yourself an almost new club at far less expense.

What Other Factors Should You Consider?

Fairway woods

Like any golf club you ever buy, you should get a custom fitting for your fairway woods. A good technician can help you work out the best loft to fit in with the rest of your bag and also, of course, help you with club set-up. You may not think of it but grip size is something you should absolutely be considering.

Finally, you should consider how the club makes you feel. I say this all of the time, but if you put a club behind a ball and it gives you a feeling of confidence then that is worth a lot. The opposite is also true.

Shaft Weight And Flex

Like all clubs you buy, the weight and flex of the shaft is of huge importance to how you hit the club. Again, this goes back to having an expert help give you a fitting to make sure the shaft in your club suits your swing.

The right shaft can make it difficult to hit a bad shot and the wrong shaft can make it difficult to hit a shot at all! Get this bit right.

Should I Use Woods Or Hybrids?

Both have their place and this tends to be personal preference. For golfers with a slower swing speed or those who are new to the game, the hybrid is the choice for you. They are more forgiving and will help you more.

Woods may be harder to hit but they will give your game more distance. They also fly lower which is great for windy days. It is worth having a 15th club that you can swap in and out of your bag depending on conditions, the hybrid and woods can be swapped to give you a better set of tools for a given day.


The choice of clubs and models in golf is seemingly endless and it is difficult to know where to start. Spend time trying different clubs, speak to experts and get on a launch monitor to learn as much as you can about what does and doesn’t work for you.

Enjoy the search, looking at, trying and buying golf clubs is one of life’s great joys.