Jake was a competitive golfer for over a decade dating back to the days of being the Captain of his high school golf team. He has played more than 200 courses across 32 different states in the US. Now semi-retired, Jake continues to golf 3-4 days a week with a current 2 handicap, gives golf lessons to his friends and family, and provides a wealth of knowledge to Golf Circuit from his competitive playing days. Jake combines practical expertise with technical knowledge to create golfing strategies and training techniques for both beginners and scratch golfers.
A fairway wood is a club that all golfers need. I know that without a fairway wood in my bag, the distance gap from the irons/hybrid to the driver would be much too big.
In addition, I pull out that 5 wood on days when the driver struggles, and it pays off.
Many golfers only have room in their bag to choose between a 3 wood vs. 5 wood. If you are one of those players and want to truly understand the distances between these clubs, we have you covered.
3 Wood vs. 5 Wood
The 3 wood is traditionally the lowest lofted fairway wood in the bag, with lofts around 15 degrees; it is used for tee shots as well as fairway shots. The 5 wood has closer to 19 degrees of loft and can also be used from both the tee and the fairway.
Knowing the loft difference between a 3 wood vs. 5 wood is important, but it doesn’t give you the full story. Here is everything you need to know about the distances between the 3 wood and the 5 wood.
When a club has a slightly lower loft, it travels further. With the 3 wood being lower in loft, you can hit the club a bit further.
Of course, this assumes a perfect strike in the center of the face.
One thing that is not discussed enough is the accuracy and forgiveness of these fairway woods and how that will play into the overall distance. At the risk of spoiling some surprised that you may find as you make your way through these articles, we can tell you now that the 5 wood is easier to hit than the 3 wood.
Have you ever noticed that your 6 iron sometimes flies just as far as your 5 iron?
This very likely has to do with the fact that the 6 iron is more forgiving and makes it easier if you miss the center of the face just a bit.
Technically speaking, a 3 wood should travel about 15 yards, sometimes further than the 5 wood. However, it’s important to remember it’s going to take a good swing and a good lie to have this happen.
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With the adjustability found in fairway woods, the loft is no longer one set value for fairway woods; it is more of a range. A strong lofted 3 wood will be around 14 degrees of loft; a weaker 3 wood could be closer to 16 degrees.
The standard 3 wood is 15 degrees of loft.
For a 5 wood, the standard will be 19 degrees, with the range being more like 18 to 20 degrees. Spending on the adjustability of your golf club, you may be able to get a few different lofts from the same golf club.
This is why you will sometimes find that your 3 wood is a better solution off the tee than your driver. The 3 wood has a few extra degrees of loft that add in the forgiveness necessary to hit the ball just a bit straighter.
With the lower loft, and slightly longer length of the club, the ball flight of the 3 wood is a bit more penetrating than that of the 5 wood. If you want to get that lower ball flight that rolls for a long time and will continue towards the target, even on windy days, the 3 wood is a good choice.
A 5 wood can get a bit more caught up in the air, but it’s still a club with excellent distance technology. (See how to hit a stinger as well!)
The 5 wood is more forgiving than the 3 wood when comparing two golf clubs of the same model. For instance, if you compare a TaylorMade Stealth 3 wood to a TaylorMade Stealth 5 wood, the 5 wood is more forgiving and a bit easier to hit.
However, you can also compare a player-style small club head 5 wood to a more game improvement or oversized 3 wood and notice that the 3 wood is actually more forgiving.
The key here is to be careful as to what you are considering and what leads to forgiveness.
The 5 wood is slightly shorter, which makes it easier to control, and the overall loft is higher, making it more forgiving if you miss the center of the clubface. For real changes in forgiveness level, pay attention to the specific model of fairway wood you purchase.
Many golfers that carry a 3 wood or a 5 wood are just looking to hit the ball straight down the middle. However, there are others that will try to hit a draw or a fade to get it as close as possible to the pin.
If you are looking for a more workable club, the 5 wood is a good choice. For golfers interested in more of a distance performance where the ball travels a long way, the 3 wood is the better choice.
Try to consider what your plans are for the 5 wood or 3 wood and why you need one in your bag. If it’s just a bit distance gap to fill, the 3 wood could help you.
Should I Use A 3 Wood or a 5 Wood?
Now that you have a better idea as to what the main differences are between the 3 wood and the 5 wood, it’s time to see which would be better in your bag. There are a few key considerations to make before you choose one of these two golf clubs.
Club Set Configuration
What does your golf club set already look like? Do you have a 7 wood or a 4 wood in place? Are you even carrying a driver?
The key is to find a golf club that makes sense in your bag. Carrying both the 3 wood and the 5 wood is an option for some golfers, but others will prefer to have a few hybrids or an extra wedge and eliminate the fairway wood.
Your golf club set configuration can give insight into your golf course needs and how these fairway woods could fill the gaps.
The loft gapping in golf club sets has never been more important than it is today, and this is why adjustable fairway woods can be such a great option.
Golf Game Strengths
Where is your game the strongest? Do you excel in accuracy and just need help with distance? Or is the problem reversed?
For those looking for an increase in distance, the 3 wood is likely the best choice. If you need more accuracy and a club you can rely on regardless of the lie you are in, the 5 wood is a good choice.
In addition, look at the golf holes you are playing and try to think about how that impacts your game. For instance, are you struggling to get to a long par 4 in two, and you just need a club with a bit more carry than your 4 hybrids?
Look for those weaknesses and then fill in accordingly with the right equipment.
A golfer’s swing speed needs to be fast enough to support the 3 wood. The 3 wood is a difficult club to hit solidly from a tight lie or any kind of rough, without a lot of club head speed.
Your club head speed can easily be tested, and you can find out if you are in the slow, mid, or high swing speed zone.
The higher the swing speed, the easier it is to get distance and precision from a 3 wood. For golfers with a slightly slower swing speed, the 5 wood and potentially even a 7 wood will likely be a better choice.
A golfers handicap should not be used as the only indication of whether to choose the 3 wood or the 5 wood. You can’t decide on handicap alone, but it can come into the decision.
A player with a lower handicap typically has a faster swing speed and can hit the center of the clubface.
This player can choose either the 3 wood or the 5 wood depending on what they think is the best option for their game. However, golfers with slower swing speed may want to consider the 5 wood.
If you slice your driver or struggle with a shot that fades from the left to the right, consider the 5 wood.
Do I Need Both A 3 Wood and a 5 Wood?
Most of the time, it comes down to choosing whether you need a 3 wood and a 5 wood, but some players have room for both in their bag.
The way I have always determined whether or not a club gets to remain in my bag is to look at the performance of the two clubs and see how they differ. If the distance differences between my 3 wood and 5 wood are just a few yards, one of them will come out of the bag.
However, if I know I can hit my 5 wood high, and it can carry 200 yards, and the 3 wood gets a more penetrating ball flight and goes 215, it could be worth keeping both in the bag.
The key is to determine the differences between the clubs and figure out which one makes the most sense to keep a spot in the bag. If you have the room for both and can justify why the club should still have a spot in the bag, then keep them both!
Hopefully, you now have a better idea as of the differences of a 3 wood and a 5 wood. Each of these clubs plays a vital role in the game of golf, and it’s essential to decide which one is right for your game.
The bottom line here is that if you have a fast swing speed and plenty of power, the 3 wood is probably the best choice. A 5 wood is best for the mid to slow swing speed player that looks for more accuracy.
Is it better to have a 3 wood or 5 wood?
Most amateur golfers find that a 5 wood is best as it is a more versatile club. With a 5 wood, you can hit shots out of the rough, from the tee and the fairway.
What hits further 3 wood or 5 wood?
A 3 wood will hit the ball further than the 5 wood because it has a lower loft and a more piercing ball flight. If the distance is your main concern, the 3 wood will likely be the smart golf club choice.
Should I carry both a 3 wood and 5 wood?
If you have a big difference in the performance of your 3 wood and 5 wood, then it may make sense to carry both. However, be sure that you carefully check to see how the performance between the two clubs differs as it can often be relatively similar.
What is a 5 wood used for?
A 5 wood is used for golf shots you hit from the fairway, tee shots, and even shots out of the rough. It’s best to ensure that a 5 wood is sitting up slightly in the rough before you try to hit it out.
Do pros carry a 5 wood?
Many golf professionals will carry a 5 wood as they find it to be a beneficial replacement to the 3 wood. Most professional golfers carry a variety of irons than amateur players, and they will often have a 3 iron in place of a 5 wood.
What club does a 5 wood replace?
A 5 wood can replace a 3 iron or a 3 hybrid. Many golfers find that the 5 wood is a bit easier to get distance from than an iron or a hybrid.