3 Wood vs 5 Wood – Which Fairway Wood is Best for Beginners?

Think of the fairway wood as the middle ground between the driver and the hybrid. You leave off the driver yet you’re still not quite there for a hybrid. So that’s when you grab your fairway wood from your golf bag.

But then which one? All woods are ultimately crafted for distance after all. But then because of hybrids becoming more and more popular these days and then there’s also the confusion of whether you should choose a fairway wood or hybrid. And this just brings about even more confusion. So, at this point, you need clarity.

The quick, short version of the solution to the ‘3 wood vs 5 wood’ debate is that 3 wood is the most common and recognized golf club. But then spotting a 5 wood on the turf is also no rare occurrence. Rather what’s rare is packing the 7 wood!

So which of the two golf clubs (3 wood or 5 wood) should you be using and why? Let’s find out!

Fairway Woods – What Makes Them So Important?

Fairway Woods

Truth be told, golf equipment now for the longest time has been all about DISTANCE. Not just equipment, but the whole modern arena of golf. Well, aren’t golf courses now getting longer and longer? As a result, even some of the top Tour players are struggling to hit farther. And that’s when fairway woods save the day.

The best thing about a wood is that it can hit from that tee if your driver feels too intimidating that day. At the same time, fairway woods are just the golf clubs you need to attack par-5s from some distance and to try to gain a few eagles.

I would also like to mention for your benefit that woods are higher-lofted than the driver. They’re also longer in comparison to other clubs.

But then, simultaneously, it’s this longer length itself that makes it so difficult for someone who can’t swing properly or skilfully to hit a fairway wood. Meaning this particular golf club will produce more distance ONLY if can swing it the right way.

So you have to get the correct length of fairway wood to gain the upper hand in terms of distance, feel, and also trajectory. Likewise, a shaft that’s too short is also not conducive as it doesn’t generate the required speed for maximizing distance.

Differences Between 3 Wood and 5 Wood – How Are They Different?

Shaft Length

The shaft length of a 3 wood is 42-43 inches (approximately). As for the 5 wood, this one’s a bit shorter at around 41-42 inches. When the latter is preferred, that’s because it gives you better accuracy.

On top of that, the shorter shaft length of 5 wood means this golf club is easier to hit/swing and also easier to control, and it’s great for distance.


The most important difference between the two – loft angle.

If you just observe the clubface of a 3 wood and then a 5 wood and then compare, you’ll instantly notice that 5 wood is higher lofted. Where the loft of 5 wood is 20-22 degrees, that of 3 wood is 15-18 degrees.

But then who prefers a higher loft? That would be beginners who need that extra loft for getting the golf ball to launch higher in the air more easily. This explains why drivers for beginners and drivers for seniors are also higher-lofted, among many other things like adjustable, forgiving, etc.

However, higher-lofted 5 wood may generate a higher ball flight but then it also creates a softer landing, hence minimizing some of that distance-boosting roll. Thus, a slight loss of distance is to be expected with a 5 wood, along with the trajectory also being more susceptible to wind.


How far should you hit your golf clubs is something that almost every player wants to know. And I think that’s important because it brings to your attention what YOUR distance is and how closer YOU are to the hole. The more informed you are about this, the more accuracy you can weave into your game.

Now let’s talk about the distance achieved by a 3 wood by an average male golfer – around 180 yards. And that same player can hit his 5 wood almost 170 yards.

If we’re talking about PGA-level distance, 243 yards with a 3 wood and 230 yards with a 5 wood. So if you observe the pattern here, 3 wood takes the golf ball further by 10-15 yards. And that’s all because of the combination of a longer shaft and decreased loft.

Golf Ball Placement

When you’re hitting a driver, you position the golf ball inside the heel of your leading foot. But that’s not what you do with fairway woods. These require striking the shot down on the ball instead of on your way up. Much the same is done with your irons.

So in order to make good, solid contact with the golf ball, it should be placed some inches inside that leading heel (perfect for 3 wood). The idea is to avoid stretching for getting to the ball. But then with a 5 wood, the golf ball goes a little further back than that, maybe an inch or so.

Par 5

As has already been established, a 3 wood is certainly not the easier one to hit, thanks to its longer shaft and decreased loft angle. But if you do have what it takes to swing this particular wood in a way that takes your shots longer and longer consistently, then your confidence level and advanced skills deserve a 3 wood for the green.

Aggressive golfers don’t lay up, rather they go for that green with their preferred 3 wood club.

Which is Better for Beginners?

Almost every beginner in the game of golf plays golf clubs that are higher lofted. Because, ultimately, it’s all about getting the golf ball airborne and achieving a higher launch the most easily. With that logic, higher-lofted 5 wood is the best for beginners.

But then if you’re a beginner guilty of imparting a lot of long-game spin consistently, you’d be better off with a 3 wood instead of the driver. All thanks to the former’s smaller clubhead size that maximizes control while also providing tighter, not wider, shot dispersion.

Which is Better for High Handicappers?

High-handicap golfers really struggle with getting the ball airborne, let alone getting it to launch higher. So in such situations, they could use all the assistance provided by golf balls that are the easiest to hit. At the same time, what also helps a great deal is using 3 wood instead of 5 wood. Because a 3 wood, since its loft is higher, achieves the trajectory needed in those moments.

Which is Better for Mid Handicappers?

If you’re reading this and you’re a mid handicapper, then you most probably know the answer to this question.

I think for mid-handicap golfers, it’s all about what they ‘prefer’ rather than what’s the most suitable for them. Although it’s highly recommended to have a 3 wood (no matter what) and then you decide whether you want to include a 5 wood or a hybrid. That’s the choice you should be more concerned about if you’re a mid handicapper.

But it’s the 5 wood that seems like a more fitting option than a hybrid. Or you could just get the hybrid. At this point, you can try out different clubs and lofts to see which one really suits YOUR game.

Which is Better Off The Tee?

For the majority of golfers out there, 3 wood performs the best off that tee!

And why is that you wonder? The combination of reduced loft, longer shaft, and its penchant for distance. 3 woods, generally, produce low spin and high launch. And this pair-up of low spin and high launch is exactly what increases the distance potential.

So the best driver alternative award goes to 3 wood!

But then why not 5 wood? Because this particular fairway wood, since it features a higher loft, flies a bit higher too. And whenever that happens, valuable yardages are inevitably lost. If not that, then the trajectory of the ball gets affected by the wind.

3 Wood or 5 Wood – Which Fairway Wood Should I Choose Then?

It’s not as simple as that choosing one of the two. Meaning your selection is largely based on what your goals are. Golfers who want a neat driver alternative for off the tee label 3 wood as the perfect choice.

On the other hand, if what you need is a golf club that boosts your confidence by launching the ball higher the most effortlessly for those long shots, 5 wood works like a charm. It’s so much easier for beginners to strike with more confidence because of the higher loft and the ability to get the ball airborne with only minimal effort on your part.

Here’s another way to look at it. If you struggle with hitting long with your long irons, go for 5 wood, or 7 wood for that matter, since it’s much easier in comparison to 3 and 4 irons.

For deciding between 3 wood and 5 wood, the thing that also counts is distance. More specifically, I’m referring to distance gapping between your golf clubs.

How far do you hit your every club in your golf arsenal? The variance in golf club average distances is crucial in that it tells you how much ‘gap’ needs to be plugged between your longest iron (for instance, 4 iron) and 3 wood. In that scenario, choosing a 5 wood seems like a wise decision.

Now I would also like to add that the 3 wood is the most suitable option for only those players who are almost sure they can and will reach that green. Since it’s one of the most challenging golf clubs to hit and master, you have to have certain advanced skills to swing this club to your advantage. Former professional golfer Rick Shiels shows you how…

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why Choose 3 Wood Over 5 Wood?

Ask just about any golfer who prefers 3 wood over 5 wood why he/she does so, and they will tell you that it’s because, off the tee, a 3 wood produces greater distance plus it creates a more piercing ball flight. And with this particular fairway wood, you can also get closer to the green, thus it’s perfect for long-distance attacks.

As for the 5 wood, it seems like a more fitting choice from the fairway or semi-rough. It generates a higher launch angle, which is just what you need when approaching tough greens. Softer landing, more spin – these factors put forth by a 5 wood really help in sticking the golf ball on the turf.

Is 3 Wood More Difficult to Hit Than 5 Wood?

There’s no vagueness or confusion about this because it’s as simple as 5 wood is comparatively easier to strike since it’s higher-lofted and shorter-shafted than 3 wood. Thus, paving the way for more accurate hits with little sidespin.

Now here’s something not many know. Both 3 wood and 5 wood, overall, are quite forgiving golf clubs, hence both are not so difficult to hit. But then you do need to practice more with 3 wood because of its slightly longer shaft length and lower loft.

When to Use 3 Wood?

Off the tee, when your driver just doesn’t do, that’s when you use a 3 wood (as a driver alternative). At such times, you might think that 5 wood could also work but that does not seem fit.

With higher-lofted 5 wood, you get a higher launch, right? And that means distance might get compromised or ball flight/trajectory gets affected by the wind.

But with a 3 wood, you can actually shape your shots off the tee. Tour pros make the most of 3 wood by using that side spin to shape the ball around corners on doglegs.

But then there are high handicappers that immediately go for 3 wood, not 5 wood, simply because of its magic-like ability to produce the desired trajectory. This implies that the former (3 wood) is the most suitable for low handicappers.

How Far Does An Average Golfer Hit A 3 Wood?

The distance gained by 3 wood is, for the most part, 10 to 20 yards longer than that of 5 wood. Of course, this also depends on contact, swing speed, etc.

But, generally speaking, lower-lofted and longer-shafted 3 wood travels farther than higher-lofted and shorter-shafted 5 wood. Because when a faster swing speed pairs up with a longer shaft (as in 3 wood), the result is sure to be more distance.

As to answer the question, any average golfer with a swing speed of 95 mph – 100 mph can produce a distance of 220 yards – 230 yards with a 3 wood. So with the rollout potential often accompanied by a shot well-struck, that distance would be up to 240 yards.

How Far Does An Average Golfer Hit A 5 Wood?

Expect a 5 wood to travel anywhere between 200 yards and 220 yards. Plus, the potential rollout, which gives you a total of 230 yards achieved by an average golfer.

Can I Switch From 3 Wood to 5 Wood Without Losing Distance?

You’re probably worried that if you replace your 3 wood with a 5 wood, you’re going to lose distance. This is nothing but a misconception. 5 wood, in fact, can go as farther as 3 wood because its relatively shorter shaft makes the golf club easier to hit/control.

You’re most likely hitting longer with a 3 wood because of the particular shaft flex on that more than anything else. So just make sure that your 5 wood also features the same shaft settings in terms of the flex most suitable for your swing speed.

Also, if you’re launching your 3 wood too low, it only makes sense to switch to higher-lofted 5 wood for an effortless higher launch. But then that might take away a little bit of distance. So why not consider choosing a slightly higher lofted (16.5-21 degrees) 3 wood!

Should I Carry 3 Wood and 5 Wood?

Can you have both in your golf bag? Well, it’s justified if each serves its own different purpose. Meaning you can use the 3 wood for generating a low ball flight with enough rollout. While expect from the 5 wood, which is an excellent 2 iron and 3 iron alternative, a much higher launch but with minimal rollout.

What’s also important to note here is that off the tee, 3 wood is a better club than 5 wood that focuses more on producing a higher trajectory.

That’s About It – So What’s the Verdict?

Fairway woods, no doubt, are important golf clubs in every player’s golf bag. With woods, you can really get around that course in the most efficient manner, and quickly! Otherwise, your round of golf is bound to take 2x longer to get over.

You can use woods from fairways and off the tee. It’s just that 3 wood is a more suited choice off the tee because of its shorter shaft, which makes the task of getting out of tricky, tight spots much, much easier.

As for 5 wood, you should know by now how its higher loft works better when it comes to generating a higher launch. So those really constantly launching the ball low now know what to pick. Be sure to select the ‘right’ shaft material and flex based on your swing speed if you don’t want speed and distance to take a hit.

Photo of author

Jim Furyk

One of the PGA TOUR’s most recognizable and talented golfers, Jim Furyk was born on May 12, 1970 in West Chester, Pennsylvania. It seems like Furyk was born to play golf; his father Mike as an assistant pro at Edgmont Country club, and young Jim was raised into the game. Jim Furyk’s only golf instruction came from his father; and many note that might account for his unusual—yet effective—swing. In addition to Edgmont Country Club, Mike Furyk also served as head pro at Uniontown Country Club.

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