Golf Instruction

3 wood vs 5 wood

Fairway woods are an essential club for many golfers looking to improve their long game. Two of the most popular options are the 3 wood and the 5 wood. But with different lofts, sizes, and recommended uses, it can be tricky to know which one is right for your bag. This in-depth comparison of 3 wood vs 5 wood examines the key differences and provides recommendations so you can make an informed decision.

Key Differences Between 3 wood vs 5 wood

While 3 woods and 5 woods are both classified as fairway woods, they have some notable differences when it comes to loft, shaft length, clubhead size, and typical distance.


The loft on a 3 wood generally ranges from 13 to 15 degrees. The 5 wood has a loft between 18 and 22 degrees. The higher loft on a 5 wood means the clubface sits more upright at address. This steeper angle helps golfers launch the ball higher and with more spin versus a lower loft 3 wood.

Shaft Length

Standard 3 wood shafts run between 41 and 43 inches. A 5 wood shaft is slightly shorter, measuring about 40 to 42 inches on average. The longer shaft length on a 3 wood allows for faster clubhead speed and more distance compared to a 5 wood. But the shorter 5 wood shaft provides better control.

Clubhead Size

Clubhead size corresponds with loft. A 3 wood clubhead is typically 190-250cc. The 5 wood head ranges from 170-220cc. The larger size of a 3 wood head allows for a larger sweet spot and more forgiveness. But the compact 5 wood head reduces drag for better speed.

Typical Distance

Thanks to the above factors, 3 woods generally launch the ball farther than 5 woods. A 3 wood in the hands of an average golfer will carry about 200-240 yards. For a 5 wood, expect carries between 180-220 yards. Faster swing speeds will add distance. Slower swings will see less of a gap between the two clubs.

Best Uses by Situation

While the 3 wood and 5 wood share similarities, they each shine for certain situations out on the course based on their performance.

Off the Tee

The 3 wood’s higher launch, longer shaft, and lower spin make it ideal for tee shots where maximum distance is desired. The ball will fly farther off the tee with a 3 wood. Control can be sacrificed slightly for added yards.

From the Fairway

Out of the fairway, the 5 wood’s higher launch and spin make it easier to control versus the lower spinning 3 wood. Shots will fly higher with more stopping power on the green. The 5 wood is also more forgiving on mishits from the fairway.

From the Rough

For shots out of the rough, the extra loft and spin of the 5 wood gives it an advantage over the 3 wood. The clubface sits more upright, making it easier to get under the ball and launch it out of the thicker grass. The 3 wood will tend to squirt out of the rough.

Alternate Club Options

While 3 woods and 5 woods are popular choices, some other clubs can fill similar needs depending on your game.

Higher Loft Fairway Woods

Some golfers, especially slower swingers, may find more success with a 4 wood, 6 wood, or 7 wood instead of a traditional 3 or 5 wood. The extra loft helps get the ball airborne. Women’s flex shafts are also available for smoother swing tempos.


Hybrids have replaced the more challenging traditional long irons in many golf bags. A hybrid’s thicker sole and higher launch help balls fly higher from various lies. Lofts typically range from 17 to 27 degrees, overlapping with fairway woods.

Conclusion – Carry One or Both Clubs?

Should your bag include both a 3 wood and 5 wood? Or is one fairway wood enough? Here are some factors to help decide the best setup:

  • Faster swing speeds above 95 mph are best suited for a 3 wood due to distance needs. Slower swingers will see less disparity between the two clubs.
  • Struggling with a 3 wood off the deck? Add a 5 wood for an easier to hit fairway wood.
  • Have issues with the 5 wood from the tee? A 3 wood can provide that extra distance.
  • Playing a course with an even mix of tight fairways and wide open holes? Consider carrying both clubs.

Evaluate your swing speed, typical trouble spots, and course demands as you choose your fairway wood(s). Both 3 woods and 5 woods can be tremendously valuable from tee to green. Selecting the right one for your game can pay big dividends as you attack pins.



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