3 Wood vs. 5 Wood: What’s Better For The Average Golfer?

3 wood vs 5 wood

Golfers only get to put 14 clubs in their bags. This makes the decision as to which clubs get to stay a rather important one. For many players, a decision has to be made between a 3 wood or a 5 wood. 

There are both positives and negatives about a 3 wood and a 5 wood. The key is understanding the true differences between these clubs and choosing one that will work for your golf game. 

What Is A 3 Wood? 

A 3 wood is the longest fairway wood in the game. Most 3 wood have around 15 degrees of loft, and they are typically the next club down from the driver. Golfers can use 3 woods from the tee box but also on long fairway shots. 

Many players like a 3 wood because of its distance. In addition, the 3 wood is often a bit easier to control than the driver, so it makes a good alternative off the tee box. 

What Is A 5 Wood?

A 5 wood is a fairway wood that fits between the 3 wood and the 7 wood. The 5 wood traditionally has about 19 degrees of loft, making it a good mix of forgiveness and accuracy for the average player. 

The 5 wood tends to have slightly higher ball flight and can be a good club for golfers that struggle to launch the ball. 

Related: 5 Best Fairway Woods For High Handicappers

Differences Between 3 Wood and 5 Wood

A 3 wood and a 5 wood are both fairway woods used in many of the same situations. However, there are some major differences that golfers should understand. With the iron lofts getting stronger, players are taking more of these fairway woods and hybrids out of their bag and putting in extra wedges. 

If you are only going to carry one fairway wood, take the time to make sure you are carrying something that works for your game. 

Club Length 

The length of a 3 wood is about ½ inch longer than the 5 wood. The extra length gets the 3 wood to be closer to the total length of the driver. 

It’s hard to say that this measurement is the same throughout all the golf manufacturers. Remember, from one company to the next; the theory will differ a little in how long a club needs to be and whether or not the extra length is helping or hurting. 

From a scientific perspective, the 3 wood should fly further than the 5 wood. Any club that is longer like this has an easier time of creating speed and increasing the total distance. However, it is also harder to square up a longer club, leading to more inaccuracy in the shots. 

Golfer hitting a shot from the fairway


The loft of the 3 wood and 5 wood is usually about 3 to 4 degrees different. The range for a 3 wood is between 14 and 16 degrees. The 5 wood is typically between 18 and 20 degrees. 

Some golf manufacturers will make a 4 wood that fits in between these two lofts, but it is not going to be as popular of a club. There are also 5 woods and 3 woods that have an adjustable loft, making it a little easier to find a club that works for your needs as a player. 

Ease of Use

The 5 wood is an easier golf club to hit. Of course, there are differences between the types of 5 woods you will come across depending on the manufacturer that you purchase, but that extra loft found in the 5 wood is going to help when it comes to forgiveness. 

When hitting out of the rough, the 3 wood is incredibly difficult. The 5 wood gives you a bit more ability to get the ball up off the ground, but the hybrid is still better than both the 3 wood and the 5 wood out of the rough. 

Another thing to keep in mind here is the difficulty of hitting these shots from the fairway. The 5 wood is not all that difficult to hit from a clean lie in the fairway. As long as you have average clubhead speed, expect to see some good launch and a relatively higher ball flight. 

The 3 wood is harder to hit from the fairway unless you have a good amount of clubhead speed. 

Ball Flight 

Ball flight is important not just for carry distance but for accuracy. If the ball flight is lower, it will roll a long way, but you can sometimes have difficulty getting the ball to stop near the hole. 

With a 3 wood, distance is the best overall feature of the club. Most of these are lower spinning, and when the ball does hit the ground, it’s going to roll for quite some time. With a 5 wood, you may want something that’s a mix between distance and accuracy when it comes to technology. 

A mid spin rate 5 wood with a mid ball flight can help you get the ball to stop a little closer to the hole. Remember that with both the 3 wood and the 5 wood, you will want to ensure that you hit the ball high enough to get the maximum carry distance. 

Golf balls fly further when they spend more time in the air. 


Forgiveness is often determined by the type of 3 wood you purchase. For instance, an offset lightweight 3 wood may be more forgiving than a player’s style 5 wood. However, if you compare a 3 wood and a 5 wood of the same club makeup, the 5 wood will offer more forgiveness. 

This all comes down to the loft of the club. 

When you have more loft, it makes the fairway wood easier to hit. This is the same reason golfers on the PGA Tour who hit the center of the clubface most of the time have a driver with 8 degrees of loft. 

However, many beginner golfers are purchasing drivers with 12 degrees of loft. The key is to find the match to your game, and for many golfers looking for forgiveness, the 5 wood is the better match. 

Related: 6 Most Forgiving 3 Woods


The total distance on the 3 wood is better than it is with the 5 wood. The 3 wood is the longest club in the bag for most golfers, without counting the driver. However, distance is not always going to be longest with the 3 wood for the slower swing speed player. 

Some golfers with slower swing speeds have a hard time getting the ball up in the air when the club has a lower loft. Therefore it makes sense that the 5 wood would actually travel further than the 3 wood. 

However, with a textbook swing, and an accurate strike, the 3 wood will go further than the 5 wood. 


We also like to look at where you can use the clubs from before you make your final decisions about which ones could be the right for your game. The great thing about the 3 wood is that you can use it from the tee and only notice a few yards difference in total distance. 

From the fairway or the rough, the 3 wood is a bit more difficult to work with. 

The 5 wood is more usable for the fairways and even in a little rough. However, from the tee box, there will likely be a significant difference between the way the driver is hit and the way the 5 wood is hit. 

Although the 5 wood may keep you in play, expect a much longer approach shot to the green. 

3 Wood vs. 5 Wood: Which Should The Average Golfer Carry? 

The 3 wood and the 5 wood allow golfers some great functionality on the golf course. We recommend having at least one of these two golf clubs in the bag. However, if you are deciding whether or not the 3 wood or the 5 wood is the right fit, here are the things to consider. 

Carry A 3 Wood If . . . 

1. Distance Is A Priority

If you need distance in your golf game, the 3 wood is going to get you the most possible distance. For players that have a hard time reaching a par 4 in two shots, a 3 wood can help make it achievable. 

2. You Have High Swing Speeds 

Higher swing speed golfers will have an easier time hitting a 3 wood cleanly. When they hit the 3 wood well, it has higher ball flight, more distance, and increased overall accuracy. For slower swing speed golfers, we tend to see the dispersion rates in the 3 wood go up a bit. 

3. Your Driver is Lower In Loft 

If your driver is low in loft, you have a large gap between your driver and the next club in your bag. Having a 3 wood will help t make sure this gap is more evenly spaced out. 

Carry A 5 Wood If . . . 

1. Forgiveness Is A Priority 

For golfers that struggle with forgiveness, a 5 wood is a better choice. The 5 wood ensures that players can get a higher launch, more carry, and a straighter overall golf shot. 

2. You Need To Hit More Greens In Regulation 

The 5 wood is easier to hit from the fairway than the 3 wood. Since you won’t have any trouble getting the ball to jump off the face from the fairway, expect that you will have more accuracy and better results from the fairway. 

3. Your Swing Speed Is Lower 

If your swing speed is slow, you may have difficulty getting the 3 wood to launch. The 5 wood, however, is a much better choice. Why make the game of golf harder on yourself if it doesn’t need to be? 

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the most commonly asked questions about the 3 wood and the 5 wood and which is better for the average golfer. 

Does a 3 wood hit further than a 5 wood?

A well struck 3 wood will travel further than a well struck 5 wood. This has everything to do with the loft of the club, and it is not related to the club itself. The 3 wood is longer and has a lower loft, increasing the total distance. 

When should you not hit a 3 wood?

Don’t hit a 3 wood out of the rough or a sloped lie. The club is too long, and there is not enough loft to increase the total distance of the shot. 

Can a high handicapper hit a 3 wood?

A high handicapper can hit a 3 wood, but it’s important to be aware of the 3 wood that you are using and make sure to use something that is slightly offset or even draw bias. This helps increase total forgiveness and encourages a straighter ball flight. 

Should a beginner use a 3 wood?

Beginners with high clubhead speed often find that the 3 wood is a good match for their game. Keep in mind that the 3 wood also gives new golfers an alternative to a driver off the tee box, and that can be helpful. 

How far does the average golfer hit a 5-wood?

The average golfer hits their 5 wood anywhere from around 180 yards to more than 200 yards. The faster the player’s swing speed, the further the golf ball will go. 

Why does my 3 wood or 5-wood go as far as my driver’s?

The 3 wood or 5 wood goes as far as the driver sometimes because of the difficulty of hitting a driver solid. If you miss it just a bit, it may take 15-20 yards off and therefore making it just as long as the 3 wood or 5 wood. 

How far should you drive a 3 wood?

Most average golfers can hit a 3 wood between 210-230 yards. This is especially the case when the 3 wood is on a tee. Hitting off the turf typically takes a few yards off. 

Final Thoughts: 3 Wood vs. 5 Wood What’s Better For The Average Golfer? 

In the end, the 5 wood tends to be the better choice for most golfers. However, if you have the right 3 wood in your bag and you have a good amount of clubhead speed, expect to see some impressive results. The bottom line for almost all average golfers is that having at least a 3 wood or a 5 wood is a smart choice. If you don’t have either one, you will notice some gaps in your golf bag. 

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Joe Morelli

Joe Morelli is the founder of TopRankGolf, a passionate golfer with decades of experience playing this amazing sport. He's dedicated to helping golfers learn, improve and enjoy the game of golf.