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3 Wood vs 5 Wood: Which one is better for your long game?

Should I carry a 3 wood or 5 wood

We only get to carry 14 clubs in our bag so it’s vital that each one plays a role in helping you play your best. Too many golfers don’t consider their swing speed and distance achieved with each and instead, just play the “standard set.”

But as you’ll learn, there are more options when it comes to adding more fairway woods and hybrids to your bag. The next longest club is the one that almost every player carries, from high handicappers to experienced golfers.

Many players will choose to play a 3 or 5 wood. Or both.

Continue reading to find out the pros and cons for each golf club so you can decide which one is right.

3-Wood vs. 5-Wood

Before getting into when to use these clubs and which work best for certain shots, let’s start with the design of the two woods. Although they look similar, there are some differences.

A 3-wood standard has 15-degrees of loft. A 5-wood has 18 to 19 degrees of loft. This varies among club manufacturers. These three to 4 degrees make a big difference in terms both of playability and total range.

There are several lofts available for a 3W, including 13.5, 15, or 16.5. A 13.5 is a strong lofted 3-W, while a 16-degree is more like an 4W (more later). 

The second major difference between fairway woods is not loft. shaft length. A 3-wood is the second-longest club in the bag and is between 43 and 43.25 inches (for context, a driver has a longer shaft at 45 inches). A 5 wood measures 42.5 to 42.75 inches. 

The last major difference is Clubhead size.

Comparing the Callaway Rogue ST MAX 3W vs. 5W, the 3-wood is 76cc more. The 3W is 174cc (for comparison’s sake, the average driver is 460 CC) while the 5W is 148 cc. 

For these reasons, a 3 x 5 wood will have more distance overall than a 5 x 5.

  • Fewer lofts 
  • Less spin
  • Longer shaft
  • Larger clubhead 

But that doesn’t mean the three wood is necessarily the right option for every type of golfer. The three wood isn’t the easiest club to hit, which we’ll cover in this post. Now, let’s get into how each club might help you in certain situations on the golf course. 

Tee Box

Which is better, a 3-wood, or a 5-wood off a tee?

A 3 wood, as mentioned in the previous section, will go further due to its decreased loft. This makes it the best choice for playing off the tee. But it will only go further in total range if you hit it well.

A 3W is the longest club in the bag, but it has very little loft. A longer shaft plus less loft means it’s harder to hit consistently, especially for average golfers. But since it’s teed up, it does make it slightly easier to hit than when hitting off the deck. 

There’s a case to be made for some players benefiting from a 3 wood and others from a 5 wood. 

For example, if you’re an amateur golfer that struggles with a driver, you might hit fairway woods off the tee frequently. If this is the case, it might make more sense to have a 3 wood as it’s your primary club off the tee. This will make sure you don’t sacrifice as much distance for not hitting the driver and give yourself a shorter approach shot into the green.  

Plus, you don’t need a softer landing on the green so the lower loft of a 3 wood will help the ball roll out further. The higher loft on a five wood means a softer landing too, which means it won’t roll out due to a higher trajectory.

From the Fairway 

While a 3 wood might have the advantage off the tee, it definitely doesn’t from the fairway. Since most golfers don’t hit drivers off the deck (known as one of the hardest shots in golf), a 3 wood is typically the longest club to hit off the turf.

This club is difficult to hit from the fairway due to its low loft and long shaft. While players shooting in the 70s or better might be able to do it, it’s still a challenging shot. 

A majority of average golfers would benefit greatly from hitting a lofted wood higher off the deck. A shorter shaft and an extra 3-4 degree of loft make it easier to interact with the turf. 

Butch Harmon, one of the most respected coaches in the game, said you should “bench” your 3-wood from the fairway. You can find out more about Butch Harmon, one of the most respected coaches in the game. Golf Digest articleButch said it. “The only time you should hit a 3-wood off the fairway is when you can reach the green. One of the biggest strategy mistakes I see from amateurs is grabbing the 3-wood whenever they’re too far from the green to get there. It just doesn’t make sense.”

It’s hard to disagree with one of the greatest coaches ever. Don’t forget, this is the same guy that helped Tiger Woods in the early part of his career!

Needless to say, if you can’t get to the green on a long par 4 or reachable par 5, leave the 3W in the bag. It’s not a high percentage shot and will challenge most golfers to hit it cleanly from the turf. Opt for 5 wood so you’re more likely to make better contact and get close to the green. 

From the Rough 

In most cases, the three-wood wins from the tee while the five-wood wins from fairway. But what about the rough. 

The winner here is pretty clear – a 5 wood. 

A 3 wood is difficult to hit from the fairway. You rarely see PGA Tour players or scratch golfers attempt to hit a 3-wood from the rough.

A 5 wood may not always be the best play depending on where the ball is positioned in the grass. An iron or hybrid might be a better choice. 

If you have a perfect lie, where the ball is sitting up on rough, the only way to hit a 3-wood from the rough is when it is perfectly lying. This is known as a flier lie and the ball will basically react like it’s on a tee. This is why you should choose a 3W. The ball will launch 10-15 more yards because of the great lie.

The 5 wood is the club to strike from the rough if the lie is good enough. 

3 Wood vs 5 Wood

Alternate options: 4-Wood and High-Lofted 3Wood

Now that we’ve covered the basics with a 3W and 5W, let’s talk about the club in between – a 4 wood. This club isn’t as popular among golfers, but might be just what your game needs.

While most clubs aren’t actually labeled 4W (kind of like there isn’t a 6W), it’s more about the loft and shaft length. A 4W has 16 degrees of loft and a shaft length that is roughly the same as a 3W. 

The Callaway Rogue ST Max comes as a 3HL (which is high loft). It’s the same length and lie of the 3 wood but just extra loft.

This is a great option if you like carrying a 3wood and want to hit it more often from fairway. You will launch it higher due to the additional 1-1.5 degrees of loft. 

Lastly, there are “strong” 3 woods too. These are the opposite to 4-woods and have less loft (13.5 degrees) and are recommended only for skilled golfers. 

Since there is even less loft, they’re harder to hit, especially off the fairway. You might also have a lot of yardage gaps if you carry a strong 3W. 

What about Hybrids?

You might be wondering, “Where do hybrids fit in this mix?”

Hybrids are a game-improvement club that has made a significant impact on the sport for many. Hybrids come in all shapes and sizes and can be customized to suit your needs. You can even use a complete set of hybrid irons to replace any or all of your current irons.

These are important clubs especially with mid-handicappers (or high handicap golfers) as they’re easier to hit. The club’s design makes it easy to hit any type of shot.

Hybrids and fairway woodens go hand in hand, I believe. Mixing and getting rid of long irons that are difficult to hit is key to scoring high and making the game a little easier.

You should remember that even the best players have trouble with longer clubs. Having a longer shaft and more loft can make a big difference. Also, don’t forget to check out our guide on How to hit hybrids here

You can read our article here about the 5 wood vs. Hybrid debate.

FAQs about Fairway Woods 

Are you looking for the best fairway woods to fit your golf bag setup? We have the answers you need to help you set up the best possible setup for your game.

Is it better if you have a 3-wood than a 5-wood?

It all depends on the golfer. Some players will be more comfortable carrying a 3W than others. Others will be more pleased with a 5W. Some golfers will keep both. 

If you’re looking for a driver alternative, a 3 wood is likely the best option. Again, this is a matter of personal preference.

Is it more difficult to hit a 3-wood than a 5-wood? 

A 5 wood is easier for the average golfer to hit.  Thanks to increased loft it’s easier to get the ball airborne even if the average distance isn’t as much as a 3 wood.

Need more tips to hit your 3 Wood? Click here to view our complete guide.

Do 3-woods hit harder than 5-woods? 

A 3 wood will travel further than a 5-wood if both are struck with solid contact. A 3W will give you greater distance due to its more piercing flight and other factors.

What’s the purpose of a 5-wood? 

A 5-wood is a versatile club that can be used in many situations. 

It can be used from the rough and has 18 to 19 degrees of loft. Unless it’s really sitting down in a bad lie, a 5 wood can help you escape the rough.

A 5 wood can also be used to bump and run shots around the green. Punch shots are not something the 5 wood can do. 

A 5 wood is designed to lift the ball high due to its loft and clubhead design. So it’s not the best shot to hit when you need to keep it under tree branches or flight it down into the wind. 

Do you need to carry a 3 or 5 wood?

It all depends on the player. For beginners, it would be a good idea to have more fairway woods and hybrids, and fewer wedges. 

For more skilled golfers, I don’t think it’s the best use of your 14 clubs. They’re so similar in terms of design, loft, and distance that it makes sense to have different clubs.

The traditional set of golf clubs for a golfer consisted of a driver, 3 or 5 wood, 5-wood, 3-PW and SW, along with a putter. The times have changed. It is now easier to hit everything, even slower swing speeds.

Which is why I don’t think it’s the best approach for some golfers as they go nearly the same distance. Instead of carrying two different woods that serve the same purpose, you can try one of these combinations.

  • 3 fairway and 7W
  • 4 fairway and 7W
  • 4 fairway wood & driving iron 
  • 3 fairway wood, 4 or 5 hybrid

Having one of these combinations will ensure you don’t have a large gap in your distances. Plus, only having one fairway wood and carrying a hybrid or utility iron allows you to hit other types of shots that you can’t hit with high lofted fairway woods. 

For example, if you’re in the semi rough, a hybrid club might be the better club than most fairway woods. If you are in the semi rough and need help, a hybrid club might be the best option.

Before you buy anything new, I recommend that you use a launch monitor to keep track of your current distances. To calculate the average distance, you should hit 10-15 balls using the 3W and the 5W. Next, calculate the average distance of your next longest club (hybrids, 3 irons, or any other type) to determine how far you need to go. 

Are fairway woods the same as drivers? 

This is a great question because shafts have a huge impact on total distance, trajectory and launch angle. It’s best to play the same shaft flex in your fairway woods as your driver. You can only change the shaft’s weight.

For example, let’s say you play a 60-gram driver shaft. For your fairway woods, you should use a 70-gram shaft for your 3 or 5-wood and 80 grams for your hybrids. This will allow you to have a more precise shot dispersion and help you get to know your game better.

If you play three different clubs, with different shafts, and different weights, it’s hard to always “know your misses.” There are a lot more variables and makes it harder to identify if you have a swing issue that needs to be fixed or the club isn’t suited for your game.

Avoid steel shafts, even if you’re an avid golfer, as they’re harder to get the ball airborne and might lose distance too.

Are pros allowed to use high-lofted fairway woods?

Professional golfers enjoy playing with different clubs, such as a 3 or 5 wood. These clubs aren’t just for high handicap golfers anymore.

Due to the shorter shaft length, shaft weight, and extra loft, they’re great to hit on long par 5s. They can also lay up on short par 4s from the tee box.

Some golfers carry a 7-wood. Remember, regardless of your skill level, it’s best to play clubs that are right for your swing and give you the most confidence.

What are the best fairway trees?

Are you ready to purchase a fairway wood to replace your current set of clubs or add to it?

Here are some of our favorite fairway wood options.

  • Callaway Rogue ST Max – They have three models; a low spin, the MAX (great for the average golfer), and the Max-D which has a built-in draw bias.
  • TaylorMade Stealth – Choose the Stealth Plus for a lower spin fairway wood or the Stealth Fairway for higher launch.
  • Titleist TSi – Choose from 13.5-18 degrees of loft in a great looking fairway wood that comes in multiple head options.

Also, don’t forget to read our full guide to the This is the best fairway woods available. Make sure you spend time on your new golf clubs driving range before you go out on the green.

Final Thoughts: 3 Wood vs.5 Wood

What should a male golfer have?

Each 3W and 5W has its own advantages and disadvantages.

For beginners, it may be worth having a 3 and 5 wood. A longer club is better if you fear hitting drivers.

For advanced golfers, I would recommend Not recommend having both clubs in the bag as it’s not the best use of your 14 clubs in my opinion. It’d be better to add in a 7W, hybrid, or utility iron (depending on which one you like the most) for more versatility in your bag.

Remember that 3 woods have longer shafts and have lower spin. You need to hit the ball consistently well with 3 woods. A 5 wood will travel slightly further but go a bit farther. It is also easier to hit from fairway or rough.