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

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I’ve been in the market for a new fairway wood but was curious about whether I should play a 3 wood or a 5 wood (or both). To figure out what worked the best for me, I decided to get one of each and put them to the test.

For average golfers, adding 5 wood to the bag will perform better than having 3 wood. The increased loft and shorter shaft length will hit the ball almost as far but will hit more fairways and greens in regulation.

To figure this out, I got both clubs and took them to the course. I took a number of tee shots and a number of fairway shots. The yardages and distances from the green/fairway are all listed below.

Should You Get A 3 Or 5 Wood?

The majority of golfers will hit more fairways and greens with a 5 wood compared to a 3 wood. A 5 wood has a slightly shorter shaft and more loft, and because of that, it makes it much easier to hit from the fairway.

I don’t know about you, but I used to have a driver, 3 wood, and 5 wood in my bag. I normally hit driver off the tee and then I’d hit 3/5 wood off the turf. Most of the time it didn’t go that well.

I normally hit the driver pretty well but it took quite a bit of time to learn how to hit my fairway wood. Once I did learn, I found out that I could hit my 5 wood much more consistently. Butch Harmon agreed with that as well.

Most golfers should bench their 3 wood and hit 5 wood from the fairway.

Butch Harmon

I ended up not using my 3 wood for somewhere around 2 years before taking it out of my bag altogether. Not only that, but I started hitting my 5 wood so well that I even started playing it instead of my driver.

Long story short, I hit my 5 wood almost as far as my 3 wood off the tee and hit it closer to the green (on average) compared to the 3 wood. That’s why I don’t have a 3 wood anymore and that is why you might want to do the same.

We’ll get into the full test and results next. You might also be thinking about whether or not you need both clubs in the bag. Some people might, but the majority of “average” golfers probably don’t.

Why do I say that? From the tee, the average golfer hits their 3 wood only 8 yards longer on average. From the fairway, the average golfer hits their 5 wood farther on average. We’ll get into why that is later on.

3 vs 5 Wood: From The Tee

The first way I wanted to test the clubs out is by hitting them from the tee box. Most people will hit their driver on most shots, but there are a few times where fairway wood will put you in a better spot.

I wasn’t really expecting a huge difference between clubs, mainly because they’re so close and the ball is on a tee. The 3 wood is about an inch longer and the loft is 3 degrees less.

The main thing I was looking for off the tee is how much farther the 3 wood went. I took 10 shots with each club and then recorded how far each shot went. Here are the results:

Shot3 Wood Distance
1210
2225
3170 (Snap Hook)
4220
5230
6200 (Slice)
7215
8225
9225
10220
Average Distance214 Yards

As you can see, the longest I hit my 3 wood was 230 yards but the average across the 10 shots was 214 yards. I had two shots that were mishit pretty badly, which brought the average distance down a bit.

On most of the other shots, the ball did go fairly straight. 5 of the 10 shots hit the fairway, 3 ended up barely in the rough, and 2 were not good at all.

Let’s jump over to the 5 wood. Here are the results:

Shot5 Wood Distance
1215
2220
3220
4200 (Slice)
5210
6220
7225
8210
9190 (Fat)
10215
Average Distance213 Yards

My longest shot with my 5 wood was 225 yards, which was only 5 yards less than the 3 wood. Again, there were two mishits, which brought the average distance down to 213 yards. That’s only 1 yard less on average.

What I did notice was that the mishits here weren’t quite as bad as the 3 wood. That could be just luck, but maybe it’s not. The only shot that missed the fairway by a lot was the 4th shot (slice).

6 of the 10 shots ended up in the fairway, 3 of them were just in the rough, and 1 of the shots missed by a good amount. Overall, a little less distance but ended up in a better spot for my second shot.

3 vs 5 Wood: From The Fairway

The next thing I wanted to look at was how they performed from the fairway. I figured this is where the big difference was going to be, but I really had no idea how much they would differ.

I had heard that the majority of people don’t hit their 3 wood that well from the turf. The longer shaft and less loft is the main reason (that’s what Butch Harmon said).

Again, I took 10 shots with each. The main thing I wanted to see was how far the ball ended up from the green. I think that’s the most important thing to look at. Here are the results for the 3 wood:

ShotDistance From Green
120
220
310
40
55
650
725
810
90
1045
Average Distance19 Yards

On average, I hit my 3 wood 19 yards from the green across 10 shots. 3 of the shots landed on the green or were within 5 yards, 4 of the shots were between 5-20 yards away, and 3 of the shots were pretty far from the green.

For two of the shots, I didn’t hit the ball well and it just rolled up the fairway. The ball didn’t go that high so it just rolled on the ground and stopped pretty quickly. A pretty common shot for a fairway wood.

Now, let’s jump over to the 5 wood and see if there was any differences. Here are the results for the 5 wood:

ShotDistance From Green
110
20
320
45
530
620
70
85
910
1010
Average Distance11 Yards

On average, I hit my 5 wood 11 yards from the green across 10 shots. This was 8 yards better, on average, which might not seem like a lot, but it really adds up in the end.

What I noticed right away was that my 5 wood was much straighter and higher. Both of those actually caused the ball to go a longer distance, which was awesome.

I also only mishit the ball once (a little fat). 4 of the shots were on the green or within 5 yards, and 3 of the shots were between 5-10 yards. Much more consistent, on average.

What Is A 3 Wood Used For?

fairway 3 wood

The majority of golfers will use a 3 wood off the tee when a driver will hit the ball too far. 3 woods aren’t used much from the fairway because of the longer shaft and low loft, which makes them tough to hit for average golfers.

Most of the people I see on the course will carry a driver, 3 wood, and either a 5 wood or hybrid. They’ll either hit driver or 3 wood off the tee and then they’ll use 5 wood or hybrid from the fairway.

Butch Harmon has said that the 3 wood is the toughest club to hit from the fairway. That’s because it’s the lonest and least lofted club in the bag (for fairway shots). That’s why most people don’t use them.

Since that’s the case (and after my 3 wood vs 5 wood test), I don’t see any reason for most golfers to carry a 3 wood. Why not have a 5 wood instead? It should hit the ball a similar distance off the tee, but will be way more consistent from the fairway.

Maybe you’ll want a 3 wood if you’re a low handicapper, but for mid to high handicaps, having a driver, 5 wood, and hybrid seems to be the best option (according to my testing and advice from a local golf pro).

What Is A 5 Wood Used For?

The majority of golfers will use a 5 wood from the fairway when they’re able to reach the green. The shorter shaft length and higher loft makes a 5 wood much easier to hit off the ground compared to a 3 wood.

Before hybrids came out, most golfers had both a 3 and 5 wood. Most golfers I see will use 3 wood off the tee and 5 wood from the fairway. Is there really a point in having two different clubs for that?

I’ve found that both clubs hit the ball a similar distance off the tee. I don’t know about you, but I’d way rather spend money on one club instead of two.

For the average golfer, having a 5 wood for shorter tee shots and longer approach shots makes the most sense. It will save you some money and should be a lot more forgiving off the turf. Add a hybrid between your wood and your longest iron and you’ll be set.

Why Do You Hit Your 5 Wood Farther Than Your 3 Wood?

The majority of average golfers hit their 5 wood farther than their 3 wood because the shaft is shorter and there’s more loft. The higher loft will help get the ball in the air and the shorter shaft will improve consistency.

After comparing the two clubs myself, I noticed that my 3 wood went slightly farther off the tee. The main reason is because the ball was on a tee, which made it a lot easier to hit.

That being said, I noticed that my 5 wood went farther from the fairway. There’s obviously no tee on the fairway, so the increased loft helped the ball launch higher, which gave me some more distance.

This is the exact reason why I took my 3 wood out of my bag. My 5 wood works just as well from the tee, but is much more consistent from the fairway. That seems to be the case for most mid to high handicappers.

How Far Should You Hit Your 3 Wood?

On average, recreational golfers hit their 3 wood 224 yards, but the range will typically vary between 210-250 yards. The distance you hit the ball will depend on your skill level, the weather, and whether or not you’re using a tee.

I know how far I typically hit the ball with a 3 wood, but that’s not really helpful when it comes to averages. That’s why I went out and asked 8 different golfers how far they normally hit their 3 wood. Here are the results I got:

Golfer3 Wood Distance
1220
2235
3215
4210
5215
6220
7225
8250
Average Distance224 Yards

The average number across the 8 golfers was 224 yards. I’d say that’s pretty accurate because it’s close to what I hit. The lowest distance I heard was 210 yards while the longest was 250 yards.

These numbers weren’t always right either. They were most likely for when they hit the ball absolutely perfectly. Just think about how often that happens. Not that often.

It also depends on your skill level. Beginners and high handicaps will probably be closer to 200 yards. Low handicappers could be 250+ yards.

It also depends on the weather you’re golfing in. Where I live, there’s a lot of rain and the air is a bit heavy. In warmer areas like Arizona, the air is a lot lighter and the ball travels quite a bit farther.

A buddy of mine normally drives the ball 270-280 yards here. When he went to the dessert, he said he could easily drive the ball over 300. That’s a pretty big difference.

How Far Should You Hit Your 5 Wood?

On average, recreational golfers hit their 5 wood 216 yards, but the range typically will vary between 200-240 yards. The shorter shaft and less loft makes the 5 wood 8 yards on average shorter than the 3 wood.

Again, I went out and asked 8 different golfers how far they normally hit their 5 wood. The range I got was a bit wide, but here are the answers I got:

Golfer5 Wood Distance
1220
2225
3200
4210
5215
6210
7205
8240
Average Distance216 Yards

The average number across the 8 golfers was 216 yards. Lower handicaps could possibly get to the 240-250 yard mark while beginners and high handicaps will be closer to 200.

After testing this out myself, I found out that my 5 wood was a little bit shorter than my 3 wood off the tee. That being said, my 5 wood was a bit longer and more consistent off the fairway.

Jon Webber

Just an average golfer trying to take my game to the next level. Was shooting around 100 not that long ago but have now been in the 80s consistently. Best round to date was 12 over. Best 9 holes were 4 over.

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