3 Wood vs. 5 Wood Difference

Fairway woods have hollow heads, longer shafts, and lower lofts than every golf club besides the driver. A smaller head makes it easier to get through the ball on every type of lie than a driver but is still considerably more difficult to hit than hybrids and irons.

The ability to hit a fairway wood with good ball flight is a significant advantage for golfers at any skill level, but it’s not always that easy.

Getting the ball airborne can be an issue and consistent shot shape. Because of their loft and design, fairway woods are built for distance and forgiveness.

3 Wood vs. 5 Wood difference

The Modern Fairway Wood

The fairway wood you have in your golf bag is not the same as the one in your father’s bag. The most crucial design development is the carbon fiber crown. The material itself is lighter than anything they used to make clubs with.

But what’s even better is that the carbon fiber crown makes it possible to move the weight towards the back of the club, providing high launch and high ball speeds. That and a corrective face angle make for straighter shots across the board.

Fairway woods vary, but the most common are 3 wood and 5 wood.

Let’s take a deeper look at the similarities, differences and what makes one or the other the suitable fairway wood for you.

When Do You Use a Fairway Wood?

The longer the grass is being hit out of, the more difficult it is to hit the ball well with a fairway wood. The oversized head struggles to get through with longer grass while maintaining a straight face.

Regardless, you can still hit a good fairway wood from anywhere when you know how to approach the shot.

Off the tee

The fairway wood tee shot it the easiest of all. By nature (designs cooked up by club manufacturers), fairway woods are lower spin clubs with maximum forgiveness on off-center hits.

As long as you make contact, the ball should travel in the correct direction with a moderate distance.

From the fairway

Hitting fairway woods from the fairway is a great place to do so, hence the name. The natural high launch and more distance they offer make fairway woods an easy decision to hit when the green is barely reachable or just out of range.

The short grass makes for good contact and faster ball speeds. Even off-center strikes get the ball moving forward.

Having a fairway wood, you confidently pull from your bag in the fairway means all par-5s are reachable in 3, and long par-4s are not as intimidating.

Out of the rough

Only the best fairway woods players can hit the ball from the rough if it’s sitting down. When a golf ball sits up in the rough, hitting a fairway wood to its maximum distance is not as difficult.

Ground and turf interaction in the rough close your fairway wood and prevent good ball flight unless you generate enough swing speed.

If you have a slower swing speed, it will be challenging to hit the golf ball well. Unless it’s sitting up and the rough is acting as a tee, these golfers avoid fairway woods from longer grass.

3 Wood Breakdown

Fairway woods have a longer shaft than irons and are made of graphite. 3 wood loft is between 15 and 18 degrees.

Considering many drivers are creeping up towards 12 and 13 degrees, this is like a driver alternative, less the oversized head.

When playing this club from the tee box, you’re less likely to see a low, piercing ball flight than you are than a high, arcing shot with almost as equal distance as your driver.

5 Wood Breakdown

Compared to a 3 wood, a 5 wood has more loft-like how it works with irons. The standard loft of a 5 wood is between 20 and 22 degrees.

For comparison, that loft lands you between a 3 and 4 hybrid. However, due to the lightweight carbon crown and overall club construction, the 5 wood offers a bit more distance.

So What's So Different?

In some ways, there’s not much of a difference between a 3 wood and 5 wood. But in other ways, they couldn’t be more different. The shaft type is the same for these two clubs, but the shaft length is different (the 3 wood shaft is about an inch long).


It is possible to play the fairway wood from different stances, between the shoulders, closer to the front foot than irons. Not as far up as the driver. But at the end of the day, they’re both fairway woods; they go in the same spot.

How they differ

So, what is so different about these two fairway woods? Distance, ball speed, launch angle. All different. Every measurement is marginally lower with the 5 wood.

The best fairway wood can be accurate whether you’re an average golfer or part of the high handicap golfers crew. You can expect a golf ball to be launched higher with a 5 wood but go farther with a 3 wood.

Distance Gaps

All in all, the main difference is about 15 yards, give or take. When picking out a new fairway wood, you have to pick based on filling distance gaps. Make sure to space out your lofts, so you don’t have a strong 5 wood and weak 3 wood—that would be two of the same club.

If you only give yourself a couple of degrees between clubs, you might as well have two of the same.

Ball Speed and Optimal Launch

Generally, a low spin fairway wood provides more ball speed than a high spin club but will be challenging to control. This alone is enough to be cautious of ball speed but goes a bit deeper.

The lightweight golf club

Since many golfers, especially high handicap golfers, struggle to generate swing speed and ideal launch angle, there has been a shift towards lightweight and draw bias 3 wood and 5 wood models with twist face technology. These clubs help launch the ball high and let you pick up a few mph on your swing.

High spin fairway woods

This type of club won’t low spin like stronger fairway woods or produce more distance but are extremely helpful for getting the ball airborne.

High spin clubs and the playing field give you a chance on longer shots when you have a slower swing speed.

High ball speeds are excellent, but you need more to be successful. After all, you need to get the ball airborne if you want to get to that maximum distance—even if the total yardage is less than some other players.

Low Spin vs. High Spin Fairway Woods

A low spin fairway wood is less forgiving than a standard or high spin golf club. A high spin fairway wood is easier to launch.

A low spin fairway wood generates faster ball speeds. A high spin fairway wood is more forgiving for off-center strikes and has more extreme forgiveness.

In a way, picking a low spin or high spin fairway wood comes down to skill level. A high spin club is better if you need more help with higher launch and ball control. If you’re looking for distance and swing speed is not an issue, low spin fairway woods get the job done.

How Many Fairway Woods is Standard?

Nearly every player brings at least one fairway wood to the golf course. A lot of players will get a 3 wood and 5 wood. The makeup of every golf bag is different, but it’s rare to see one without a fairway wood.

No golf game is complete without a club (fairway wood) for long-distance shots besides the driver. You need a fairway wood because it bridges the gap between the club you use off the tee and the ones you use from the fairway.

If the distance is your main concern, carry more than one fairway wood (ideally the 3 wood and 5 wood split). If your focus is on short game control, carry a solo fairway wood.

The Case for Carrying One of Each Golf Club

The 3 wood and 5 wood are not exclusive, and there is a very valid case for carrying both golf clubs. Modern fairway woods have adjustable hosels and can be adjusted for loft and alignment.

It’s an easy fix even if your fairway woods aren’t very different on the stock settings.

The sweet spot is significant. The speed pocket gives you a ball speed boost. If you select two fairway woods that go different distances, there is no reason not to carry two if you need distance help.

If you want to carry five wedges, you might have to consolidate and take one fairway wood. But, if you keep to golf equipment norms, you’ll hit the golf ball with more than one fairway wood every round.

About The Author

Writers of Independent Golf Reviews
Independent Golf Reviews has tested and reviewed 1000+ golf products over the past 10 years. We use our experience and expertise to give golfers an unbiased insight on the market. 
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