How Far Does a 3 Wood vs 5 Wood Go? Tee and Approach Shots!


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Three PING G410 3-woods

When it comes to talking of distance amateurs are typically most concerned about how far they hit their fairway woods once the discussion about drivers has been covered.

Often used as an alternative option off the tee by many golfers getting as much distance as possible with fairway woods is therefore key for many players.

And when any golfer starts talking about how far their fairway woods go the natural query in their head is often how that distance compares to others.

In total the average golfer with a handicap of 11 to 15 hits their 3-wood tee shots 18 yards further than their 5-wood tee shots – 186 yards vs. 168 yards. 0 to 5 handicappers average the biggest gap between these fairway wood tee shot distances averaging 215 yards with their 3-wood compared to 188 yards with their 5-wood.

But unlike the longest club in the bag 3-woods and 5-woods are not just used off the tee and are frequently used both for approach shots as well as positional second shots on long par 5s.

So any consideration of how far you hit your fairway woods needs to take into account whether there’s any difference between how far you hit them off the tee compared to when you use them for approach shots.

And that is exactly the detail we go into in the remainder of this article.

Bar chart of average 3-wood distance by handicap in yards

How Far Does the Average Golfer Hit a 3 Wood?

Golfers seem to be pretty obsessed with distance these days, and while it is clearly important for players to know how far they hit all of their clubs, when it comes to comparing how far they hit the ball with their peers golfers tend to be most concerned with the longer clubs in the bag.

Given it is the second-longest club in the bag the average golfer is therefore often interested to know how far they should hit their 3-wood.

Thankfully in the modern game there is a bunch of technology which can help us answer these questions and this includes Arccos, golf’s first AI shot tracking platform, which now boasts millions of amateur golf shots from across the world in its database.

And as a whole the average 15 handicap golfer hits a 3 wood a total distance of 178 yards, according to Arccos. Scratch players hit a 3-wood 209 yards while 5 and 10 handicap players average 198 yards and 187 yards respectively. 20 handicappers hit a 3-wood an average of 169 yards and 25 handicappers average 168 yards.

HANDICAP3-WOOD AVERAGE TOTAL DISTANCE
0209 yards
5198 yards
10187 yards
15178 yards
20169 yards
25168 yards
Source: Arccos

But as we noted above 3-woods are not the same as drivers and for more than the obvious reason that they are different clubs.

While almost without exception every golfer on the planet hits their driver only off the tee and as far as possible 3-woods are used for a greater variety of shots.

Not only do players of all standards frequently use them off the tee but they are also often used for positional shots on par 5s as well as for long approach shots.

And interestingly Arccos’s analysis of their user’s millions of golf shots points to a clear difference between the average distances golfer’s hit their 3-wood off the tee compared to for approach shots.

On average 11 to 15 handicappers hit their 3-wood a total distance of 186 yards off the tee which is 16 yards more than they average with their 3-wood approach shots. All handicap categories average a shorter distance with their 3-wood approach shots versus tee shots with the biggest gap seen in scratch to 5 handicappers.

Arccos’s complete analysis of the distances and differences between how far different handicap categories of golfers hit their 3-wood for tee shots compared to their approach shots is detailed in the table below.

HANDICAP3-WOOD ‘TEE SHOT’
AVERAGE TOTAL DISTANCE
3-WOOD ‘APPROACH SHOT’
AVERAGE TOTAL DISTANCE
0-5215 yards191 yards
6-10200 yards180 yards
11-15186 yards170 yards
16-20171 yards160 yards
20+155 yards142 yards
Source: Arccos

So in summary the main conclusion all golfers, whatever their standard, should draw when looking at the data of how far amateurs hit their 3-wood is that they should always assume that they will hit it further off the tee than they will off the fairway or out of the rough for their approach shots.

Which is definitely something to bear in mind the next time you line up your next long approach shot and assume you are going to hit the 3-wood the same distance you have just hit it off the tee!

[Note – If you are interested in Arccos – Golf’s first artificial intelligence shot tracking platform – and getting an exact idea of how far you hit the ball so you choose the right club every time click here to get 15% off when you use our discount code – GOLFINGFOCUS15. Recognised by Golf Digest Editor’s awards 5 years running Arccos’ members improve by an average of 5 strokes in their first year of membership!]

Bar chart of average 5-wood distance by handicap in yards

How Far Does the Average 5 Wood Go?

When it comes to fairway woods the most common combination golfers typically carry is a 5-wood alongside a 3-wood.

Indeed this is also reflected in the pro ranks where we found that 28% of the PGA Tour used a 3-wood and 5-wood combination which was more than any other when it came to those pros who carried multiple fairway woods.

So having already looked at the longer of these fairway woods how do the distances amateurs hit a 5-wood compare?

In total average 11 to 15 handicappers hit a 5-wood 168 yards off the tee but only 159 yards for approach shots. 0 to 5 handicappers average 175 yards for 5-wood approach shots and 188 yards off the tee. 6 to 10 handicappers also hit 5-wood approach shots 13 yards shorter while 20+ handicappers average 137 yards off the tee.

This data is again taken from Arccos’s analysis of millions of their amateur users’ golf shots across these handicap categories and the complete data set for how far you should hit a 5-wood compared to your handicap peers is detailed in the table below.

HANDICAP5-WOOD ‘TEE SHOT’
AVERAGE TOTAL DISTANCE
5-WOOD ‘APPROACH SHOT’
AVERAGE TOTAL DISTANCE
0-5188 yards175 yards
6-10182 yards169 yards
11-15168 yards159 yards
16-20152 yards151 yards
20+137 yards132 yards
Source: Arccos

While the differences between how far higher handicapped amateurs hit their 5-wood on average off the tee compared to approach shots is not as big as it with their 3-woods the clear message from this data is again consistent for all amateur players of whatever handicap.

And that is amateurs on average never hit their 5-wood as far for their approach shots as they do when hitting the same club off the tee!

[Note – If you are interested in seeing how the fairway wood combinations being carried by the top 100 PGA Tour pros compare to your own check out our detailed analysis of this topic here.]

Close up of PING G410 fairway wood

3 Wood vs 5 Wood Distance – By Handicap & Swingspeed

Golfers can often talk about how far they hit the ball for hours on end and particularly when it comes to comparing how far they hit the ball compared to their friends and playing partners.

But when it comes to looking at how far golfers hit their own clubs compared to each other that subject is not as frequently covered when it certainly should be, especially given how important it is for every player to know exactly how far they hit the ball with each club.

And when it comes to the question of how far your 3-wood goes versus your 5-wood while the answer is perhaps obvious it is subtly different for different standards of amateur golfers.

As a general rule amateur golfers hit their 3-woods approximately 20 yards further than their 5-woods off the tee but only 12 yards further when hitting the same clubs for approach shots. The difference between how far a 3-wood goes compared to a 5-wood however is greater for low-handicapped amateurs.

This data is again taken from Arccos and is detailed in full in the table below.

HANDICAP3-WOOD vs 5-WOOD ‘TEE SHOT’
AVERAGE TOTAL DISTANCE
3-WOOD vs 5-WOOD ‘APPROACH SHOT’
AVERAGE TOTAL DISTANCE
0-5215 vs. 188 yards (27 difference)191 vs. 175 yards (16 difference)
6-10200 vs. 182 yards (18 difference)180 vs. 169 yards (11 difference)
11-15186 vs. 168 yards (18 difference)170 vs. 159 yards (11 difference)
16-20171 vs. 152 yards (19 difference)160 vs. 151 yards (11 difference)
20+155 vs. 137 yards (18 difference)142 vs. 132 yards (10 difference)
Source: Arccos

As we can see clearly the difference in how far different standards of golfer hit their 3-woods compared to their 5-woods is pretty consistent whether they are using their fairway woods for tee shots or approach shots.

But when it comes to the very best amateurs – those with handicaps of scratch to 5 – the distance their 3-wood goes further than their 5-wood is much greater than for their higher handicapped counterparts.

This may not be news to many but this analysis is clearly backed when we look at how far golfers hit their 3-woods and 5-woods based on their swingspeed.

In the last decade in particular swingspeed has become an ever more popular metric and analysis of it has highlighted a direct link between swingspeed and how far you hit your clubs.

In short the higher your swingspeed the further you will hit your clubs, including your fairway woods, and following on from that the stats also show that the further you hit your clubs the lower your scores and handicap will be.

So when we look at the estimates of ‘carry’ distances in the table below of how far golfers with different swingspeeds hit their 3-wood and 5-wood the increasing gap between them as the swingspeeds, and therefore the standard of golfer, increase is as evident as it is when we looked above at the distance data broken down by handicap category!

SWINGSPEED3-WOOD ‘CARRY’ DISTANCE5-WOOD ‘CARRY’ DISTANCE
60 mph130 yards123 yards
70 mph152 yards144 yards
80 mph174 yards164 yards
90 mph195 yards185 yards
94 mph
(LPGA Tour Avg.)
195 yards185 yards
100 mph217 yards205 yards
106 mph
(Champions Tour Avg.)
230 yards218 yards
110 mph239 yards226 yards
114 mph
(PGA Tour Avg.)
243 yards230 yards
120 mph260 yards246 yards
130 mph282 yards267 yards
141 mph
(Long Drive Final Avg.)
304 yards288 yards
Sources: SwingManGolf, Trackman, GolfTV, Golf Digest

Final Thought

Amateur golfers are frequently concerned with how far they hit their fairway woods, and 3-wood in particular, because they often see it as a ‘more accurate’ alternative off the tee compared to their driver.

The conclusion of all the data however also shows that you should hit driver wherever it is sensible to do so as your average scoring will in general always be better than when you hit 3-wood off the tee.

How driver vs. 3-wood strategy off the tee compares is a topic for another day but if it is the reason you are concerned with how far you hit your fairway woods don’t worry about it too much and just hit driver!

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Graeme Hay

Graeme Hay is the owner of GolfingFocus.com. Graeme started playing golf when he was only 4 years old and has loved the game ever since. A single figure golfer all of his adult life he lives in London and still enjoys playing whenever he can with friends and family.

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