5 Wood vs 3 Iron: Which One Should I Carry?


Golf can be an awesome game and experience.  However, the golfer needs to make sure they have the right setup in their bag.

Golfers are able to carry up to 14 clubs in their bag.  Each golfer should seriously consider what clubs best suit their game and make sure they are maximizing the club technology that is available.

The days of carrying a traditional setup in the bag for most amateurs should become a thing of the past.  The majority of amateurs would highly benefit from more fairway woods or hybrids in their bags vs the long irons.

In the past, it was typical for a golfer to have a 3-PW, SW, LW, Driver, 3 wood and a 5 wood.  Many golfers have now added an extra wedge and maybe have replaced their 3 iron or 5 wood. 

Which brings us to the main question is 5 wood vs 3 iron and which one should I carry?

The traditional set of 3-PW maybe isn’t best for most amateur golfers. Check out our pros and cons below and how to measure what is best for your game!

Which One Should I Carry a 5 wood or a 3 iron?

The majority of golfers would benefit from carrying a 5 wood.  It provides greater versatility and helps golfers with a slower swing speed.  The 3 iron can be difficult to hit out of the rough or if your swing speed isn’t high enough.  There are pros and cons to both and ultimately comes down to the strengths and weaknesses in your game.

Here are the pros to both the 5 wood and the 3 iron.

Top 3 Reasons to carry a 5 wood:

  • Easier to hit off the tee
  • Better out of the rough
  • Designed for those with slower swing speeds

Top 3 Reasons to carry a 3 iron:

  • Easier to work the ball both ways for the lower handicap golfer
  • Easier to keep the ball out of the wind
  • Provides versatility with punch shots

Below we will provide greater detail on each of the reasons listed above.  Let’s get started!

Make sure you check out how to measure what is best for your game below!

I also have a post on 5 wood vs 3 hybrid – Check it out here!

5 Wood: Easier to hit off the tee

The thickness and ease to launch a ball with a 5 wood, especially when set on a lower tee makes the 5 wood easier to hit off the tee. 

Most amateur golfers lack the swing speed that a professional or elite amateur may have.  The 5 wood will typically have a graphite shaft and is designed to help launch the ball higher and further.

The 5 wood is a quality option on those shorter par 4s or where the fairway is very narrow.

Are new golf clubs worth it? Check out this post!

5 Wood: Better out of the rough

A 3 iron can be really difficult to hit out of the rough.  Especially with thick rough and when the ball is sitting down.  The 5 wood is designed to cut through the grass and the thickness of the club allows it to not be as impacted by the longer grass. 

The 3 iron is more likely to twist and turn in the rough.

If you lack some distance in your game, you might find yourself often pulling a fairway wood out of your bag and needing accuracy and some quality distance.  The 5 wood might be the easiest to hit fairway wood!

Take a launch monitor and a bucket of balls to the range to measure what is best for your game. Make sure you check out our next steps after the pros of each club!

5 Wood: Designed for those with slower swing speeds

Fairway woods have come a long way in the ease to hit and launch golf balls higher and further.  I think back to the original Adams Tight Lies and all of the infomercials on the quality and design of the clubs. 

Amateur golfers have had the greatest benefit of this design.  These newer style fairway woods are designed to hit out of the fairway, rough or even a bunker. 

The lower center of gravity and the overall design makes it a dream club for the higher handicap player or the player who has lost speed in their swing.

Debating between 3 wood and 3 hybrid? Check out this post!

3 Iron: Easier to work the ball both ways for the lower handicap golfer

For the lower handicap golfer or the golfer with plenty of swing speed, the 3 iron may be the better club. 

It comes down to precision with the 3 iron.  While it is more difficult to hit and isn’t as forgiving on off centered hits, it does provide a premium experience for those can can find the center of the club face consistently and have enough swing speed.

The 3 iron, allows the golfer to hit the ball and work it both ways.  Meaning they can stand there and hit a draw when needed or a fade if needed.  The 5 wood can be susceptible to the overdraw for the golfer with higher swing speeds.

3 Iron: Easier to keep the ball out of the wind

On those windy days, it is important to hit low, penetrating shots that bore through the wind.  I think back to Tiger Woods and his dominance at some British Opens with his stinger shots that were hit hard and low and ran out for some quality distance.

One of the keys as a golfer becomes an elite golfer is the ability to control the ball flight.  Not only left to right and right to left, but also high and low.  The 3 iron provides this flexibility as it is designed for precision and not necessarily the ease of launching a shot high and far like a 5 wood.

3 Iron: Provides flexibility with punch shots

Every golfer in just about every round of golf, even the elite players, are faced with shots where they must recover as a result of an errant tee shot that has found the trees. 

The 3 iron is often the optimum club to advance a ball 150-200 yards down the fairway with a low punch shot.

Most golfers who even hesitate and pull their 3 iron when in these situations.  The low, penetrating shot will run out and hopefully leave a wedge into a par 4 or give you a quality shot into a par 5 on their third shot.

Do your clubs still look like this? Today’s technology does make the game more fun!

Final Verdict: 5 wood vs 3 iron

Unless you have a swing speed of around 110 miles per hour with the driver, I would highly recommend the 5 wood.  The 3 iron is truly for the elite golfer who needs the precision.  The majority of golfers will benefit and find the 5 wood to be a club they benefit from greatly!

What To Do Next?

Test It Out!

Still undecided or even leaning towards a certain club. I would recommend to go out and test both clubs.  Head to your local golf store that has a simulator and test both out. 

The most ideal is to find a friend that has a 3 iron or a quality 5 wood and test the difference in the two for your game.  Try to hit at least 5-10 shots to get comfortable to see what is best for your game.

Want more swing speed? Here are some options for you!

Measure It! (Best Option)

The great thing about golf in today’s era is that golfers have access to some wonderful technology that can allow them to experiment and figure out what is best for their game.  I highly recommend tweaking and trying to find your “secret” to your golf game.

One piece of technology that can truly help you here is a golf launch monitor.

In today’s golf world, the access to affordable launch monitors is a complete game changer.  Not only can one help you set up you experiment with different swings and philosophies, but it can also help you map your bag by knowing the distance you carry each club. 

In this situation, you can test what club is best for your game.  And it doesn’t end with 5 wood vs 3 iron.  It could come down to figuring out what wedges are best for your game so that you don’t have massive yardage gaps that make hitting shots inside of 120 yards difficult!

Even amateurs can have access to this technology and data with the technology now available.

A Launch Monitor is a great addition to your practice session.  Stop guessing on your ball and club data and get the immediate feedback that you need to improve your game.  Club selection and the make up of your bag is often overlooked by many amateurs.

The professional golfers of today all have access to some great technology including launch monitors to help measure their swing and know their numbers.  Can an amateur use this same or similar technology for game improvement?  

Yes, absolutely and I would highly recommend it.  

Even if you aren’t going to go all out and build an indoor golf simulator like I did (see below), you can still pick up a launch monitor at a reasonable price and use it in your indoor net or taking to the course or driving range with you!  

Knowing numbers like spin rate, ball speed, spin axis and other key information is vital to your growth. 

Sharing these numbers with your instructor can be helpful and help with equipment selection as well.  This will help you select the right clubs for your bag and when to add that extra hybrid or wedge.

I would recommend one of the three launch monitors listed below:
My favorite time of day. Time to get better with feedback from my SkyTrak and enjoy the game I love 365 days a year! Want to learn more about a home golf simulator setup? Check out our links at the bottom.

Maybe Get Both Clubs?

How do you hit your long irons?  Do you struggle to make solid contact and get them in the air?  You might be best off carrying multiple hybrids of mid range fairway woods.  Check out the clubs in a LPGA players bag and see how many hybrids they are carrying. 

Many seniors, as their swing speed decreased, might be best off getting ride of the 3-6 irons and replacing with the appropriate hybrid options.  The hybrid is an easy to hit club that gets the ball in the air and can be played more like an iron as far as holding a green is concerned.

Be Honest About Your Game!

Too many golfers struggle to set aside their ego when it comes to the 3 iron and 4 iron.  With the quality of the fairway woods and hybrids on today’s market, golfers need to give some serious through to making the change to these clubs and taking out the 3, 4 and even a 5 iron.

This is especially true for the senior golfer as they begin to lose speed.  Setting aside the ego and adjusting the clubs in the bag is vital.  As my favorite senior golfer often says, “they don’t ask how, just how many”

This is so true!  Make sure you seriously consider the clubs in your bag and look at getting that launch monitor for the feedback needed to improve your game!

Take Action – What You Can Do Today to Get Better

What does this mean for you?  I believe in the following recipe to get better:

1 – Improve your motion in the golf swing by identifying a golf instructor.  Here are some options:

Here is a list of golf instructors that we have reviewed:

2 – Train to swing faster and improve your swing speed.  Here are some options:

Looking to gain more Speed and Distance in your swing. Two Options:

3 – Understand course strategy and work to break through your next barrier.  Here is a series on breaking through:

We have provided guides on how to break 100, 90, 80 and 70. Check out more below, if interested.

4 – Practice Frequently

Did you know that I build a golf simulator in my garage and have played over 500 rounds of golf on my SkyTrak system?  It has been a game changer and one worth checking out. Here are some of my other posts on golf simulators frequently asked questions:

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