What Are The Different Golf Shots?

Golf is not always about hitting the ball long. It’s about how you manage the course.

The best players can make the golfball do what they want and go where they want so they can shave shots off their scorecard. 

Some of the best ball-strikers in the business, like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Bubba Watson, aren’t the biggest hitters on tour, but they can control the ball flight and speed better than most players on tour to dodge the rough and find the greens. 

In this guide, we’re going to be walking you through some of the different types of shots you can hit with your clubs, how to hit them, and when to hit them. 

Each shot requires a different suite of skills. Whether you’re driving or putting, you’ll need to set up and address the ball with a different approach for each shot. 

So without further ado, let’s tee it off with a few basics.

The drive

Perhaps the most challenging part of any amateur’s game is driving the ball. Getting the ball up in the air and down the middle of the fairway is a technical task that players need to get right to ensure they get their hole off to a good start. 

Having a good approach to a hole can save you countless shots, so look at how big drivers like Rory McIlroy play, where they aim, and how they manage the course using their driver to save numerous shots off their scorecards.

The approach

So you’ve smashed you drive 250 yards down the fairway, but you still have about 170 yards to the hole. This is where you need to be accurate, as many shots can be lost to poor approach play.  

Depending on your lie and the distance to the hole, you might want to use an iron, a hybrid, or even if you’re going for it, a three wood. But remember, your goal here is to land the green, or if the distance is too long, land the ball ahead of the green on the fairway. 

Pitching

Australian Jason Day is one of the best chippers on the PGA Tour and saves a ton of shots around the greens pitching in from only 40 yards out. Ultimately accuracy and speed are everything when you’re pitching for the greens. 

When pitching, your goal is to save yourself a putt and drop the ball into the hole or get the ball as close to the hole as possible.

Putting

Despite a recent poor run of form, Jordan Speith is back in action, and his putting is better than ever. After winning the Open Championship back in 2017, Speith became renowned as one of the PGA Tour’s best putters.  

But putting is really where golfers make money, and you need to spend as much time practicing your putting, if not more than how much you practice your drives. Drive for show and put for dough as the adage goes.

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Shot types

Depending on the fairway in front of you, you may want to think about altering the shape of your shot to best approach the green. From draws to stingers, here are some of the different shots you can play and when it’s best to play them. 

1. The draw

Perhaps one of the most challenging shots to hit on the course, a draw reduces the amount of spin on the ball, meaning that once it lands, it will travel further than most other kinds of shots you can play. 

The draw moves the ball from right to left in a smooth arc and is a great shot to hit off the tee or on your approach to get the ball further down the fairway. 

To hit a draw, golfers need to almost push their clubface into the ball, almost aiming the face out to the right, and that will add a slight spin onto the ball that will bring it round in a right to the left arc. To hit a draw, have the ball slightly further forward in your stance, grip your right hand further round the shaft, and move your left foot a little closer to the ball. 

2. The fade

The fade is the opposite to the draw and is a great shot you can use to get around left to right doglegs, which course managers love to put into golf courses to trouble right-handers. 

The fade moves the ball in a left to right arc, and although the ball typically won’t travel as far on a fade as a draw, it allows you to add far more spin on the ball. If you’ve ever watched Dustin Johnson, who perhaps hits the best fades on the PGA tour, drop a ball on a fairway from 170 yards out and still put about three feet of backspin on the ball, it’s most likely he’s hit a fade. 

To bring the ball around from left to right, stand a little further away from the ball, move your left foot slightly back in your stance, and open your clubface, so you’re almost cutting across the ball. Don’t go overkill, though, as you’ll slice the shot onto the next fairway! 

3. The slice

As I’ve just said, a slice comes about when you hit too much across the ball. And although slices are generally bad, they can be useful in some situations, for example, when you’re shooting out of a tough angle from behind a tree or if you’re trying to get around a tight dogleg.

4. The hook

A hook is the opposite of a slice and is another shot you don’t want to hit off the tee. It is an exaggerated draw that can again be useful if you’re trying to get around an obstacle or a hazard, but it’s one you need to avoid if you’re looking to score low. 

5. The stinger

This is trademark Tiger. Known for his ripping stinger shots around Augusta National, Woods is perhaps the only player on tour who can consistently rip a stinger on demand. Essentially it’s a low driving shot that you’d generally hit with a 4 iron or perhaps a driving iron. It’s called a stinger as if hit right, it’ll fizz low and hard through the air towards your target. 

This is a great shot to hit in windy, dry conditions, as the ball will literally cut underneath the wind and roll miles down a hard fairway. 

6. The flop

The flop or the lob is a short game shot players used to get up and over sand traps and water hazards around the greens. It is a great way to add backspin onto your ball, too, so if hit right, you can cut under your ball and stop it dead on the green. Phil Mickelson is the master of the flop shot, as you’ll see below.

7. The punch

Like a stinger, a punch shot is usually used with a low iron or a wedge to literally punch the ball off the ground. The player will hit down onto the ball with a fast club speed and kill his follow through onto the ball, forcing the ball out from the ground to make it skip up into the air. The problem with punch shots is they don’t carry very far and have a lot of backspin, meaning they don’t roll far either. 

8. Sand shots

Bunker shots are some of the most challenging shots to play on the course. I’ve seen players take four or five shots to get out of the sand trap. Although, sand shots are not too much different from your typical lob. All you need to do differently is put a little more speed on your swing and hit two or three inches behind the ball, so you take a lump of sand before hitting the ball. That way, you’ll get under the shot more and get the ball up and over the lip of the bunker.

The 19th hole

Golf is a game that requires a lot of different skills, and the best golfers are those who are the most dextrous. By that I mean, they are the players who can get out of any situation on the course with the wide array of shots they have at their disposal.

Take, for example, five-time major winner Seve Ballesteros. Seve could get himself into all sorts of trouble on the course, but he was such a good golfer that he could save par from any situation on the course. 

So being able to drive the ball long isn’t everything in golf. Practice different shots, get good at hitting fades, draws, stingers, and flops, and watch yourself save shots all around the course. 

The more shots you have in your golfing arsenal, the better golfer you will become

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Ed Carruthers
Ed Carruthers
Ed is a writer from London. He loves traveling and is a bit of a sports fanatic. When he’s not at his desk, he’s either kicking a footy around with his mates, watching his beloved football team Everton or is hacking around the golf course.