7 Types of Golf Shots: How They Work & Which Clubs to Use

You’ve decided to start playing golf and have just acquired your first set of clubs. Now, you need to learn how to play the game before you venture out onto the golf course. Besides receiving lessons, I recommend familiarizing yourself with the rules, etiquette, and types of golf shots on offer.

The aim of this post is to highlight different types of golf shots. I will explain which club suits which shot and how to best execute each. This information will help you get your ball from the tee to the putting green with ease. In addition, I’ll touch on the mechanics of advanced shot shapes to give you something to work towards.

 

The 7 Basic Shots in Golf

1. Drive

A drive describes a tee shot, where you use a low lofted driver to maximize your distance on a par 4 or 5. Your drives go further than any other shot in your arsenal. However, the longer shots have a higher propensity to slice or hook offline. Leading to unflattering accuracy.

Hitting a fairway wood off the tee instead of the big stick is also seen as a drive. But, technically speaking, a drive can only be executed with a driver.

Clubs:

  • Driver
  • 3-wood
  • 5-wood

Tips to master this shot:

High handicappers and beginners often struggle to produce consistent distance and accuracy with a driver because of its low loft and long shaft.

Our tutorial on golf driving tips offers a detailed rundown of how to hit the golf ball further. However, I will focus on four elements to get you started.

1) Loft

First off, let’s discuss loft. Players with super-fast swing speeds exceeding 105-mph may prefer a low lofted driver around 9-degrees. The closed clubface helps you reduce backspin to deliver low ball flight for increased control and distance.

Conversely, if your driver’s swing speed averages 84 to 96-mph, a 10.5 to 12-degree should help produce a mid to high launch. Those slower swing speeds than those mentioned above should consider anything higher than 12-degrees.

The weaker the driver’s loft is, the easier it is for a golfer to launch the ball consistently high off the tee for optimal carry distance.

2) Shaft Flex

The next area to consider is shaft flex. According to True Spec Golf, players with extra fast swing speeds are best equipped to handle an extra stiff shaft. However, those with a moderate full swing speed should consider a regular shaft.

If the shaft of your driver is excessively stiff for your swing, you will struggle to launch your shot. Conversely, if your shaft is too flexible, you may generate excess spin and balloon your tee shot, losing distance.

3) Tee Height

Teeing the ball up the wrong height can prompt a low or high flying shot. Both can cost you distance. Golf Magazine suggests that you tee the ball up approximately 1.5-inches for a driver and half an inch for a fairway wood.

4) Ball Position

When you tee your ball up, it requires your clubface to connect the ball on your upswing. That is different from an iron shot, where you strike the ball at the low point of your swing to optimize compression.

For a successful tee shot, position the ball on the inside of your front foot. This makes it easier for you to strike the ball after the low point in your swing, to send your tee shots high and long.

 

2. Lay Up

A layup is a viable shot option if you cannot reach the green or wish to avoid a hazard. The most common example of a layup occurs on par 5’s where there are bunkers, hazards, or rough between the green and your ball. Therefore, you decide to lay up to a safe distance for an easy third shot.

I’m not proud to admit that I have played more than my fair share of layups on par 4’s as well. When you get into trouble off the tee and do not want to risk hitting your approach shot into the water, it makes sense to lay up.

The clubs you use to layup depend on the obstacles in your target line and the distance to the layup zone. Most often, players use a short iron or wedge for an easy shot.

Clubs:

  • Mid Irons
  • Short Irons
  • Wedges

Tips to master this shot:

A layup is one of the simplest shots in golf. The pressure is off somewhat, and all you need to do is swing easily and get the ball into your preferred area of the fairway.

The main concern with a layup is distance control. If you opt for insufficient club, you may leave yourself too many yards for the next shot. Contrarily, hitting too much club can send your ball into the hazard you tried to avoid in the first place.

 

3. Approach

An approach shot describes your second into a par 4 or your third into a par 5. It requires a full swing with an iron, hybrid, or fairway wood to reach the green. If your approach shot finishes on the putting surface, it means you reached the green in regulation.

Clubs:

  • Fairway woods
  • Hybrids
  • Long irons
  • Mid irons
  • Short irons

Tips to master this shot:

Approach shots are impacted by your swing speed, loft, and shaft flex, just like your drives, a. Slower swinging players may struggle to launch long irons such as a 3 or 4-iron. Stemming from their strong lofts and compact profiles.

Furthermore, golfers struggle to consistently strike their iron shots. That’s because they position the ball in the wrong part of the stance.

If you find that long irons are not for you, hybrids are an excellent alternative. This golf club features a low CG and superb turf interaction promoting high, consistent shots that land softly.

When you are striking a full iron, hybrid, or fairway wood off the fairway, you need to position the ball back in your stance compared to a tee shot. I explained this in my post on tips to hit your irons pure, so I will only recap it here.

Instead of striking the ball on the up, you need to catch it at the low point of your swing to enhance the compression of the ball. That is why you need to position the ball slightly towards the center of your stance to give yourself the best chance of a pure strike.

 

4. Punch Shot

When your long game is as erratic as mine, you need to know how to recover and walk away unscathed. A punch shot helps you keep the ball below tree branches to help you get back into a favorable position.

In addition, you can play a punch shot to keep the ball low in windy conditions to avoid distance and accuracy loss.

Clubs:

  • Long irons
  • Mid irons
  • Short irons

Tips to master this shot:

There are multiple steps required to effectively execute a punch shot. I’ve laid them out below.

1) Extra Club

In the video below, legendary instructor David Leadbetter suggests that you take two clubs extra when playing a punch shot to increase the chance of keeping the ball low. You can further deloft the club by closing the clubface angle to reduce the risk of the ball ballooning.

2) Position The Ball Back

Your hands need to lead the clubhead coming into the ball, to prompt a low shot trajectory. The best way to achieve this is to position the ball 2-inches back in your stance than usual. When the ball is at the back of your stance, your clubface catches it with reduced loft, prompting a low flight.

3) Half To Three-Quarter Swing

Leadbetter further recommends that you grip down on the club and take an easy half to three-quarter swing. That reduces your clubhead speed and enables you to shorten your follow-through to initiate a lower flight.

 

5. Pitch Shot

A pitch shot flies further than it rolls and allows you to get the ball close to the pin from around 50-yards out. Golfers typically use a pitching or sand wedge to play these shots.

Clubs:

  • Pitching wedge
  • Sand Wedge

Tips to master this shot:

1) Low Pitch

If you intend to keep your ball low and optimize roll, you will need to set up as if you were hitting a punch shot.

Place the ball slightly back in your stance, and press the shaft and your hands ahead of the dimples. Strike your ball with reduced loft to prompt a low flying pitch.

2) Medium Height

When you wish to hit a standard height pitch, you can set up the same way you do for an approach shot. Place the ball towards the center of your stance, and strike the ball with a square clubface.

3) High Pitch

Those wishing to increase the apex of their pitch shots can adjust their follow-through and ball position. Shorten your stance, place the ball slightly forward, and let the clubhead release ahead of your hands. That combination should prompt a higher launch.

 

6. Chip Shot

A chip shot is played from around the green. These shots roll more than the fly, contrary to a pitch. Most golfers chip with a lob or sand wedge to give themselves sufficient loft to control their short game shots.

Clubs:

  • Sand Wedge
  • Lob Wedge

Tips to master this shot:

Instead of listing various tips to improve your performance, you can find everything you need in our guide to 7 proven chipping drills guide.

 

7. Bunker Shot

Landing in a greenside bunker can ruin the hole for the average golfer. In reality, it is simple, dig your cleats into the sand, open your clubface, catch the sand before the ball and follow through. It is a difficult shot to execute, but if you can master it, you will be rewarded with an improved up and down record.

Clubs:

  • Sand Wedge (greenside bunker)
  • Mid and Short irons (fairway bunker)

Tips to master this shot:

To successfully hit sand shots, dig your cleats into the bunker, open your clubface and stance, and aim left of your target if you are a right-hander. This helps your clubface aim at the pin.

Next, take an easy backswing, and hit the sand before your ball. That enables your club to get under the ball and lift out of the bunker.

 

Advanced Golf Shots to Up Your Game

Draw Shots

A draw shot occurs when your ball shapes from right to left as a right-hander.

Tips to master this shot:

Hitting a draw can optimize your control over a shot and help you escape trouble. However, read our review if you would like a detailed rundown on how to hit a high or low draw.

 

Fade Shots

A fade is a shot that shapes from left to right for right-handers. It is typically caused when you leave your clubface open at impact or swing from outside to in.

Tips to master this shot:

If you wish to hit a fade, you need an open clubface at impact, which prompts right to left spin and causes this shape. The easiest way to get your clubface open at impact is to swing outside-in.

 

Flop Shot

A flop shot describes when you generate excess spin, sending the ball high and getting it to stop rapidly. It is a useful shot for clearing hazards bushes or fescue on golf courses.

Tips to master this shot:

You need to produce optimal clubhead speed and spin to pull off a flop shot. Position the ball towards the front, center of your stance, and open the clubface of your lob or sand wedge. Make sure you get under the ball, otherwise you risk hitting it in the teeth.

 

Matt Stevens

Matt Callcott-Stevens started playing golf at the age of 4 when Rory Sabattini's father put a 7-iron and putter in his hand. He has experienced all the highs and lows the game can throw at you and has now settled down as a professional golf writer. He holds a Postgraduate in Sports Marketing and has played golf for 28 years.