To play great golf then there are some specific techniques and shot types that must be learned and mastered.
Whether you play casually, as an enjoyable past-time, or play competitively, there are certain shots every golfer should know to be able to get the most out of their game.
The most essential golf shots you need to master include the punch shot, the flop shot, the fade, the draw, the pitch shot, the chip shot, the Bunker shot and the lag putt
Fancy a Mulligan?
Golf is a great game for giving you instant feedback.
How often have you hit a shot and then said, oh I should have taken one more club or why didn’t I play a chip and run instead of a flop shot.
Most of us have been there.
If you’re not confident playing certain types of shots the best advice is not to play them on the course until you have had time to practice them.
This section will take you through the different types of shot and how to play them and we’ll give you some tips about when and how to play them.
Quick Links to the golf shots every golfer should learn
MOST OF THE MISTAKES GOLFERS MAKE HAPPEN BEFORE THE BALL IS HIT
Master the following shots and it will help you improve your golf game..
The Punch Shot
The punch shot, sometimes called a knockdown shot, is used when you want to keep the ball lower and is often used when playing into the wind. Playing a punch shot will reduce the distance the ball travels, so you will need to club up, but it does keep the ball low and gives you more control.
The punch shot is an incredibly beneficial technique to master. Use it when you need to keep the ball low to the ground. It is best utilized when; it’s a windy day on the course, you need to hit the ball low to get under a tree branch, or you’re looking for an extra roll on the shot.
To assist with making this shot, try using an iron that is about two clubs lower than you would typically use. So if you regularly use an 8-iron, try using a 6-iron instead. Keep your weight a bit more on the leading foot and grip down on the club a bit too
The Flop Shot
The flop shot, sometimes referred to as a lob shot, is one that travels high and lands softly. It’s used mostly when you have to get over a hazard, such as a green side bunker, and you don’t have much room on the green to work with.
You will want to use the flop shot when you need to get the ball up and down over an obstacle, when you want the ball to land with minimal roll. It’s lie dependant and is easier to play off the fairway or semi rough than it is to play from deep rough or a tight lie on a deadpan fairway.
Its a high tariff shot and does require commitment throughout the shot, but pull it off and it’s great to play and for your partners to watch.
Generally speaking, you will want to use your most lofted wedge for this shot. Open your stance slightly and aim slightly left as the ball will usually come out more to the right of target.
It’s a harder shot to play but great fun when you have it in your locker and can get up and down to save par or make birdie so it’s worth putting the practice in to learn it.
A Fade is a shot that starts straight, or left of target, and slightly bends to the right. It’s a deliberate shot and is used when you want the ball to follow the fairway on a left-to-right dog leg hole or when hitting an iron into a green as a left-to-right ball stops more quickly than a right-to-left ball.
The fade is a shot that starts travelling straight or to the left but then slowly moves to the right if you are a right-handed golfer.
This fade is sometimes confused with a slice, the main difference being that the club-face on a fade shot is only open to the swing path and not open to the intended target line, which is often the case with a slice.
Hitting a fade properly requires a more forward ball position and keeping your head behind the ball throughout the shot.
This shot is best used when there is some obstacle in your path, and you need to bend your shot around it. It can also be beneficial off the tee if you need to cut the corner on a dogleg hole.
The Draw Shot
A Draw is a shot that starts straight, or right of target, and slightly bends to the left. It’s a deliberate shot and is used when you want the ball to follow the fairway on a right-to-left dog leg hole or when you want to get more roll-out on the ball.
The draw is a shot that starts straight, or right of target, and then curves to the left if you are a right-handed golfer. The draw is similar to the fade, but it is meant to go in the opposite direction when attempting to go around obstacles.
When attempting the hit a draw, it is crucial to maintain a more closed stance and have good contact with the ball. The club-head will also be aiming slightly more to the left (closed face)
A draw is one of the most sought after shots for amateurs to play as it is perceived to give more distance, but I’m not sure that stats really back that up.
It is also often considered a more difficult shot than the fade because it requires more control of the clubface and lower body movement.
Mastering both the draw and the fade will help you in your choice of shot selection on the course
The Pitch Shot
The Pitch shot is not a full shot, it’s a reduced shot designed to get the ball in the air from a shorter distance. The stance is closer together and the grip is further down the club. It’s essentially a shot that creates less energy but gives good control
The pitch shot is a specific technique for when you are positioned between 40-50 yards or meters away from the green, and you need to hit a shortened shot. This shot will cause the ball to pop up in the air, and then land softly on the putting surface.
The club choice for a pitch shot can vary based on your preferences, but it can be accomplished with an 8-iron, a 9-iron, a gap wedge, a sand wedge, or a pitching wedge.
The pitching wedge, in particular, is the most popular option for this kind of shot, and should likely be the choice for practising it.
The pitch shot is used when you are positioned too close for a full swing, but not short enough to chip.
Here’s Rich to show you how it’s done
The Chip Shot
The Chip shot, sometimes called a chip-and-run or a bump-and-run, is one that has less airtime and more roll in its flight. It’s a shot that pops up for 10-15% of it’s flight and then rolls out like a putt. It’s often used around the greens when there are no obstacles to go over.
The chip shot is mostly used when you are closer than 30 yards from the green and is used to pop up the ball and get it as close to the hole as possible.
This technique is one of the most important ones to master quickly as it can help shave strokes off your game. Becoming consistent on and around the green is critical as that is the place where many golfers lose shots.
You can successfully hit a chip shot with any club but the most popular choice for this kind of shot is either a 7 or 8 iron.
As this kind of shot is one of the most challenging ones for new golfers to learn, so make sure to take the time to practice this regularly.
Many golfers who are just starting out will try to help the ball get in to the air which more often than results in a duff or a thin bullet that rockets through the green.
The Fairway Bunker Shot
To play the Fairway Bunker shot properly it’s important to play the ball first and then sand to ensure you get a decent strike on the ball to get the distance needed.
There are a couple of things you can do to promote this ball then sand contact.
The first thing to do is grip down the club a little, which means you hold the club a bit higher, which makes it easier to avoid fatting the club in to the ground.
Make your grip a bit tighter too, as this will help reduce the amount of wrist action in the swing, which again helps to make cleaner contact more easy.
When you set yourself up, lean slightly further forward into the lead leg and focus your eyes on the front portion of the ball (the side nearest the target), as this also helps to hit ball before sand.
Here’s Rich to show us a good routine and how to play a fairway bunker shot
The Greenside Bunker Shot
The Greenside Bunker shot is the only shot in golf where you don’t actually hit the ball. Instead you need to hit the sand a few inches before the ball and with the help of the bounce of the club the sand pushes the ball upwards and out of the bunker.
Many amateur golfers struggle with the Greenside bunker shot as although they hit the sand behind the ball first they often hit much too hard and hope that brute force will get the ball out of the sand. Which rarely happens
There are several ways you can control the distance the ball travels on a bunker shot, which are the grip pressure, the length of swing and the speed of swing.
It’s important to have the correct set up so here’s Rich to show us a good routine and how to play a Greenside Bunker shot
We have a full course on playing Bunker shots called Bunker Basics which teaches you a solid technique to help you get out of the sand first time more often.
The stinger is a sexy golf shot that is similar to a knock down shot in that it has a low trajectory, but it still has great length on the shot. It’s a very piercing shot and is used when playing into wind and more control is needed
In order to play the Stinger you need a combination of a few things, A clean strike is key, plenty of club head speed and great posture and balance throughout the shot.
Tiger made the stinger more famous and used it to great effect winning the Open in 2010
Playing A GOLF BALL Out Of A Divot
Playing out of divot requires a different shot than playing off the fairway. You need a steeper angle of attack, to ensure you hit down on the ball, which will usually come out much lower, so often less club is needed.
Having to play form a divot is one of the rules of golf that I would like to see changed.
I am all for not getting an advantage over the field in every aspect, but equally you shouldn’t be punished because the divot hasn’t been repaired by the players ahead of you.
We all need to play the ball as it lies but Amateurs don’t benefit from the high level of course maintenance that the Pro’s enjoy.
Playing A Golf Ball Out Of The Rough
To successfully play a ball out of the rough, the first thing you need to do is to assess the lie you have. This is the biggest factor as to how much club you can actually get on the back of the ball. The grass will have an impact over the cleanness of ball contact and can produce some horrible results.
So don’t be too greedy, take the appropriate amount of loft to make sure you can get the ball back in play and limit further damage to your score.
A lot of players feel like they need a steep angle of attack on the club to get the ball out, but you do in fact needed a shallower angle of attack.
A good way to achieve this is to have a little more flex in the knees, which will shallow the club and help you get the ball to pop up more easily.
Playing A Golf Ball Out Of Pine Straw
If you have to play a shot out of pine straw you will need to play the shot similar to a bunker shot, get in to a great position with good balance, making sure you get a clean strike, hitting ball before floor.
You are allowed to move some of the pine straw out of the way of your shot, making sure your ball doesn’t move of curse, which is easier said than done in pine straw, so be careful.
Stand a bit taller in your posture and get good balance and focus on a clean contact, making sure you hit the ball first. Try not to hit a full powered shot as you are likely to slip or slide in the swing as your ground force is affected by the loose surface.
The Downhill Putt
Downhlll putts need a bit less force from your putting stroke because gravity with be helping you get the ball to the hole. Playing the stroke more out the heel of the putter can help deaden the feel and reduce the power you generate.
You need to be able to control your putting motion and become instinctive over how far you hit your putts, at what speed and over what distance.
Practice is the only way to develop a putting routine and feel that you can rely on, especially under the pressure of downhill putts, which are easy to let get away from you.
But you do need to practice the correct things and practice with a real purpose. One of our flagship courses Putt For Dough takes you through all aspects of becoming a great putter
The Uphill Putt
The uphill Putt should be the easier than the downhill putt but if you have good technique it’s not easier or harder. It just requires you to work out the correct pace you need to ensure the ball gets to the hole.
A lot of higher handicap golfers struggle to get the pace right on their putts and either leave uphill putts short or knock it well past the hole, leaving a testing return putt, which often results in 3-putting than they would like
The Lag Putt
A lag putt is essentially a long putt that the golfer is not really expecting to make
Having good pace control will help with both the downhill and uphill putts. The lag putt is perfect for this. If you can get used to making long putts to a distance the size of a ‘dustbin lid’ around the hole you will soon help reduce the amount of 3-putts you make.
The only real way to get a feel for lag putting is to practice making long putts. Uphill, downhill and putts with break as well. try to remember what each does and how it felt when you made the putting stroke.
Do some drills that help you see the improvements you are making rather than just hitting long putts for the sake of it.
The Short Putt
The short putt is quite often the difference between a good round and a bad round. Having confidence in your putting stroke is key to making short putts and belief that you will make the putt also goes a long way to sinking more.
Often when you miss a short putt it’s usually one of three things, a poor pre-shot putting routine, poor green reading skills or just a lack of concentration to make a confident stroke.
Take time over the short putts and make sure you make as many as you can.
We have created a coaching plan named Putt For Dough that will show you a classic putting stroke and give you the fundamentals to become a great putter.
And A FEW Bad Shots
Here’s a few more shots that you should know about but are ones that we hope you don’t play too often
The shank is probably the most debilitating shot for any golfer. Apparently it’s as close to a perfect shot as you can have, without out it actually being one. And Anyone who has hit one will tell you it feels far from perfect.
Shanks are sometimes called ‘hozel rockets’ due to the fact the ball comes off the hosel rather than the club face.
There are a few reasons why you might shank a golf shot, with the most obvious being the swing path of the club.
We have created a library of drills which show you many different ways that you can learn how to fix your shank
The hardest shot in golf is the very next one you hit after a shank.
The slice is a shot that starts straight, or left of target, and then goes to the right, often too far right to stay on the fairway or miss the green. It’s usually caused by an over the top style golf swing, which leads to an out to in swing path and an open club face at impact.
We have created a section of drills, aptly named How to Fix A Slice, that will show you many different ways that you can fix a slice
The Hook shot is a shot that starts straight, or right of target, and then goes to the left, often too far left to stay on the fairway or misses the green. It’s often caused by a strong grip with the right hand being too much underneath the club on the grip.
The clubface could also be closed, which means it’s pointing too far left, the swing path is in-to-out, which added together imparts right to left spin on the ball and causes the hook
We have created some videos of drills which show you many different ways that you can fix a hook
The Thinned Shot
The thin shot, sometimes known a a thin-bullet’ is a shot where the leading edge of the cub hits the ball below the equator and the ball rockets off on a low trajectory.
One of the key causes for hitting a thinned shot is from the golfer’s desire to see where the ball goes, before they have hit the ball. They lift their head up just before impact, raising the height of the club from the ground and the club-head then makes contact in the middle of the ball and shoots off low and at high speed.
This can easily be addressed by ball position, stance and alignment and swinging on the correct swing path, which as we know is easier said than done.
Take a look at the Golf For Beginners Series we created which will help you with the fundamentals of the golf swing and the game in general.
The Topped Shot
The Top shot is a shot where the leading edge of the cub hits the ball above the equator and the ball generally doesn’t go very far
Again, similar to the thin shot, one of the key causes for hitting a topped shot is from the golfer’s desire to see where the ball goes, before they have hit the ball. They lift their head up just before impact, raising the height of the club from the ground and the club-head then makes contact with the top of the ball ind it generally just bobbles off a few yards.
Again take a look at the Golf For Beginners Series we created which will help you with the fundamentals of the golf swing and the game in general.
The Chunked Shot
The chunked shot, sometimes known as a fat shot is a shot where the club hits the ground too far before the ball and the speed of motion carries the clubhead through the ball. This isn’t a pretty shot and the ball doesn’t go very far.
This usually happens as a result of poor timing in the swing, incorrect ball position or lack of weight transfer in the swing.
Will knowing and playing These Shots Improve My Game?
Golf is an incredibly nuanced sport with many different variations of the above techniques.
It might feel overwhelming, especially if you are just beginning to learn, but taking the time to perfect the fundamentals will set you up for greater success as you continue to play.
Remember that golf rewards patience, practice, and understanding.
So whether you are on your way out to the course to practice, or mastering your stance in front of the mirror at home, make sure to learn how to do things correctly the first time as it will save you from needing to break bad habits later on!