Shot shapes in golf

Golfers are always trying to hit a particular shape of shot. Most players naturally shape the ball one way and many players try to hit different shapes depending on the shot.

What is shaping a golf shot?

Like a soccer ball, a golf ball almost always curves in the air. This is because there is a lot of spin imparted on the golf ball when it is struck with a golf club.

What is shaping a golf shot?
A golf ball curves in the air like a soccer ball – this is known as shaping the ball

This curve of the golf ball is known as the shot shape and there are different names for different shapes.

Why do golfers shape shots?

There are many reasons why golfers shape shots. Firstly, most golfers will have a natural shot shape. This means that when they hit a normal shot, it curves a certain way and goes a certain height.

Ever player’s shot shape is different. Some golfers curve the ball one way and some the other way. Some players hit the ball high and some hit it low.

Why do golfers shape shots?
Each player shapes the ball differently

One of the great things about golf is that there isn’t a right way to play the game. What works for one player may not work for someone else.

However, sometimes it’s necessary to shape a shot differently to normal. You may need to shape a ball around a tree or over a tree, for example.

Bernhard Langer iron
Golfers may need to shape the ball around a tree or another hazard

Skilled golfers typically choose to shape the shot more often. They may shape the ball to allow for wind or to avoid hazards, for example. Or they may shape the shot to give them a better angle towards the flag.

You may notice the best golfers staring at their target before playing the ball. They are trying to visualise the shot before playing it.

Golf shot shapes explained

So we know that golfers play different shapes. But what are the different shapes and what are they called? Well, there’s 3 basic shot shapes and this is what they look like:

Golf shot shapes explained
The 3 basic shot shapes in golf

The 3 basic shot shapes are a fade, a straight shot, and a draw.

Now we know what the basic shapes are but let’s go into a but more detail with each one. It’s worth mentioning that these shot shapes are for a right handed golfer. For a lefty, the shot shapes are mirrored with a fade going from right to left, not left to right.

What is a fade in golf?

The fade is a golf shot which curves from left to right in the air (for a right handed player). It is a shot that many proffesional golfers prefer since it tends to offer the most control.

What is a fade in golf?
A fade is a left-to-right golf shot (for right handed players)

A faded golf shot typically has more spin and lands more softly. This is one of the reasons why it can be such an effective shot. It can make finding the fairway and the green much easier.

What is the difference between a fade and a cut in golf?

In fact, there is no difference between a fade and a cut. The cut is just another name for the fade. Although usually “cut” is used to mean a small fade. That is, a shot that only curves very slightly from left to right.

What is a baby fade?

The term “baby fade” is often used instead of “cut”. It just means a small fade which moves very slightly from left to right. Highly skilled golfers often try to hit a baby fade which is a very controllable golf shot.

Is a fade the same as a slice?

The slice is the same as the fade in principal but different in outcome. A sliced golf shot is an exaggerated fade whicj typically results in a weak shot that spins too much and doesn’t go very far. It usually curves a lot, missing the target well to the right.

A slice is a shot that many amateur golfers struggle with. A golfer who plays with a slice is forced to aim well to the left of the target to allow the ball to curve back towards the target. The amount of curve can make the shot very difficult to judge as well as severly limiting the distance that the golfer can achieve.

Straight shot in golf

The straight shot kind of explains itself. It’s simply a golf shot that travels very straight, without much shape (curve).

Straight shot in golf
A straight shot has very little curve to it

It may seem like this is the ideal way to hit a golf ball but this is not really the case. Many amateur golfers try to hit the ball straight but in reality it is virtually impossible. Because a golf shot has so much spin on it, it will always curve somewhat in the air, even if it is very slight.

For this reason, professional golfers typically prefer to play their shots with some shape. That way, they have a better idea of what to expect from the shot.

What is a draw in golf?

The draw is the golf shot which curves from right to left (for right handed players). It is the golf shot which typically offers the most distance.

A draw is a right-to-left golf shot (for a right handed player)

For many amateur golfers, it is a difficult shot to play. But many good players naturally play a draw. It is a shot that tends to spin a bit less and generally offers more distance when compared to a fade.

What is a baby draw?

Just as the baby fade is a slight fade, the baby draw is a slight draw. It is a very controllable golf shot which offers an excellent balance of distance and accuracy. For many golfers, this is the holy grail of golf shots.

What is the difference between a draw and a hook?

The hook in golf curves the same way as a draw (from right to left) but is more exaggerated. A hook is typically one of the most destructive types of shot for the golfer.

When a golfer hits a hook it generally goes low and curves substancially to the left. It is a shot which is typically low in spin. This means that when the ball lands it will generally roll a lot, making the shot difficult to control.

What is a duck hook?

You may hear the term “duck hook” or “snap hook”. This shot is a type of hook which is even more exaggerated. Where a hook is a severe draw, a duck hook is a severe hook!

For many golfers this is the worst type of shot they can hit. It is almost never performed intentionally and is generally the result of a poorly executed shot.

The snap hook travels so low that it barely gets airborn. It will typically dive violently to the left, finding whatever trouble may be lurking there. Due to the extremely low spin on the shot, it will also usually bounce deeper into trouble if it happens to miss the trees or long grass!

What are the 9 basic golf shots?

Given that there are 3 basic shot shapes (fade, straight, draw), you may be wondering how there’s 9 basic golf shots.

As well as being able to shape the ball 3 different ways, a golfer can also hit the ball 3 different heights – low, mid, and high. If we combine these together, we get a total of 9 basic golf shots. Take a look at the image below:

The 9 basic golf shots
The 9 basic golf shots

The 9 basic shots are the following:

  1. Low fade
  2. Mid fade
  3. High fade
  4. Low straight shot
  5. Mid straight shot
  6. High straight shot
  7. Low draw
  8. Mid draw
  9. High draw

Very highly skilled golfers are capable of playing all these different shots. But the average golfer may only be able to play one of these or a handful.

It’s very useful for golfers to learn to play as many of these different shots as possible. Low shots are very useful for playing in the wind and under trees, for example. High shots are useful for playing over trees or trying to stop the ball quickly.

Golf in the wind
Being able to shape the ball is very useful in windy conditions

Additionally, golfers may have to combine the shapes in order to get out of trouble. For example, you may need to play a low draw to keep the ball under the branches of a tree whilst shaping it around the tree trunk. Being able to play as many of these basic shot shapes as possible keeps your options open at all times.

The most difficult golf shots

Since a fade tends to go high, the low fade is a difficult shot for most people. Similarly, since the draw tends to travel lower, the high draw can be a difficult shot to learn.

Straight shots are also very difficult since it’s almost impossible to hit a shot with no curve. However, there is very rarely a need to hit a dead straight shot so it’s not really something to worry about.

What is a stock shot in golf?

A stock shot is a player’s natural golf shot This is the shot they hit without having to try to shape the ball. Additionally, a stock shot is played with a natural tempo and speed. When playing a stock shot, the golfer is trying to play the easiest shot they can for them.

Every golfer’s stock shot is different. Some players hit a high fade, some hit a low draw, and there’s everything inbetween. But being good at knowing and playing your stock shot is incredibly important.

What is a stock shot in golf?
The stock shot is the typically the most common shot played

In fact, the stock shot is arguably the most important shot in golf. It is the most reliable shot which good golfers try to play as often as they can.

Of course, there are times when they will need to shape the ball or hit the ball harder or softer. But in general, good golfers try to play their stock shot as often as they can. They have a good idea how far the ball will travel and how much it will curve in the air.

What are stock yardages in golf?

One of the most important things to know in golf is how far you hit each club. This allows you to select the correct club for each shot, giving you the best chance of hitting a good shot.

Golfers should know roughly how far they hit each club, on average, with their stock shot. These distances are known as “stock distances” or “stock yardages”.

Stock yardages for a low handicap golfer may look something like this:

ClubAverage Distance (yards)
3 wood265
5 wood250
3 iron235
4 iron220
5 iron205
6 iron190
7 iron175
8 iron160
9 iron145
Pitching wedge130
Sand wedge115
Lob wedge100
Stock yardages for a good player

Notice how there are even gaps between the average distances for each club. In an ideal world, a golfer would have a consistent gap of 10-15 yards between each club.

Checking these gaps is known as “gap testing” and it is a great exercise for golfers to do from time to time. It ensures that they know their distances and it may expose some problems in the golf setup.

What are stock yardages in golf?
Practicing stock shots is an excellent way to improve at golf

For example, if there is a large gap between 2 clubs, it may be an indication that there is an issue. It could be an issue with a particular club or a poor setup (selection of clubs) for that particular player.

What is a punch shot?

A punch shot, or “knockdown shot” is a golf shot that is played lower for more control. It is typically played in wndy conditions to reduce the effect that the wind has on the ball.

What is a punch shot?
A punch shot is a low, controlled shot, that is usually played into the wind

It can be played either left to right (fade), right to left (draw), or straight. However, it is most often played with a draw. Since a draw shot has less spin and tends to go lower, it lends itself well to the punch shot.

What is a stinger?

A stinger is like a punch shot but it is played much lower and usually travels a lot further. It is usually played when a player requires a long shot but they’re playing directly into a very strong wind.

The ball is played very low, barely leaving the ground. This means that the wind can hardly effect the ball. The golf shot doesn’t travel as far as normal in the air but because it is so low it runs well when it lands. This means that a stinger can go almost as far as a normal shot, even into a strong wind.

For most people a stinger is a very difficult shot to play. This is mainly becase it is so different to any other shot. It is usually played like a punch shot but with a very long club like a 3 iron, 3 wood, or driver.

The stinger is a very popular shot that was made famous by tiger woods. He used to play the shot with incredible power and accuracy, allowing him to hit great shots in difficult conditions.

What is a stinger?
Tiger helped to popularise the stinger!

It is also very popular in golf videos, because it looks amazing! The low flight of the ball usually means you can see the ball as it flies through the air.

Tom Rothwell from Clean Strike Golf

About Me

I’m Tom Rothwell and I’m a 3 handicaper that's obsessed with golf. You can often find me hitting balls on a driving range somewhere!

I'm on a journey to learn as much as possible about the great game. I've made Clean Strike Golf to share everything I discover along the way.