There are so many different shots in golf that it can be confusing. And to make it worse, there are even different names for the same shots!
In this article we go over all the shots you need to know from drives to putts, any everything in between.
A golf shot is the name for the shot that a player makes when hitting a golf ball. This could be with any club over any distance. A 300 yard shot is called a golf shot and so is a 2 yard shot.
But the game of golf requires players to be able to hit many different types of shot. And there’s a different name for each shot. Some shots have more than one name!
There are 9 basic types of shot in golf. These basic shots mostly depend on how far you are hitting the ball and the type of club you are using:
Now, we’ll go through each of these different shots to find out what they mean. Once you know them all, you should have a pretty good understanding of all the different shots in golf.
The drive is the first shot that’s hit on each hole. It is taken from the teeing ground, which is a piece of raised up ground which golfers can hit off. The teeing ground is usually shortened to the “tee” but it’s not to be confused with a tee peg, which is also often shortened to “tee”!
The golfer can choose where they want to drive from on the tee. They are also able to use a tee peg to lift the ball off the ground. This makes the shot a little easier and allows them to use a bigger club called the driver, if they wish. This is also known as “teeing off”.
The driver is usually used on the drive, but not always. The driver hits the ball further than any other golf club so it is usually the best option. But sometimes it is safer to use a different club. For example, there may be water that makes hitting a driver too dangerous. Additionally, the driver may hit the ball to far for the particular hole.
The fairway wood is a golf club that is like a driver but smaller and doesn’t hit the ball as far. A fairway wood shot is often played from the fairway, hence the name.
Because it hits the ball quite a long way, it is usually used on long holes or after a shorter drive.
However, the fairway wood shot is also often used on the drive. It still hits the ball a long way but offers a little more safety than the driver.
More confusing still is the name! A fairway wood is not wooden, it’s made of metal! They used to be made of wood but are now made of metal which means they are easier to hit and they hit the ball further. Some players actually call them fairway metals!
An iron shot is played with a golf club called an iron. Most players have around 7 irons in their golf bag (3 iron – 9 iron). Each iron hits the ball a different distance but is generally considered as the same type of shot.
Typically, an iron shot is played as the second or third shot on a golf hole. If a golfer hits a good drive then they can usually reach the green with an iron on their second or third shot.
However, an iron shot can also be played from the tee instead of a driver. This could be for safety or if it’s a short hole.
The name for the club is also a little confusing since irons are no longer made from iron! These days they are made from steel. This means they are much less likely to rust and they can be made into more intricate shapes to improve their performance.
A pitch is a short shot that is played with a golf club called a wedge. For this reason, it is also sometimes called a wedge shot.
Wedges are very similar to irons but they are shorter and they hit the ball much higher. This makes them very suited to short shots where the golfer is trying to get the ball close to the hole.
The pitch shot is usually played from inside about 60 yards. Depending on how far from the flag the golfer is, they will have to use a shorter swing. This is different to longer shots where the golfer can make the same length of swing but choose a different club.
Because of the judgement required, the pitch shot is a difficult shot, even though it is quite short. Professional golfers are so skilled that they can consistently hit the ball very close to the hole on pitch shots.
The chip shot (or just “chip”) is a bit like a pitch shot but even shorter. A chip is played when the golfer has just missed the green. The shot may be no longer than 10 yards in length.
With a chip shot, the golfer tries to land the ball on the green and let it roll towards the hole. As with a pitch shot, a chip requires a good deal of judgement.
The player can choose to play this shot with any club in the bag, although it is usually played with a wedge. A wedge can help to lift the ball over any long grass before the green.
Chipping is one of the most important shots in golf. Hitting the green every time is impossible, even for the very best golfers. Being able to play a good chip shot allows golfers to get themselves out of trouble consistently.
Simply put, a bunker shot is a golf shot that is played from a bunker, otherwise known as a sand trap. The bunker shot can be a difficult shot to master as it requires a very different technique to most other shots in golf.
There are actually 2 different types of bunkers in golf – a greenside bunker and a fairway bunker. Usually when we talk about a bunker shot we mean a greenside bunker shot.
A greenside bunker shot is played from a bunker which is very close to the green. It is there to catch any errant shots that just miss the green.
It is often called a splash shot, due to the technique. The golfer makes contact with the sand behind the ball (not the ball itself) with speed, creating a “splash” of sand. It is actually the sand that carries the ball out of the bunker and not the club. This means the ball lands softly on the green, making it easier to get the ball close to the hole.
This is a difficult shot to play but an excellent one to learn. Being good at greenside bunker shots can help to get golfers out of trouble after a bad or unlucky shot.
Fairway bunkers are like greenside bunkers but are placed much further from the green. They aren’t usually as deep as greenside bunkers, which allows the golfer to play a lower and longer shot out.
Because distance is required, a fairway bunker shot is played more like a normal golf shot. It is not played like a “splash” shot which doesn’t hit the ball very far. It is usually played with an iron and the goal is to hit the golf ball before making contact with the sand.
it is a very difficult shot as it requires a great deal of accuracy. If the golfer makes contact with the sand before the ball, a poor shot is usually the result.
A flop shot is a very high shot that is usually played from the side of the green. It is often called a lob shot, as it lobs the ball very high in the air, allowing it to stop very quickly when it lands.
The flop is a very difficult shot which is usually only played when absolutely neccesary. The most common case is when a bunker is directly inline with the shot to the flag.
In this instance, the golfer may elect to play a flop shot in order to launch the ball over the bunker and get it to stop quickly on the green. The technique is similar to the splash shot but is more difficult since there is no sand to cushion the blow.
Typically, only very good golfers can play this shot consistently. A slight error or misjudgement can lead to a bad shot which gets the golfer in deep trouble.
The putt is arguably the simplist yet most important shot in golf. Putts take place close to the hole, on a smooth putting green, and require very little athletic ability. Yet they are incredibly important as it’s where the golfer tries to get the ball in the hole (think Happy Gilmore!).
Golfers typically use a putter to roll the ball towards the hole once it is on the green. However, a putt can be player when a golfer is off the green if they choose.
Putters are usually the shortest club to give the golfer the most control. Power isn’t required for putting but precision is. The best players in the world are trying to get the ball in the hole every time they putt. Even on long putts!
One putt still counts for one shot, just like a drive or an iron shot. So being able to putt the ball in one shot where others are taking two makes a huge impact on the score. Becomming good at putting is one of the best ways golfers can lower their scores.
An approach shots is any shot which is hit with the intention of getting the ball on the green. This is because the player is “approaching” the green.
For many shots, the green isn’t within reach for the golfer. On these shots, the player isn’t trying to approach the green, they are trying to get themselves in a good position for the next shot.
Approach shots are usually played with irons and wedges for the most control. However, on longer shots, the player may be able to reach the green with a fairway wood. These shots are not typically called approach shots since the golfer isn’t really expected to get the ball on the green from so far away. However, they are technically approach shots.
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.