Golf is hard for a lot of reasons including the complex swing, different clubs, unique course designs, and weather. But the biggest reason to me is the amount of different types of golf shots.
As a beginner golfer, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with how many shots you need in your arsenal. From the opening shot to the final putt, there are a lot of shots to master when playing golf. Plus, just trying to keep up with the lingo golfers use as well.
Keep reading to learn the most common shots in golf and how to hit a lot of them so you’re a complete player from tee to green.
Different Types of Golf Shots
There are so many golf terms it’s easy to get mixed up but this definitive list should make it easy. Let’s start from the first shot of the day… the drive.
Drive (Tee Shot)
A drive is one of the most important golf shots that happens on every hole. Your drive happens from the tee box (there are usually 3-6 tee boxes on each course) and happens in between or behind the tee markers.
If you’re on a par 4 or par 5, most golfers tend to hit driver or maybe 3-wood as their drive aka tee shot. While a tee shot on a par 3 tends to happen with an iron vs. a driver or fairway woods (unless it’s a really long hole).
Your approach shot is your second shot to the green on a par 4 (or your tee shot on a par 3). If you’re a long driver of the golf ball, your approach shot also might be your second shot to a par 5 as well.
If you hit your approach on the green after your drive, this is known as a green in regulation. These can happen from the fairway bunker, fairway, and rough.
A lay-up shot is a golf shot where you intentionally lay up short of the green. Lay up shots in golf tend to happen for two reasons:
- You can’t reach the green on your second shot, which is common on par 5s and some short par 4s. For example, if you have 280 yards to the green but can’t hit longer than 240 yards with a 3W, you will lay up short of the green to get yourself in good position for the next shot.
- You’re in trouble off the tee and can’t reach the green. For example, if you slice your tee shot right of the target, you might end up under some trees and can’t hit a full shot, So you have to punch out to get yourself back in position for your next shot.
Layups aren’t the easiest shot sometimes and require a lot of focus and discipline to get the ball in position for the next shot.
A punch shot in golf is when you need to keep it low to avoid trees or other obstacles. This is a shot that you want to use less loft (typically mid to long irons) to keep the ball flight lower. You’ll also need to make some adjustment at setup and during your swing so you don’t hit it too high.
According to Tiger Woods, this is the hardest shot in golf!
Because it requires you to have a straight club face and straight path at impact position. According to the ball flight laws, this is very challenging and why most golfers tend to not hit straight shots often.
Most golfers struggle with a slice which is a shot that goes left to right in the air. It’s arguably one of the most frustrating shots in golf because you lose distance and miss fairways. Golfers tend to hit shots with longer clubs like driver and 3-wood due to the length and loft of these clubs.
A smaller version of a slice is known as a fade. This shot goes slightly left to right in the air but is much more controlled. It’s a very reliable shot if you can hit it consistently well.
A hook shot in golf is the complete opposite of a slice where the ball goes right to left in the air. If it’s low and left, it’s commonly called a “duck hook” as well. This shot has a ton of forward spin due to the clubface at impact and can end up in a lot of bad spots on the golf course.
A tamer version of a hook shot is known as a draw. This shot travels slightly right to left in the air and is one of the most coveted shots in golf.
A thin shot (aka a “worm burner”) is when you hit a shot low on the club face. This occurs from missing the sweet spot and hitting it a groove or two low.
A thin shot is arguably better than a fat shot as it still goes almost the normal distance. Hence, the saying, “Thin to win.”
The opposite of a thin shot in golf is a fat shot (aka chunk). This is when you make contact with the top grooves above the sweet spot and the ball goes very little distance. It’s very frustrating for most golfers as the ball doesn’t go very far and your grooves get packed with mud.
A blind shot is when you can’t see your target. You might have to hit over a desert area, trees, or other obstacles and give it your best guess. These aren’t easy shots as they take a lot of commitment on your part since you can’t see the target.
This golf shot is when you get a “redo” of your past shot. This isn’t allowed in competition but a common shot among amateur golfers. If this happens on the first tee it’s known as a “breakfast ball.”
A topped shot is a frustrating shot where the ball only travels a few yards and has tons of forward spin. This happens from hitting too much on the top of the ball due to issues in your setup and backswing.
A shank aka the “S” word in golf is every player’s nightmare. This shot is also called a “hosel rocket” as the ball makes contact toward the hosel of the club.
When this occurs the ball shoots right immediately after impact and can leave you in some bad spots on the golf course. Not to mention, it hurts your confidence a lot too.
Short Game Shots
There are tons of different types of golf shots for the long game but you need to know common short game terms too. Let’s review the types of shots that happen on or around the greens from close range.
A putt is a shot that happens when you’re on the greens. You use a putter to roll the ball on the green in effort to get it in the hole. It’s common for golfers to say “I one putted” or “I hate three putting” to describe their performance on the greens.
A fringe putt is when you choose to use a putter when the ball is resting on the fringe, not the green. You can’t lift, clean, and mark this putt since it’s not on the green but oftentimes it’s the best strategy to get it close to the hole.
Far too many golfers try to chip or pitch these shots and waste a ton of shots around the green. 99% of the time, putting from the fringe is the right strategy.
A lag putt is a type of shot where you face a long putt on the green. Lag putts are typically 30+ feet and the goal is to “lag” it close to the hole. Distance control is more important than target line and challenging for a lot of golfers.
While you always want to try to make them, the real goal of long putts is to not three-putt. Three putts are round killers and really frustrate good golfers. Work on your speed on the practice green to avoid costly “three jacks” (aka three putts).
A gimme putt is another golf term that means a putt is “given” to you. Meaning, you don’t need to putt it as your playing partner(s) have conceded you the putt.
I never like to even attempt “gimmes” in case I miss it. Instead, say thanks to your group and pick up the ball, and then put the golf club back in the bag. Gimmes are not allowed in competition as you must hole every single putt.
A chip shot happens near the green with a gap or pitching wedge. Some players also use short or even mid-irons too. The goal of this shot is to get it on the green and get it rolling like a putt. These are very reliable shots and one that you need to have with you to play well.
A pitch is a shot that goes higher than a chip shot and is used with a sand or lob wedge. Pitch shots can happen around the greens all the way back to 20–30 yards short of the green. Pitches go higher, land softer, and don’t have nearly as much roll as chip shots.
A higher pitch shot is commonly known as a flop shot. A flop shot in golf is one of the most fun shots to watch. Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods made these shots “cool” as they require a huge swing only for the ball to travel a short distance.
These shots require a lob wedge with an open face to launch it high and land softly on the greens. Click here to learn how to hit a flop shot in golf.
Greenside Bunker Shot (Sand Trap)
A greenside bunker shot is when your ball ends up in the sand near the green. These are tough shots for everyday golfers as they require different technique than a chip or pitch shot.
Plus, there are some variations to a common bunker shot to make the shot even more difficult including:
A plugged lie bunker shot is one of the most challenging shots in golf. This happens when your ball embedded in the sand vs. sits up in the sand like a traditional bunker shot. It usually occurs when there is too much sand in a bunker (typically the face of the bunker) and/or a high approach shot.
Plugged lies are so different from normal bunker shots as you can’t make the same bunker swing. Instead, you need to make more of a chopping motion to hit down on the shot to pop it out of the sand. It’s not an easy golf shot, even for the best players in the world as it’s very unpredictable.
Another version of a bunker shot is a fried egg. This happens when your ball hits the bunker and leaves a small circle around the ball. It looks like a fried egg as the ball is the equivalent of the yolk.
Fried egg bunker shots are tough because it’s harder to make consistent contact with the sand behind the ball. These shots tend to not have as much spin and challenge even the best golfers.
FAQs About Different Shots for your Golf Game
Do you have more questions about the different types of shots in golf? If so, keep reading to learn our most frequently asked questions and answers below.
What are the 9 basic golf shots?
Tiger Woods made the 9-shot drill famous in the golf world and still to this day one of the best driving range drills. The goal is to hit all 9 shots with one club in the bag; these shots are:
- Fade: high, low, and normal trajectory.
- Draw: high, low, and normal trajectory.
- Straight: high, low, and normal trajectory.
Learning how to hit all 9 shots in golf can give you great club face awareness and make practice more effective. Plus, you’ll never know when you need a high draw or a low fade on the golf course. Hitting all these shots in practice will help you get prepared for whatever shot you might face on the course.
How many types of shots are there in golf?
As you can tell from the comprehensive list above, there are tons of different shots in golf. Which is why I think it’s the hardest game on the planet.
Unlike most sports, you have to learn how to hit a myriad of different shots with different clubs in all types of conditions. You might be great at driving but struggle with approach shots. Or, great with your approaches but terrible at putting.
What is a stinger in golf?
A stinger is an advanced golf shot that was made famous by Tiger Woods. This shot has a very low, piercing trajectory and is great if you’re a low handicap golfer and need a consistent shot off the tee. The shot works well with a long iron (typically 2-4 iron) as it hits and rolls out.
The stinger is a great shot when playing links golf courses or fairways that are firm and fast. But they’re not the easiest shot to hit and something that only advanced players should attempt.
What is the rarest shot in golf?
The rarest shot is a hole in one or a double eagle. Both shots are extremely uncommon and the odds are stacked against you! But they do happen so keep swinging because you never know what the Golf Gods have in mind.
As you can tell, there are a lot of different shots in golf. As a new golfer, focus on these shots first:
- Pitch (and sand shots)
These five basic shots will help you develop a good foundation for golf. You can always build upon them by learning to hit flops, draws, and other more advanced shots. But in the beginning, keep it simple to make golf a little bit easier. There’s no need to try to shape shots yet, instead focus on the basics