Did you know that PGA Tour players only hit about 60% of fairways? That means 40% of the time they have to navigate the rough, trees, and fairway bunkers just like us everyday golfers.
So if you only hit 40 or 50% of fairways in regulation, don’t beat yourself up. But you need to learn how to play a punch shot to get yourself back in position when you’re under trees.
Keep reading to learn more about this basic golf shot and how it can help you save strokes every round.
How to Hit a Punch Shot
Follow this simple 5-step process to hit a low punch shot with a lower ball flight (all tips based on a right-handed golfer).
Step 1: Assess the Shot
If you find yourself out of position off the tee, the first step is to analyze the shot. If you’re in the trees, this is the time to get strategic to eliminate big numbers (like a double bogey or worse). Too many golfers try to hit heroic shots through the trees instead of punching out.
Oftentimes punching out back to the fairway is the best way to not compound a bad tee shot. Always calculate your distance and hole location, then try to find the best place to hit.
First, you want to look if there are several options or gaps to hit through. Find the largest one so you have the best chance of getting yourself back into position.
Next, you want to assess the lie as it will dictate the type of shot to hit.
If your ball is sitting down in the rough with a bad lie, it will go lower but might not be able to use as much club. If your golf ball is sitting up, it might require a lower lofted club because it might create the ball to “jump” (aka a flier lie) and hit any low-hanging branches.
Step 2: Choose the Right Club
Once you assess the shot and lie for your low shot, it’s time to select the right club. You want to use less loft based on how long you need to hit the shot.
To hit a low shot you want less loft – which typically means a longer club like 3-5 iron (if it’s a full shot). You usually need more club since you will choke up as well.
But don’t automatically assume that you always need to use your 3, 4 or 5 iron. Since they’re harder to hit than a 5 or 6 iron, it’s not always the best idea.
Plus, if you’re close to the green you can hit the ball low with a short iron based on the following swing adjustments. But if you need to keep it very low, go with your longest iron.
To hit a full low punch shot, it’s a good idea to hit a long iron and not a hybrid for these shots. Hybrids are meant to launch the golf ball higher than long irons which make them bad club choices for punch shots.
Step 3: Change Your Address Position
Once you have a good idea of the shot and club, you want to do three things.
First, it’s time to paint a clear picture in your mind. The more clear the better so you can get a good visualization of the shot and swing with confidence. Too many amateur golfers skip this step and never commit to the ball flight for a low punch shot.
Next, you want to change your mindset and think of it like a short game shot. According to Greg Norman, you should think about this shot similar to a pitch shot.
“The address position is almost the same as for a chip shot. You grip down on the shaft of the club and play the ball back near the center of your stance, so that your hands are well forward and about two thirds of your weight is on your left side.”
By choking up on the club 1-2 inches you are making it shorter. This will give you more control and allow you to hit it straighter, similar to a knockdown shot. And by shifting your weight more to your front foot helps you create a descending blow (which keeps it lower).
Finally, move the ball slightly back in your stance as you don’t want it off your front foot. The ball position for a punch shot should be 1-2 balls behind your normal ball position.
Typically, in the middle or one ball back of the middle – don’t put it off your back foot as you’ll struggle to make good contact. Also make sure to get your hands forward so your lead wrist is in front of the golf ball to reduce loft.
Step 4: Take a Shorter Backswing
The fourth step to hitting punching shots is to take a smaller backswing. You do not want a full backswing where the club nearly reaches parallel position.
Instead, try to take it back to less than shoulder height. For very short distance punch shots you might even take the club back to your waist.
As Greg Norman said in the same article, “Another aspect of the punch shot is that it is played with a relatively fast swing, like a boxing jab. It’s a quick back-and-through motion with some snap to it.
Keep your wrists out of it, and try to keep the club as low to the ground as possible throughout the swing. The follow-through is very short – your hands shouldn’t move much past your left knee.”
Tempo is key with your backswing as too many golfers tend to take it back either or too slow or make too long of a backswing.
If you take it back too slow, you are more likely to accelerate and hit the shot too high. This typically leads to hitting tree branches and having to replay a similar shot the next time.
While other golfers take the club too far back which leads to deceleration. If you take a normal length backswing but only want to follow through to your waist, it’s almost inevitable that you slow down at impact. This leads to the ball going almost nowhere, especially if you’re deep rough.
So make sure to take a quick, efficient backswing that isn’t too long. Take 2-3 practice swings behind the golf ball to feel the smaller swing and visualize the shot.
Step 5: Small Follow Through
Finally, make sure you finish the golf swing with a lower follow through position. You do not want to be fully wrapped around the body like normal when you are trying to hit a low punch shot.
The lower you want the ball to go, the shorter the follow through.
I like to think, swing to my ribs (or less). This will help you flight the golf ball lower and get your ball back in play. Save the high follow through for high shots where you want to launch the ball more up in the air.
Practice the Punch Shot
The punch shot isn’t a complex one and will become second nature after some time. But the best way to make it automatic is to work on it in practice. On the driving range, hit tons of punch shots with different clubs to see how low you can hit it.
Test out different ball positions, gripping up on it more, and experiment with swing lengths. This will give you more confidence when you’re out on the course.
Punch Shot vs. Stinger in Golf
Now that you know how to hit a punch shot, you might wonder how it differs from a stinger shot. If you don’t know about the stinger, it’s a golf shot that has been made famous thanks to Tiger Woods.
A stinger in golf is a low-flighted long iron that doesn’t get very high off the ground but runs like crazy. Tiger used this shot a ton in the early 2000s, especially when playing links golf, to help him find more fairways. Since he hit his driver all over the golf course, this was a reliable option off the tee.
So, how does this shot differ from a punch shot?
First, a stinger is hit off the tee, typically with a long iron. Where a punch shot is typically hit when playing in the wind or hitting under tree branches.
Second, a stinger is actually a full backswing and nearly full follow through. Where a punch shot is a smaller backswing and follow through.
FAQs About Hitting a Low Punch Shot in Golf
Do you have more questions about hitting a golf punch shot? If so, keep reading to learn more now.
What is a golf knockdown shot?
A knockdown is a reliable shot type that is similar to a punch shot. However, a knockdown is more of a full swing and typically goes 80-85% of your normal distance. While a punch shot might go 30-100 yards (or slightly more) depending on the specific shot.
However, the two types of shots have a lot of similarities including:
- Hands ahead
- Weight forward
- Further back ball position
- Choking up on the golf club
- A smaller backswing and follow through
Do stingers go as far?
Stingers are great golf shots if you can hit them consistently well. Most golfers don’t have the correct swing sequence and fundamentals to execute a low-flighted long iron. But some amateur scratch golfers and pros do, which makes them very reliable.
They might go as far or even further than a normal shot depending on the golf course conditions. If the course is dry and the fairways are running, they can get a ton of roll-out.
Master this 5-step process to start hitting better punch shots. Make sure to keep your weight forward, hands ahead, and choke up to beat a strong wind or keep it under tree branches.
Now that you know the fundamentals, it’s crucial to work on them at the driving range so you can execute on the golf course.
Don’t forget, even professional golfers only hit about 60% of fairways each round. This means you’ll average about 50-60% and likely need to hit punch shots throughout the round. The sooner you can learn how to hit this shot, the sooner you can save shots and recover after a wayward drive.
Just remember, don’t try to play overly aggressive from the trees. Sometimes you have to take your medicine and get the ball back in play to try and save par.