Shots In Golf: Every Golf Shot Explained
There are so many different types of shots in golf, and one of the joys of the sport is that there are so many ways of getting the job done. Watch any golf broadcast and you’ll hear a wide array of outlandish terms describing each different shot the pros come up with. But what do they mean?
Essentially, a DRAW is a shot that curves to the left, while a FADE is a shot that curves to the right. A PUNCH is a shot that is designed to stay low to the ground.
A FAT shot is one where you hit the ground first, and a THIN or a TOP is where you hit too far up on the ball.
In the short game, a FLOP is a high, soft-landing shot; a CHIP is a low running shot; and a PITCH is somewhere in the middle, usually taken from a little further out.
Keep reading for a more in-depth summary of all the different types of shots in golf you might expect to encounter over the course of a round.
BALL FLIGHT TERMS
One of the categories of descriptions for shots in golf is different words to describe how the ball moves in the air. This is what we call the BALL FLIGHT.
The most common ball flight among amateur golfers is the FADE. The fade occurs when you swing across the ball with an open face, imparting left to right spin (for a right-handed golfer). This causes the ball to start just left of the target and float to the right.
If you impart too much spin on the ball, however, it can cause a SLICE. A slice is a shot that dramatically curves to the right. It can start left and curve, or can start straight, but the common factor is that it turns a long way offline to the right. This is the most common mishit for amateur golfers, especially with a driver.
The inverse shot in golf to the fade is the draw. This is a shot that starts right of the target and curves back to the left. The draw is a more powerful shot because it has topspin, so will run more after hitting the ground.
The bad shot for people who draw the ball is called a HOOK. This is where the ball dramatically spins off to the left. Lee Trevino once said ‘you can talk to a fade but a hook won’t listen’. Because this shot has so much topspin, it will keep running further and further offline.
As well as shots that curve, there are terms for shots in golf that go in the wrong direction but in a straight line. When you hit the ball straight right of your target, this is called a PUSH. When you hit a shot that goes directly left, it is called a PULL.
Quick note: I am referring to right and left because most golfers are right-handed. However, you can easily understand how these golf shots relate to left-handed golfers by simply inverting the directions!
Sometimes a golfer will want their ball flight to be very low, perhaps to keep it under some trees or avoid a big wind. This shot is called a PUNCH. An extreme punch, often hit by a long iron and aiming to stay very low, is called a STINGER – this is an extremely hard shot to hit, and is only done by very skilled golfers!
Hitting bad golf shots is part of the game – albeit an incredibly frustrating one! Having the correct vocabulary for your bad shots can help you to understand them better and seek help on how to fix them.
Often when we are hitting irons and wedges, we might hit the ground before the ball, causing the ball to go no distance at all. This is one of the most frustrating shots in golf and is most commonly referred to as a FAT shot.
There are, however, many different terms for this shot. Some people might refer to it as a CHUNK, or say that they ‘caught that shot a bit HEAVY’. One of my favorite golf idioms is the phrase ‘big ball before little ball’ – meaning you hit the Earth itself (the big ball) before the golf ball.
The reverse of this is when you hit the ground too far after the ball, or not at all. This causes your golf club to hit halfway up the ball, sending it flying off very low. This shot in golf is most commonly referred to as a THIN.
If you hit a shot where you make contact extremely high on the ball, it can sometimes cause the ball to barely move forward at all, sometimes hopping up in the air first. This is called a TOP.
The most dreaded of all shots in golf is the SHANK. Some people fear it so much they won’t even say its name, for fear doing so will summon it like Bloody Mary in a mirror.
The shank occurs when you hit the ball so far off the heel of the golf club that you catch the hosel – the point the clubhead meets the shaft. This sends the ball flying off at a forty-five-degree angle to the right of the target. You might hear a shank called a HOSEL ROCKET.
SHORT GAME SHOTS
There are just as many short game shots in golf as there are approach shots and drives off the tee.
One of the most common shots you will see around the green is the CHIP SHOT. This can be played with almost any club, from a wedge to long iron. The chip shot is played like a putt and is designed to pop the ball up onto the green and get it running towards the hole.
The chip shot is often considered a low-risk shot, as you’re not trying to get it in the air too much. It is sometimes referred to as a BUMP AND RUN.
Sometimes, however, you won’t be able to hit a chip shot and will have to hit an approach that goes very high in a very short distance and lands without rolling. This is called the FLOP SHOT.
Flop shots are most often played with a sand wedge or a lob wedge and are very hard to pull off. Only the most skilled golfers can play a flop shot well.
Flop shots and chip shots are most often played from very close to the green. However, some shots in golf are played from a little further back, but not so far as to need a full shot. In this situation, we need to hit a short, high shot that lands and stops. This is called a PITCH.
Pitch shots can be played with any wedge depending on the distance, though most golfers have a favored club they like to use. Pitches can range in distance from five to ten yards, all the way up to seventy or eighty.
Finally, there are a number of types of putt that are good to know – putting often gets overlooked, but is in fact possibly the most important shot in golf.
A long-range putt that you are just trying to get close to the hole is called a LAG PUTT. With lag putts you aren’t really trying to hole them, just get them close enough that you have a tap in for your next shot.
If a ball gets so close to the hole that it’s almost impossible to miss, it might be called a GIMME. This term comes from match play, where an opponent can ‘give’ the putt (i.e, not make them putt it).
However, it should be remembered that gimmes aren’t legal in strokeplay or Stableford competitions, and even the shortest putts should still be tapped in.