To hit the ball, the club is swung at the motionless ball on the ground (or wherever it has come to rest) from a side stance. Many golf shots make the ball travel through the air (carry) and roll out for some more distance (roll).
Every shot is a compromise between length and precision, as long shots are generally less precise than short ones. Obviously, a longer shot may result in a better score if it helps reduce the total number of strokes for a given hole, but the benefit may be more than outweighed by additional strokes or penalties if a ball is lost, out of bounds, or comes to rest on difficult ground. Therefore, a skilled golfer must assess the quality of his or her shots in a particular situation in order to judge whether the possible benefits of aggressive play are worth the risks.
Types of shots
- A tee shot is the first shot played from a teeing ground. It is often made with a driver (i.e., a 1-wood) off a tee for long holes, or with an iron on shorter holes. Ideally, tee shots on long holes have a rather shallow flight and long roll of the ball, while tee shots on short holes are flighted higher and are expected to stop quickly.
- A fairway shot is similar to a drive when done with a fairway wood. If accuracy and distance control are required, irons are usually played from the fairway. Irons or wedges are also often used when playing from the rough. However, a tee may not be used once the ball has been brought into play; therefore, playing from the fairway may be more difficult depending on how the ball lies. A clean downward strike is required to "pinch" the ball against the turf in order to get the ball airborne. Mis-hits from the fairway include thin shots, also known as "skulls", and fat shots, also known as "chunks". Thin shots are characterized by striking the middle of the ball, while fat shots occur when the club strikes the turf behind the ball.
- A bunker shot is played when the ball is in a bunker (sand trap). It resembles a pitch and is played with a "sand wedge." The sand wedge is designed with a wider base allowing the club to skid in the sand. The bunker shot differs from other golf shots in that the ball is not touched by the clubhead, but is lifted together with an amount of sand.
- Punch/Knockdown/Stinger: a low shot that carries through the air in order to clear a low hanging tree branch or sometimes high winds.
- On the green, a putter is used to putt the ball. The ball rolls on the ground, never becoming air-borne.
An approach shot is played into the green from outside the green, usually over an intermediate or short distance. Types of approach shots are:
- Pitch: an approach shot that flies the ball onto or near the green. Depending upon conditions (wind, firmness of fairway and green and/or contour of the green) a skilled player may hit a high, soft landing shot with little roll or a low running shot attempting to keep the ball in the air as much as possible. Depending upon the way the ball is struck, this shot may roll out, stop or even spin backwards towards the player. Pitch shots are usually hit with any club from a six iron to a lob wedge.
- Flop: an even higher approach shot that stops shortly after it hits the ground. It is used when a player must play over an obstacle to the green. It is usually played with a sand wedge or a lob wedge, with the face laid wide open.
- Chip: a low approach shot where the ball makes a shallow flight and then rolls out on the green. Chips are made with a less lofted club than the "pitch" shot or "lob" shot in order to produce the desired flatter trajectory.
There are several possible causes of poor shots, such as poor alignment of the club, wrong direction of swing, and off-center hits where the clubhead rotates around the ball at impact. Many of these troubles are aggravated with the "longer" clubs and higher speed of swing. Furthermore, the absolute effect of a deviation will increase with a longer shot compared with a short one.
Some of the more common Poor shots are explained below:
Hook : The ball flight curves sharply to the left for a right-handed player (to the right for left-handed players). A severe hook is commonly called a Duck-Hook or a Snap hook.
Slice : The ball curves sharply to the right for a right-handed player (to the left for left-handed players). For beginning golfers this is the typical outcome of most shots. A severe slice is commonly referred to as a Banana-Slice or a Banana-Ball.
Pull : For a right-handed player the ball is 'pulled' across the body and flies to the left of the intended target without curvature (the ball flies to the right for left-handed players). A Pull-Hook indicates that the ball started out left of target and curved even further to the left. A Pull-Slice means the ball starts out left then curves back to the right.
Push : The opposite of a Pull, where the ball is 'pushed' away from the body. The ball flies to the right of the intended target for right-handed players (to the left for left-handed players). A Push-Slice indicates that the ball started out right of target and curved even further to the right. A Push-Hook means the ball starts out right then curves back to the left.
Shank : The ball is struck by the hosel or the outer edge of the club rather than the clubface and shoots sharply to the right for a right-handed player.
Thin or Blade or Skull : The ball is struck with the bottom edge of the club and not its face. This may damage the surface of a golf ball with a soft cover material, and may result in a stinging sensation in one's hands on a cold day.
Fat : A fat shot occurs when the club strikes the ground before the ball. A large divot is usually produced along with a clubface covered in the divot.
Top : The topside of the ball is struck with the blade of the club. The result usually consists of the ball rolling forward on the ground with much topspin.
Sky Ball : The opposite of a Top. This occurs most frequently when teeing the ball up too high, though sometimes a Sky Ball will occur when the ball is sitting on top of long blades of grass and the club has space to pass under the ball. The top side of the club strikes the bottom side of the ball and forces the ball higher into the air than desired. A true sky ball occurs when the ball travels farther vertically than it does horizontally.
Flyer : This type of shot usually occurs when playing from deep rough. Grass blades come between the club face and the ball, preventing the grooves of the club from imparting maximum backspin on the ball. This loss of lift from backspin will typically cause a lower, longer shot than a cleanly contacted shot. The resulting flight of the ball is that the target is overshot by 10 or more yards and the ball does not stop as quickly on the green.
Hood : Somewhere during the swing the clubface becomes more perpendicular to the ground, or angled more toward the golfer. The clubface may strike the ground first or get caught up in heavy rough. This results in the ball flying lower to the ground than intended and usually resulting in a Pull as well.
Worm burner or Groundhog Killer : The ball is hit extremely low to the ground, or bounces rapidly across the ground, essentially "burning up worms" or hitting groundhogs as it speeds along.
Chili Dip : A common miscue while chipping where the ball is flubbed only a few feet forward. Sometimes referred to as a Chunk.
Fried Egg: This situation occurs when the ball lands in a sand bunker and does not move from its landing spot. A small crater, or frying pan, encircles the "egg" (golf ball), and makes the next shot a difficult one. This is more commonly known as "plugged".
Foot Wedge : An illegal act of literally kicking one's ball to a better location. The character Judge Smails uses this technique In the movie Caddyshack.
Whiff: Missing the ball completely after stepping up to hit counts as a stroke. Usually results in a form of embarrassment, followed by another shot. May be referred to as Practice Swing.
Iron Hooker: Holding the club too far forward causing a flicking action which results in a major hook.