Choosing the right golf club for each shot is one of the most important skills in golf. Selecting the proper club can make the difference between a good shot and a poor one. There are many factors to consider when selecting a club, including the distance to the green, lie of the ball, weather conditions, and your personal club preferences. Learning which clubs to use in different situations will help improve your accuracy and consistency on the course.
Types of Golf Clubs
There are five main types of clubs in a typical golf bag: woods, irons, wedges, putters and hybrids. Understanding the features and uses of each type of club is key to choosing the right one for your shot.
Woods are clubs with large heads made of wood, metal or composite materials. They include the driver and fairway woods. Woods have the lowest loft (the angle between the clubface and shaft) which enables you to hit the ball long distances, such as off the tee on par 4s and 5s. The larger club head also makes these clubs more forgiving on mishits.
Irons have smaller metal club heads than woods and are numbered from 3-9 along with a pitching wedge. The Irons are used for a variety of shot distances, from around 150 yards with a 5-iron up to 50 yards and less with an 8- or 9-iron. Irons have more loft than woods, enabling precision shot-making. Long irons like the 3- and 4-iron are harder to hit accurately versus short irons like the 8- and 9-iron.
Wedges have the highest lofted club faces which allows for short, high-flying shots. They are the pitching wedge, gap wedge, sand wedge, and lob wedge. Pitching wedges normally have around 48 degrees of loft. Gap wedges have about 52 degrees of loft. Sand wedges have 56 degrees of loft to help blast out of bunkers. Lob wedges have 60 degrees of loft for shots over hazards or soft landing shots on the green.
Putters are only used on the putting greens. They have little to no loft allowing for accurate rolling of the ball into the hole. Putters come in many styles, lengths and weighting to match a golfer’s personal putting stroke. Finding a putter that gives you confidence and consistent accuracy is key.
Hybrids are a cross between woods and irons. The have the strength and higher launch of woods but the familiar swing and control of irons. Hybrids are a good replacement for the harder to hit long irons like the 2-, 3-, and 4-iron. They can be used for long shots off the tee, getting out of trouble, and approach shots into par 4s and 5s. Hybrids provide versatility for most golfers.
Factors That Determine Club Selection
When choosing a golf club, there are several factors that come into play:
Distance to the Green
The first thing to assess when selecting a club is the distance you need to hit the ball to reach the green. If the green is over 200 yards away, you’ll typically need a woods or hybrid club to cover that distance. In this shots 150-200 yards out, you may choose a 5-, 4- or 3-iron. For distances 100-150 yards, a 6- or 7-iron would be suitable. For shots less than 100 yards, you would opt for a short iron or wedge.
Lie of the Ball
The lie of the ball refers to where it is sitting when you go to hit your shot. If the ball is sitting up nicely on short grass, you can make a full swing with the club you selected based on distance. But if the ball is nestled down in the rough or up against longer grass, that can affect what club you choose. When the ball is down in rough, it’s harder to make solid contact and the ball won’t travel as far. In that case, you may opt to club up, choosing one club stronger than normal to account for the lie.
Weather elements like wind, rain, and elevation can impact the distance balls fly. Into a strong wind, the ball won’t carry as far so you may need to choose a stronger club. Downwind, the ball will go farther so you can club down. For rainy conditions that soften the course and reduce the ball’s roll, it’s smart to account for a little less distance. And for elevated shots at high altitudes, the ball will fly farther than normal. Assess the weather when selecting your club.
Beyond the basic factors, personal preference comes into play when choosing a club. You may have a favorite go-to club like a trusted 7-iron no matter the distance. Some golfers like to hit high iron shots while others prefer low-flying trajectories. Decide if you want to shape a draw or fade into the green. All of these personal hitting preferences can help narrow club selection. Also consider what clubs you hit the most consistently – and go with those to increase accuracy.
Choosing the Best Tee Shot Club
You can’t play golf unless you choose a club to hit off the tee – it’s the only way to begin. After you’ve hit the tee, you can begin playing your way into the hole. Most golfers never learn how to choose the right club off the tee. Rather than thinking their way around the course, employing strategy to conquer each hole, most players simply reach for the driver and swing away. While it is enjoyable to hit long drives down the fairway, it is even more enjoyable to shoot low scores – which can only be achieved by selecting wise clubs on a consistent basis.
That being said, you don’t have to put your driver away and hit three woods and hybrid clubs off the tee all day. The driver is an important part of any golfer’s game plan, but it must be used wisely. Long drives are useless if they end up in the woods or in the water, so it only makes sense to hit the driver when the course allows it. Choose your spots wisely, and it will be even more satisfying when you launch one straight down the fairway.
Consider the following suggestions to make the best possible club selections off the tee during your next round.
Best Possible Club Selections
Never, ever, ever punish a straight shot. You’re probably picturing a ball flight that curves one way or the other based on your typical patterns as you stand on the tee. Most golfers prefer a draw or a fade, so keep that in mind when making tee-shot decisions. However, you should never choose a club that will cause trouble for your ball if you hit it straight.
Determine Your Ideal Distance. Tee shots are practice shots. With the exception of par threes and possibly a short par four, you are not attempting to hit the ball on the green with your tee shot. Instead, you’re attempting to position your ball so that your next shot will be easier to hit the green. Keep that in mind when picking a club off the tee. Golf is a puzzle that you must solve, and each golf course has a unique solution. Choose clubs that will place your ball at a comfortable distance for your approach shots. Some players prefer to get in around 100 yards for a short wedge, while others prefer to get in around 140 or 150 yards. While on the tee, plan ahead and select the club that will place your ball at a distance that you prefer.
Don’t Feel Compelled
Sometimes you’ll walk up to a particular tee shot and just have a bad feeling about what’s ahead of you. If none of the usual options appeal to you, don’t be afraid to lay up off the tee and simply get your ball in play – even if it’s a par four. You can eliminate the big numbers by going for the green in three shots instead of two. With this technique, you’re unlikely to make a par very often, but you should be able to avoid making a 7 or 8 as well. There are no rules requiring you to take long shots when you don’t feel comfortable – laying up is always an option to keep your ball out of trouble.
Off the tee, club selection is all about increasing your chances. You want to reduce the possibility of hitting your ball into a bad spot while also positioning yourself to attack the flag aggressively. The best game plan for you will be determined by your strengths and weaknesses, but the suggestions above should get you started.
Woods are great for covering long distances with their lower loft, larger heads and enhanced forgiveness. Drivers and fairway woods should be in every golfer’s bag. Here’s how to select the right woods for your game:
Your driver is the longest club in your bag designed purely for distance off the tee. Modern drivers have large 460cc heads made of titanium or composite materials. The oversized heads provide forgiveness across the face for straight drives even on mishits. Most drivers today have lofts between 8-12 degrees. Choosing the right driver involves finding the proper combination of head size, shaft length, shaft flex and lofts that maximizes your distance and accuracy. Newer drivers also offer adjustable hosels to fine-tune loft, face angle and shot shaping.
After the driver, Fairway Woods is your next longest club. They have slightly smaller heads than drivers and lofts between 13-25 degrees. The 3-wood and 5-wood are the most commonly used fairway woods. The 3-wood has about 15 degrees of loft, which results in shots that fly high and land gently, making it ideal for reaching par 5s in two shots or tee shots on tight driving holes. For shorter shots into par 4s off the fairway, 5-woods have 18-21 degrees of loft. Fairway woods are versatile options from many levels. Be sure to find a fairway wood with a head shape, size and shaft that allows you to hit it confidently off the tee, fairway and rough.
Avoiding Common Mistakes
One mistake golfers make with woods is using ones with too little or too much loft. Drivers with lofts less than 10 degrees are hard to hit on the sweet spot consistently. On the other hand, lofts over 12 degrees launch the ball too high with spin, reducing distance. For fairway woods, amateurs often opt for tiny 3-wood heads that are difficult to make solid contact with. Overly large fairway woods can also be unwieldy and lead to mishits. Select woods with lofts and sizes that fit your swing rather than following trends. Also make sure to find the right shaft flex and length – improperly fit shafts lead to wayward woods shots.
From short shots around the green to long shots into par 4s and 5s, irons are essential clubs. Choosing the right irons means properly gapping your bag for distance consistency and selecting iron designs that match your swing technique. Here are tips for selecting irons:
Long Irons vs Short Irons
The long Irons vs Short Irons Long irons like the 2-iron through 5-iron launch the ball higher and on a steeper angle thanks to their lower lofts and smaller clubface. Long irons deliver maximum distance, but are tougher to hit accurately and consistently. Short irons from the 6-iron to pitching wedge have higher loft for controlling trajectory and distance. Short irons come in handy for precision shots into greens, but don’t travel as far correctly gapping long and short irons creates consistent distance gaps through your bag.
Blade Irons vs Cavity Back Irons
Blade irons have thin club heads that deliver excellent feel and workability – the tradeoff is blades have little forgiveness on mishits. Cavity back irons have perimeters weighted around the club head perimeter to boost forgiveness and stability. Cavity backs launch higher with straighter shots. Most golfers do better with the forgiveness of cavity backs, but highly skilled players may opt for precision blades.
Matching Irons to Your Swing
Your swing path and ball striking abilities help determine the best irons. Golfers who swing down steeply on irons shots generate high spin and benefit from irons with lower center of gravity that launch higher with spin reduction. Sweeping swing paths produce lower spin on irons that ball flight already, making mid- and high-launch irons ideal. Mishits toward the toe or heel can be corrected more easily with cavity back iron designs. Get properly fit for irons matched to your skills.
Wedges are essential for scrambling and scoring shots around the green. Having the right wedges dialed into your yardages improves proximity to pins on approach. Here are tips for choosing wedges:
Pitching Wedge Pitching wedges are included with iron sets and have lofts around 48 degrees. They serve as an easy short approach club and are used for full swings 100 yards and in. Choose pitching wedges with bounce and sole width that work with your typical turf interaction.
Sand Wedge Sand wedges feature heavy weighting low on the club head for blasting out of sand traps. The wide sole and added bounce allow the club to glide cleanly through sand. Sand wedges normally have 56 degrees of loft.
Lob Wedge Lob wedges have massive lofts up to 60-64 degrees to achieve extreme height on short finesse shots. The higher trajectory allows golfers to clear obstacles and land spin shots softly on greens. Lob wedges also provide versatility around the greens.
Gap Wedge Gap wedges fill the yardage gap between pitching wedges and sand wedges. The Gap wedges usually have 52 degrees of loft. They are useful for full swing shots inside 100 yards when you need more loft than the pitching wedge provides.
Putters may all look similar but small variations matter in the quest for improved accuracy and consistency on the greens. Key factors to evaluate when selecting putters include:
Blade vs Mallet Putters Blade putters have slim profiles with minimal alignment aids that appeal to better golfers’ feel and control. Mallets have thicker heads plus alignment lines and weights to aid aiming and stabilize the stroke – great for newer golfers.
Length of Putter Standard putter lengths range from 32-36 inches. Longer putters 34-36 inches reduce bending for straight back and through strokes. Shorter putters allow more wrist action. Belly putters and broomsticks extend to 44 inches. Find the length that works best with your posture and stroke.
Personal Feel and Preference the look, feel and responsiveness of a putter is one of the most individual golf club choices. Try out different styles and brands to determine what gives you the most confidence to roll solid putts. Elements like weight, grip type, lie angle and visual appearance strongly influence putting performance.
Hybrids have exploded in popularity in recent years as ideal replacements for hard to hit long irons. Hybrids provide an effective combination of forgiveness, distance and playability. Here are tips for dialing in hybrids:
Replacing Long Irons Hybrids with their wood-like design, wider sole and perimeter weighting are much easier to hit than the 2-, 3- and even 4-iron for most golfers. Swapping those long irons with comparable lofted hybrids like an 18-20 degree 3-hybrid greatly improves consistency.
Getting Out of Trouble The sink and slide sole coupled with the higher launch of hybrids makes them perfect for punching out of rough and fairway bunkers. Their forgiveness also helps escape tricky lies in the rough or around tree lines.
Versatility of Hybrids While mainly used as long iron replacements, hybrids are useful in a wide range of situations. They can be teed up like fairway woods to find tight fairways or reach par 5s. Hybrids are solid options from any lie requiring accuracy like sidehill slopes and downhill shots thanks to their ease of launch.
Getting Custom Fit for Clubs
Often golfers make the mistake of choosing clubs off the shelf based on budget or looks. To maximize performance, it’s essential to get properly fit by a professional club fitter. Launch monitors and swing tests help determine ideal sizes, specs and shafts for your abilities and style. Being fit for proper swing weight, length, loft, lie angle, shaft flex and grip size improves consistency. Don’t settle for standard specs – get fit.
Practicing with New Clubs
When you invest in new golf clubs, especially ones you’ve been custom fit for, it’s vital to then practice with them to become accustomed to their feel and dial in distances. Work with your new woods and irons at the driving range to learn their typical yardages and ball flights. Get to know your new wedges by hitting pitch, chip and sand shots. On the practice putting green, roll putts to become comfortable with your new putter’s distance control. Don’t debut new clubs at the course – practice first.
Selecting the proper golf club is an essential skill for every player from tour pros to 20 handicappers. Making smart club choices improves shot accuracy and consistency for lower scores. Understanding the strengths of drivers, woods, irons, wedges, and putters allows you to make better decisions under pressure on the course. Don’t just blindly grab any club – consider the distance, lie, conditions and your personal hitting attributes. Mastering your clubs takes practice, so put in the time on the range to make the right choice for every swing scenario. With the right clubs shots in your hands, you’ll play with renewed confidence knowing you have the best tools for golf success.
The main factors are distance to the target, lie of the ball, weather conditions, and your personal preferences. You need to assess how far you want to hit the ball and what club can cover that yardage. The lie impacts what club you can make good contact with. Wind, rain and elevation affect distance so adjust club selection accordingly. And your personal tendency to shape shots or hit high/low trajectories helps narrow choices.
Through range practice and course experience, you’ll start to dial in your personal yardages for each club. A 75-yard shot may be an easy pitching wedge for you, while 150 yards is a smooth 8-iron. Get fit for proper club lengths and lofts and track your distances.
Hybrids combine attributes of woods and irons to create clubs that are easy to hit from various lies. They replace hard-to-hit long irons and can also be used off the tee and fairway. Hybrids launch the ball higher with more forgiveness.
Consider your wedge yardage gaps, what turf conditions you typically play on, and what types of greenside shots you struggle with. Choose a bounce and sole width suited for your swing. Select lofts like 52/56/60 degrees to properly gap wedge shots.
You are ready to learn more about golf