“Golf and life are a balance of commitment and letting go.”
Bright sun. Blue skies. Green, rolling fairways. You understand your clubs, have your balls of choice, have a teacher, have taken your lessons, and understand the basics.
Now it’s time to hit the ball — as close to the hole, into the hole, or out of a bunker.
To get started, it’s important to know basic golf shots. They will help guide your decisions on how to play and enable you to focus on your strategy, goal, and game.
#1: To chip or to pitch — that is the question
When there’s a short distance or shot between you and the green (the golf hole where the flagstick and hole are located), you can either choose to chip or pitch.
To chip means to make a shot that stays as close to the ground as possible. To pitch means the ball flies higher and does not roll as much.
Use a chip shot when the ground is almost flat and has no disturbances or obstacles (nothing cheap about that!). Use a pitch shot when there are bumps, humps, and “craters” between you and the hole.
#2: Hello, bunker…I shall overcome!
Longman defines a bunker as “a large hole on a golf course filled with sand,” also called a “sand trap.” You’ve probably watched a golfer take his time before making the greenside bunker shot, and we can’t blame him: it takes strategy, focus, and lots of coordination and control.
You see, in this shot, you don’t hit the ball — instead, you hit the sand behind the ball, and it’s the sand that pushes it out. This requires the right amount of power because the sand slows the club down, and the right amount of precision so you successfully get the ball out of the sand trap.
The stance: Get nice and low. For golf pro Justin Rose, a golfer with a low center of gravity will hit shallower into the sand. Have the club head face the target and keep your feet open — pointed off to the left if you are right-handed, and vice versa.
The swing: Make it short, compact, and aligned with your feet line or waist line. This will help prevent you from hitting the sand.
The contact: Keep arms and hands close to the body, with your speed at only 80%. With a low stance, your club head will scoop into the sand just enough to push the ball out.
#3: Remember, you’re still an athlete
Golf may not seem as physically rigorous as contact sports or other ball sports, but a golf player is still an athlete. How you stay in shape, work your muscles out, and strengthen your grip and your core will affect your form, stance, and follow-through which are all important in every golf shot.
To quote Golf Digest: “At address, stand like a defender in basketball…On the backswing, think of a quarterback ready to make a pass…On the downswing, be like a hockey player hitting a slap shot.” These visuals could not be more precise!
#4: The bigger the head, the bigger your chances
Many golf newbies steer clear of the driver, or the longest club with the gigantic head. It may seem too much to handle, but it actually gives you the most chances to hit the ball.
- Tee the ball high
- Swing the club back naturally with a full body turn (with your back facing the ball)
- Swing the club through the ball, letting the head hit the ball naturally
- Let your body naturally go into its follow-through form
If you can hold this form, you have found your speed at using the driver. Yes!
#5: When all seems lost, take another chip shot
As a beginner, the field, the game, all the different shots, goals, and obstacles may get overwhelming at some point. When analysis paralysis rears its ugly head, shoo it away by chipping (see number 1).
The chip, after all, is the shortest, smallest, simplest swing:
- Set up your shot with a narrow stance
- Make sure the ball is in the middle of your stance for short and crisp contact
- Hold your club as such that you can already feel the shot
- Use a short backswing partnered with a short follow-through
The length of your backswing and follow-through will depend on the distance you need to cover to make the shot.
Once you have understood these 5 basic golf shots, go ahead and practice, practice, and practice. Even masters do not stop with improving their game and making sure they do not lose the movement and form they worked hard to “own.”
Now it’s your turn.