Beginners’ Guide to Using the Right Golf Clubs

Golf is an enduring sport that has withstood the test of time. As you play more, you’re likely to experience many aspects of the game that can result in frustration, such as hitting a shot in the water, launching a tee shot into the woods, or watching your ball roll into a monster bunker. It would be nice to have a caddy to call upon to pick out your clubs, but not everyone is so fortunate. Using the right golf clubs in different situations is fundamental to improving your golf game. Use the following tips to assist you.

clubheads mixKnow Your Golf Clubs

Ideally, each shot down the fairway shortens the distance between your ball and the hole. Your goal is to hit the ball as far as possible from the tee shot. On each follow-up shot, your focus turns more to accuracy and less on distance. You need both, of course, and the key to perfecting your game is developing an effective balance that gets your ball to the hole.

To do this, you will play different clubs to make different shots. USGA Rules allow up to 14 clubs in your golf bag. Deciding which one to use on any given shot is part of the challenge of the game. Today, clubs can take several forms: drivers, fairway woods, irons, hybrids, putters, and wedges. A set of clubs, typically, includes a driver; a combination of woods, irons, and hybrids, a putter, a pitching wedge, and perhaps a sand wedge. Sets are designed for beginners and, generally, cost less than buying clubs individually. More experienced golfers tend to build their sets by buying higher quality clubs individually.

Sets make good starter clubs because they are designed for “game improvement.” The technology in game improvement clubs helps lesser skilled golfers launch and lift the ball.

Club faces are made from different types of metal, such as titanium or steel. Different materials will affect the ball differently, changing how far it travels and how high.

Know Your Woods

Experienced players tee off using a driver, which is also a 1-wood. Beginner golfers are encouraged to use a fairway wood, such as 3- or even 5-wood, off the tee on Par 4 and up courses. They offer more accuracy than the driver. As the name implies, fairway woods are woods used to move the ball down the fairway after teeing off. They have a smaller head than drivers and shorter shafts, which makes it easier for beginners and weekend golfers to lift the ball. The 7-, 9-, and 11-woods are known as “utility woods.” Beginners often hit with them in place of the 4-, 5-, and 6-irons, respectively. Their larger heads make it easier to achieve solid contact with the ball. Use your woods when you are 175 to 200 yards or more from the green.

Know Your Irons

Most fairway shots are made using irons. On smaller courses, such as par-3s, irons are also used to tee off. Generally, you’ll use your irons when you are less than 200 yards away from the green. The closer you are to the green, the higher the iron you’ll need.

In a full set, irons, typically, include 3-, 4-, 5-, 6-, 7-, 8-, and 9-clubs and the pitching wedge.

Irons are categorized in the following way:

  • Long irons (2-, 3-, and 4-irons)
  • Mid-irons (5-, 6- and 7-irons)
  • Short irons (8- and 9-irons and pitching wedge)

For beginners, the shorter the iron, usually, the easier it is to hit and control the ball.

Generally, the higher the number on the club (e.g., 9), the higher the ball elevates (more loft) but the shorter the distance it travels. Lower numbered clubs (e.g., 3) have longer shafts and carry the ball farther and lower.

Also, the more loft, the steeper the trajectory of the ball. So, shots rise and fall at a steeper angle. The ball hit with the 9-iron will roll less than one hit with a 5-iron once they hit the ground. Among the common irons, the pitching wedge produces the least amount of loft, with the ball traveling the shortest distances in the air and on the ground.

With irons, each club tends to travel 10-15 feet farther than the next shorter club. So, normally, balls hit with 3-irons tend to travel the farthest, and those hit with pitching wedges travel the shortest distances.

Knowing these behaviors can help you choose the right golf club for each distance and course condition.

Know Your Hybrids

Hybrid golf clubs combine the best elements of irons and woods to help beginner golfers lift the ball when striking it. Hybrids are designed to also lessen the problems caused by mis-hitting the ball. They have become so popular that even pros include them among their 14 allotted clubs on the course.

Generally, hybrids replace longer irons, the 2-, 3-, 4-, and 5-irons. The most common hybrid sets replace the 3- and 4-irons. Hybrids also are sometimes referred to as “utility clubs.”

Short or Long? Playing the Right Golf Club

Beginner golfers tend to swing better when using shorter clubs. This is why golf coaches often start by getting their students accustomed to swinging with the 9- and 7-irons and pitching wedge.

Longer irons pose more of a challenge for both male and female golfers. The issue is control. It is easier to control shorter golf clubs than longer ones, especially for inexperienced golfers.

Shorter golf clubs offer a tighter, steeper swing arc. Golf clubs that are only a few inches longer require more arc to the swing. For beginner golfers, it takes time to get a feel for the movement of the club, and longer clubs simply make this more challenging.

Even more experienced golf players have to learn to master their long irons. Hitting a great shot with a club that has a small head, a long shaft, and a tiny amount of loft is a bit of an art.

Tip: When swinging with longer clubs move the ball farther up within your stance. This will give you more room to make a smooth wide arc with the longer club. You’ll have a little more time to square the club head with the ball before making contact.

How Conditions Can Affect Club Choice

Variables on the golf course can change at any moment and influence the type of club you need to use. It’s important to know how different factors affect play. For example, a 3-iron and a 5-wood will knock the ball about the same distance, but the 5-wood will hit the ball much higher, causing it to land softer and roll a shorter distance than the 3-iron.

If you’re playing on a day when there is no wind, you might choose to play your 5-wood. But, make that same shot with windy conditions, and the 3-iron might be a better choice because the flight of the ball will have a lower trajectory. Your technique will differ based on whether the wind is pounding you from the front rather than behind. With the wind at your face, you would use a stronger club and focus on striking the ball hard enough to make up for the wind. When the wind is pounding your back, you need to take a normal swing but with a more lofted club.

Learning to get the most out of all these variables for each shot is part of the challenge and the fun of playing golf. It never gets old. Every shot is different, and choosing  the way the club makes contact with the ball is a new decision on each and every shot. Gaining wisdom in using the right golf clubs for every shot is an essential part of mastering this great game.

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