When you first learn to hit the golf ball straight, it can feel like you are really getting somewhere with the game of golf.
Unfortunately, after some time, you realize that it also helps to be able to shape your golf shots. For golfers that want to cross into that low handicap range, shaping the golf ball is essential.
We will look at 9 types of shot shapes in golf and whether or not you need to learn how to hit them before your next round.
The 9 Types of Shot Shapes in Golf
Shot shaping involves not just the left to right turn in your golf shots but also the height of the ball. Low and high shots will open the doors to many more possibilities for you on the golf course.
The basic shot in golf, with a clubface square and a mid trajectory, the straight shot will likely always remain your go to ball flight. When a pin is tucked in the corner of a green or a hole has a dogleg, the straight shot can sometimes get you in trouble.
I’ve always called the low straight shot my wind cheater. If you are playing rough conditions and want to keep something bumping along, the low straight is a perfect option to consider.
A high straight shot allows you to get over trouble or even take advantage of a downwind situation. High golf shots land on the green considerably softer.
A fade is a golf shot that starts at your target and then fades to the right of your target. Most golfers learn to hit a fade by changing their address position, but it can be done with swing path and club face as well.
Most fade shots are pretty high, as the fade spin can also increase trajectory. However, if you are good at hitting different shots, you can also learn the low fade, which is an excellent option for control, and a soft landing on the green.
High fade shots can be the easiest fade shot to learn. With a slightly open stance and the clubface traveling on the right line, the high fade will land softly on the green and impress your playing partners.
The draw is my go-to ball flight. My natural swing tendency is to hit a draw, so other shots like fade and straight are where I need to be when I work the ball. The draw starts to the right of the target and then turns left of the target.
A low draw is a great shot when you need a bit of extra distance. Draw shots tend to have more topspin on them, so you can get one of these running down a fairway and then have it take a turn for the green.
Since a draw doesn’t always have the same spin as a fade, adding a bit of height back into the shot will help you stop it on the green.
Why Advanced Golfers Shape Their Shots
When you stand on the tee box, each hole will look a bit different.
Some have trees down the left and water down the right, others are wide open off the tee, but in order to hit the green, you must be on the left side of the fairway. Amateur golfers start to learn more and more about golf course setup and course management.
When you analyze each hole and see the way it should ideally be played, the ball flights come back into mind and make you think about how important it is to shape your shots to score on the hole.
The bottom line is, that if you don’t know how to shape your shots, you will miss out on opportunities on the golf course.
Which Shot Shapes The Average Golfer Should Focus On
It’s a lot for amateur players to head to the range and try and systematically learn 9 different golf shots. I think this will happen over time and with experience. However, there is something that all amateur players should start working on, which is being able to control trajectory.
Even if you can’t hide a fade or a draw, see if you can learn to hit the golf ball high and low. Typically speaking, your natural shot shape will be the mid trajectory. If this is the case, there are only a few quick adjustments you will have to make in order to control overall distance and ball flight.
Once you have learned how to control ball flight, I also find it much easier to learn to hit a draw or a fade. If you have ever heard of a punch shot, that is probably the best place to start. This type of shot can help you advance the ball when you are stuck in a bad situation on the course.
Tips to Shape Your Golf Shots
Depending on the golf professional you talk to, there are quite a few ways to shape your golf shots.
After you play around with your natural shot shaping and your shot shaping abilities, you may find that you are better at one type of ball flight or shot shape than another. Here are some of the best tips I use in my own game and when teaching the game of golf.
1. Use Golf Alignment Sticks
Golf alignment sticks can be your best friend when learning how to shape shots. In order to know how you are set up and how that needs to change to be able to shape the ball, you need a point of reference. Golf alignment sticks help provide this.
When I practice, I like to have a few alignment sticks on the ground to help me see where my feet are headed, where my clubface is headed, and then which way I would like for things to turn as I shape my golf shots.
The best thing about using golf alignment sticks in your practice is that it is an easy visualization the next time you head out to the golf course. Simply picture what you were doing on the range and try to replicate it on the golf course. If you use alignment sticks, this becomes considerably easier.
2. Understand Swing Path (Video It)
To shape your shots more consistently, you must learn about swing path. The swing path will be critical as you come through the impact position. Golf clubs either travel straight down the line, from the outside in or from the inside out.
To have a great idea of what your swing path is naturally and how you can make adjustments when shaping your shots, video your golf swing. The video will show you where your swing is thriving and where it may need some work, but awareness of swing path makes shaping the ball considerably easier:
3. Keep Adjustments to a Minimum
One of the mistakes that most amateur golfers make when shaping their shots is to overcorrect. Have you ever seen a professional drop his front foot back six inches or turn a clubface in their hand so it’s obvious to the viewer? Chances are the answer is no.
This is because the adjustments that the professionals are making are kept to a minimum. Golf is a very exacting game; you don’t need to do much or to make a huge change in order to see a big difference.
Most golfers that try shot shaping and are unsuccessful are those that have overdone it. When you think about the fade or the draw that you are trying to hit, most times, you will only want to move the ball a few yards. This takes just the slightest adjustment to your stance and your path.
We always recommend learning this process on the driving range. Trying to shape your golf shots on the course as the first adventure in shot shaping is a mistake. You don’t have enough confidence or experience to truly pull this off until you spend a bit of time getting a feel for it.
4. Choose The Right Club
As your golf clubs lower in the loft, they become less forgiving. This is why most golfers are not using a 3 iron in their bag; they are just too difficult to hit. When learning how to shape golf shots, try to stick with a club that you have confidence in.
The 7 iron is one of my favorite places to start. The loft of this club is high enough to make it somewhat forgiving, and you can also get a good amount of distance with the shots that you are hitting.
Don’t work on hitting a fade or a draw with a 3 wood or 4 iron until you can successfully do it with other golf clubs in your bag. The 8 and 7 are the perfect clubs to start with, and then you can move on from there. Great players are able to control the shot shape of their driver in addition to their wedges and irons.