Which Golf Club to Use When?

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USGA rules allow the golfer to carry 14 clubs in their golf bag. For beginner golfers, selecting the right club from this collection out on the golf course can be intimidating. There are some general guidelines that you can follow, although your past rounds of golf may tell you to try something different.

Even the PGA Tour professionals sometimes have to take an educated guess when choosing between different clubs and hope for the best. To find out how far you hit each club in your bag, go to a driving range that has flags to mark the ball flight distance.

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Types of Golf Clubs

For the average golfer, a set of clubs typically includes a driver, a couple of fairway woods, a set of numbered irons, a pitching wedge and a sand wedge. Specific clubs are designed for different situations.

The driver, or the 1 wood, has a very low loft compared to other clubs and is designed for when you need to achieve long distance tee shots.

Fairway woods can allow you to hit for distance, while the higher lofted irons and wedges are used for approach shots when moving the golf ball towards the green. Higher-numbered irons will have a higher loft and produce a shorter average distance than lower-numbered irons.

Hybrid technology has produced easy-to-hit hybrid golf clubs to replace the longer irons, or even some fairway woods. The putter is used on or just off the green if the grass is cut close.

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Fairway Conditions

In order to choose the best golf club for a certain situation, you need to take factors into consideration other than distance from the ball to the pin. If you notice a hazard or obstacle on your target line when you go to tee off, you may decide to “lay up” and hit short to avoid trouble.

If the green is elevated, you may need to take a club that provides more distance than the club you would typically use. On a day when you are fighting wind, or if you are in deep rough, you may have to use a stronger club.

Drivers and Fairway Woods

Drivers are designed to go a great distance, but for the beginner the long shaft and low loft can be hard to handle. Some beginners find more control using the 3 wood off the tee. If you do use a driver as a beginner, you might want to try a club with a large clubface for a larger sweet spot. The loft angle should be from 10.5 degrees to 12 degrees or higher to help launch the ball into the air.

New golfers should use a more flexible shaft. Experienced golfers can use a 3 wood and 5 wood from the fairway for distance, while high handicappers may have to stick to more lofted woods like the 7 wood, or even the 9 wood that do not provide as much distance but are easier to hit.

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Irons and Wedges

The more lofted irons such as the 6, 7, 8 and 9 irons are easier to hit for the high handicap golfer.

These clubs can be used as you get closer to the green for pitch shots and chip shots. In general, the higher the loft of the club, the higher the trajectory of the ball, and the less roll you will get when the ball hits the ground.

More experienced golfers may be able to handle the 3, 4 and 5 irons, which provide more distance because of the lower loft. The pitching wedge is used close to the green, and the sand wedge is used out of a bunker near the green. A lob wedge or gap wedge will provide a high trajectory to hit up and over a sand trap or other hazard near the green.



Some golfers are now replacing their long irons with hybrids or “utility clubs” to achieve distance and accuracy in the fairway. For the high handicap golfer, a 3 and 5 hybrid can be the right golf club to replace the 3, 4, and even 5 iron. A hybrid places the weight to the back and bottom of the clubhead, allowing for a higher launch angle.

Hybrids have a higher spin rate to provide a softer landing with less roll, so the golfer will have more accuracy when they make solid contact.

The shaft of a hybrid is shorter than that of a fairway wood, making it easier to hit. Players can use hybrids in the fairway, to get out of the rough or even to hit out of a sand trap, depending on their skill level.