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What is Each Golf Club Used for?

By Leo J
Updated May 23, 2024
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Every golf club in a player's bag has a specific purpose, to hit a certain type of shot a certain distance. There are basically four types of golf club: woods, irons, wedges, and putters. A golfer is allowed to carry 14 clubs in his or her bag during a round. As a general rule, the longer a golf club is, the farther the ball will go, but the less control the player will have over where it's going.

The longest type of golf club in the bag is a wood, and the driver is the longest of the group. Woods -- so called because the heads used to be made of wood -- feature a rounded mass behind the face of the club. The extra mass provides more power and distance. Each golf club has a number, and the driver could also be called the 1 wood. Woods typically use only odd numbers, though some even-numbered woods do exist.

Lower numbered clubs have faces that are more perpendicular to the ground, meaning the ball goes lower and farther but is harder to control. The driver is the golf club primarily used for tee shots, as it provides the most distance, but is difficult to hit off the ground because of its flat face -- which is typically 8 to 11 degrees shy of perpendicular. The 3 wood can be used to provide maximum distance when hitting the ball out of the fairway. A 5 wood provides more control but less distance than the bigger woods.

Irons, clubs with a flatter back behind the face, range from 1 to 9. The 1 iron is a difficult golf club to play because of its low degree of loft and the lack of mass behind the face. Novice players generally carry a 5 wood instead of a 1 or 2 iron simply because it's easier to play and it can hit the ball roughly the same distance. Expert golfers often forgo the 5 wood for the precision they get from a 1 or 2 iron. The 3 through 9 irons are commonly found in almost any golf bag, and each can hit the ball about 10 yards shorter than the one before it.

Wedges are like irons, but their faces are more wide open -- often up to 60 degrees or more. These are mainly designed for shots around the green, because their loft allows a golfer to be more creative when chipping over sand traps and other obstacles. The most common types of wedges are -- from longest to shortest -- the pitching wedge, sand wedge and lob wedge.

The shortest golf club in the bag is the putter. It is used once the golfer reaches the green, and its face is completely perpendicular to the ground. When struck correctly with a putter, the golf ball should roll toward the hole without bouncing.

On average, a golfer may lose approximately 1.3 balls per round, as suggested by various surveys and anecdotal evidence from golfers. This number can vary widely depending on the skill level of the player, the difficulty of the course, and the conditions on the day of play.

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Discussion Comments

By watson42 — On Dec 12, 2010

I personally like my hybrid golf club the most. A mix between a mid-grade iron and mid-grade wood, it works well for the shots in the middle of a hole when I'm not sure what to use. I'm just a beginner, so in the future I might decide this is not a great strategy, but for now it works for me.

By recapitulate — On Dec 11, 2010

Cheap golf clubs, like cheap anything, don't work as well as better made brands; however, when just starting out, it can be more important to have a full golf club set than something really nice. And while the conventional wisdom of club length, club weight, and other factors tells one thing, many golfers find their own strategies go against the rulebook in some ways.

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