A Guide to Knowing Which Golf Club to Use Out On the Course

A golf bag with golfers in the background.

The game of golf contains many rules by which players must abide. One major rule of the game dictates how many clubs a player can put in their bag per round, which is 14.

So, how do golfers know which clubs to use on the course?

Golfers choose which club they’re going to use on a shot primarily based on the distance to the hole and the lie of the golf ball. A golf ball that’s in the rough, behind a tree, or in a bunker might require a specific club to help the golfer get out of that specific situation.

There are a lot of standard clubs that most players carry with them at all times, as well as some specialized clubs that can be integrated into the bag for certain shots that are not always required.

Choosing the clubs for your golf bag is an important decision. We will break this decision down into the many areas of the game that should be considered when deciding what clubs to pack into the bag before hitting the course, as well as when to use different clubs during a round.

How Do You Know Which Golf Club to Use?

New golfers may struggle to know the purpose of each club in the golf bag. Clubs are made with a specific goal in mind. The easiest examples are the driver and the putter.

Drivers are made to hit the ball off of a tee because they travel the longest distance. Putters are made to be used on the greens, where their upright stance and flat face allow the ball to roll consistently along the putting surface.

When Do You Use Woods in Golf?

Woods come in a few different builds. The most commonly used is a 3 wood, which generally hits the ball a bit shorter than a driver but is easier to control and much easier to use off of the ground instead of on a tee. Woods also continue to decrease in clubface loft, with a 5 wood being the next most common club.

Players can also utilize other woods, although they are less common than before given the restrictions on the number of clubs that can be in the bag and the modern alternatives to playing so many woods.

Manufacturers make 7 woods, 9 woods, and some manufacturers will still create 11 woods and 13 woods, although these are extremely uncommon both to find and in actual play.

The idea of a fairway wood is to carry the ball a long distance because of the structure of the clubhead. Woods are essentially a smaller version of the driver with more loft. They are also some of the more difficult clubs to hit, as forgiveness off of the clubface decreases as the loft of the club decreases.

On the course, players should utilize woods when hitting off a tee on holes that do not necessarily need a driver, either due to being a shorter par 4 or 5, or because there is a minimal area to miss with the golf ball and the player needs consistency.

Woods are also utilized for long shots on par 5s when the player is far away from the green and is trying to get in position to be on or as close to the green as possible within two swings.

When Do You Use Irons in Golf?

A golfer hits the ball with one of his irons.

Irons hit the ball a shorter distance than a driver or woods and are generally used to approach the green from the fairway or rough. Irons can also be used to hit tee shots on Par 3s, or on very short Par 4s when the player wants to emphasize hitting the fairway and won’t have to hit a long approach into the green.

Which Irons Are Used the Most in Golf?

How frequently an iron is used during a round depends majorly on the course that the player is playing. Different aspects of course design demand different iron usage.

First off, a course with tree-lined fairways or a lot of long heather grass will lead to a lot of long irons being hit off of tee boxes. Courses that are very short will see a lot of usage from 8 and 9 irons because many approach shots will be shorter and require a higher lofted club.

How Many Irons Should You Carry?

Players carry a variety of iron combinations during a round. Anyone who has purchased a set of irons before has experienced this variation when deciding on a set makeup, or what lofts and how many total irons come within the set.

The number of irons a player carries depends on their skill level, how many non-irons are in the bag, and the course that the player is playing. Newer or less skilled players would benefit from carrying hybrids over longer irons because they are easier to hit. Top-performing golfers may opt for longer irons to emphasize workability.

Some players may only have a total of four irons in the bag (6I – 9I) before hitting their wedges. Very skilled players who like the feel of long irons may carry up to eight irons (2I – 9I) or any variation, again depending on hybrids and woods and what type of club they feel most comfortable with.

When Do You Use Hybrids in Golf?

Hybrids are a club whose design sits somewhere between a fairway wood and an iron. The head of a hybrid is smaller than that of a fairway wood but contains a larger back portion of the club than an iron. The idea is to combine the distance of a fairway wood with the forgiveness of an iron.

Hybrids come in multiple forms. The most common way to separate the types of hybrid builds is into wood-shaped hybrids and iron-shaped hybrids. Wood hybrids generally have a clubhead that is shaped in a sphere-like manner similar to a fairway wood, whereas iron hybrids are basically an iron with a thick back behind the face of the club.

Hybrids can be used anywhere that their corresponding long iron would be used. For example, instead of hitting long irons off of the tee as previously discussed, players can utilize a hybrid instead of the iron.

Hybrids also perform much better out of the rough than long irons do because the club head cuts through the longer grass better than the upright angle of a long iron.

When Do You Use Wedges in Golf?

Below irons in terms of carrying distance are wedges. Other than the putter, wedges are the club that is used in closest proximity to the green. Wedges are arguably the most versatile type of club in the bag, as they can be used for full shots, pitches, chips, flops, and bump and runs.

Wedges are used for approaches that are closer than the distance a player can hit a 9 iron, as well as for all of the feel-oriented shots that are listed above. Most shots around the green are performed with wedges, although some bump and runs are used with other clubs in the bag.

Bunker shots are also generally performed with wedges unless the player is in a fairway bunker with a good lie.

Which Golf Clubs Should You Carry?

A golfer decides which club to use off the green.

Generally, most players carry a driver, a putter, and most mid-irons. So assuming a player has a 6 iron through a 9 iron, players standardize having six clubs. Most players also carry a pitching wedge and a sand wedge, as well as some type of wood. Most sets have nine clubs as a general rule, which gives players on average five clubs to get creative with.

We have already discussed the tradeoffs between a long iron and a hybrid, but players will generally carry either a 5 iron or a 5 hybrid, as it would be very difficult to not carry a club for that distance. So after deciding between the two, players then are up to 10 clubs in their bag.

There’s some customization with the final four clubs. When playing courses that command much better tee shots, a player may add an extra hybrid or iron (most people carry either a 4 hybrid or 4 iron).

Players who want to take their driver out of play for better teeing accuracy may add an extra fairway wood to give them more options for tee shots. Some players will throw an extra wedge in their bag so that they have more options chipping and pitching around the greens.

The most common uses of these flexible club slots are for either tee shot options, like a fairway wood or long iron/hybrid, or for an extra wedge in the bag, either a gap or a lob wedge.

Any combination of these clubs that add up to 14 works, and there is nothing stopping players from adding whatever clubs that they want; these clubs listed are just the most common makeups of sets.

What Clubs Do Beginner Golfers Need?

Beginner golfers should opt for more hybrids in their bag instead of long irons, but on a broad scale, the names of the clubs in beginner bags are generally the same as those in the bag of a better player.

The largest difference between the clubs that advanced golfers use and those that should be used by beginners is the amount of offset in the clubhead. Beginner clubs often have much larger backs on the clubhead than clubs used by professionals and top amateur players.

This makes the club more difficult to control the precise ball flight, but also helps make off-center shots (on impact) end with a better result due to increased forgiveness.

Which Golf Clubs Hit the Farthest?

The longest club in the bag for most people is the driver. The largest club head, along with the lowest clubface angle in the bag, leads to the driver hitting the ball longer than any other golf club. However, drivers are really made to be hit off of a tee and are very difficult to use off of the fairway or rough.

The next longest club type is woods. The lower the number on the wood, the further that the wood travels through the air. Although you can get a 2 wood, most people’s next longest club after their driver will be a 3 wood.

After the 3 wood, the next farthest club really depends on the club loft. Most 3 woods are standard at 15 degrees, with a wide variety of clubs being available in the 17-degree to 19-degree clubface angle range.

Different players will hit a fairway wood, hybrid, or iron in this loft range a variety of distances depending on their individual swing and club type preferences.

What Club Should I Use on a Par 3?

A golfer tees up the ball on a Par 3

The club selection off of the tee on a par 3 should depend on the length of the hole. The easiest way to think of a par 3 is like an approach shot on the rest of the course. You should tee off with whatever club you would usually play from that distance onto the green.

Using a tee or not is a matter of preference, with some players preferring to feel the ball on the tee box to simulate hitting an iron off of the fairway, and others prefer the tee to help with flight elevation.

What Club Should You Use on the Fairway?

Woods, also known as fairway woods, should be used for longer shots, like on a par 5 where you’re over 250 yards away from the green. If hitting shorter approach shots, the iron that carries the distance between you and the hole should be your club of choice.

Finally, wedges should be used from the fairway for the closest approaches or pitches onto greens.

What Club Should You Use for Chipping?

Chipping generally should be done with some type of wedge, depending on the distance that the ball needs to be chipped and roll out across the green. Bump and runs, however, can be done with irons as well, depending again on how far out the ball needs to run.

Generally, the more the player wants the ball to roll out, the lower lofted club that the player should use to chip/bump and run with.

What Club Should You Use for Pitching?

Pitch shots are conducted with wedges, with the type of wedge depending on how far away the ball is located from the green. Players can pitch using multiple length swings, thinking of the golf swing as a clock.

In this example, nine o’clock would be a half swing to correspond with where a nine on a clock is located. Higher lofted wedges can also be used to hit flop shots, with sand wedges and lob wedges being the best options for these high-lofted pitches.

Which Golf Club Should You Use in a Bunker?

A golfer hits his ball out of a bunker.

The choice of club in the bunker depends on how far away the ball is from the green. In a fairway bunker, the best strategy is to choose the club that you would normally use for an approach from that distance and add one to two clubs depending on additional factors like wind, terrain, and how much sand the player is planning on taking with the ball at impact.

Which Club Should You Use in the Rough?

Hitting a tee shot into the rough leaves players with a few different options. The first step is to analyze the quality of the lie in rough. How far is the ball away from the green? Can you get a fairway wood or long iron through the grass behind the ball to make solid contact?

The quality of contact makes a huge difference in how the ball flies out of the rough. In a good lie, the player can just use the same club they normally would. However, if the ball is buried in the rough, a hybrid or shorter iron is recommended to maximize the ability of the clubface to cut through the grass and make solid contact with the ball.

Which Golf Clubs Get Used the Most?

The clubs used throughout the course of a round depend on a lot of factors, but easily the most used club during a round of golf is the putter. Unless a player chips in or holes out from off of the green, they will be hitting at least one putt on every hole on the course.

No other club, including the driver, is needed on all 18 holes on the course. It is because of this that the putter is referred to as “the moneymaker” in the bag.

Which Golf Clubs Need a Cover?

All clubs could benefit from having a cover on them, as the cover’s benefit is to keep the metal club heads from banging into one another while being carried or riding in a golf cart. However, most players do not opt for a cover for their irons and instead keep their club covers to their driver, fairway woods, and hybrids.

Players can purchase a full set of covers, or they can piece together their club covers. Many club covers come in a set and most drivers, woods, and hybrids will come with a cover at purchase of the club. Used club purchases often do not come with a cover. Covers range in their themes from manufacturers to colleges and sports teams.

PGA Tour players often use their covers to customize their golf bags. Tiger Woods is famous for his driver cover, which is a plush tiger. Bubba Watson actually has a driver cover that resembles a plush version of himself. John Daly’s driver is covered by a lion with a colorful mane.

Generally, irons and wedges can be covered with a set of iron covers. These are less customizable due to their less common use by professionals and amateurs alike.

However, irons can also benefit from being covered – they just have less damage to the face of the club because of impact with other clubs in the bag than a fairway wood or hybrid would. Putters also generally come with a cover and should be covered to avoid denting the putter face.

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Steven G.

My name is Steven and I love everything sports! I created this website to share my passion with all of you. Enjoy!

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