The Different Types of Golf Clubs (and What’s Right For You)

Golf expert David Freeston walks you through the different types of golf clubs so you can figure out which clubs are right for you!

Photo by Mick De Paola
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It can be daunting to see all of the different kinds of golf clubs to choose from. So when considering what clubs you need to buy, it helps to understand the differences and the situations when each club can be useful. There are also some differences within each club category with how they look and feel, and in this article, I want to make that part clearer for you to understand as well. Remember, EVERY club is just as important as another one, depending on the situation you find yourself in on the course.

Driver

This is what is often called “The Big Dog.” It’s a lot of players' favorite club, because it hits the furthest. There’s nothing like the feeling of stepping on a wide open tee box and hitting that driver, making it seem like the ball is heading into another hemisphere. It feels very powerful that we can make a little white ball go so far.

However, some holes may not need one. Seeing as this club should only be used off the tee, take a quick peek at the hole map on your scorecard or GPS (if the cart has one). Take note of how far the ball needs to go in order for your easiest possible next shot into the green. Some holes might not require distance, instead requiring “placement.” Golf isn’t all about hitting those really cool looking shots - it’s more about hitting smart shots if you want to play well and lower your score.

Drivers come in a wide array of weights. Here’s how to find the perfect one for you: If you have a faster swing, I’d put a stiff shaft in there to keep the club on line more, and a driver that has the weight towards the back of the head to really capitalize on your swing speed. However, players with more moderate swing speeds would benefit from a lighter-weighted driver, as these are engineered to still get distance with how the weight is dispersed in the club. Most drivers are fully adjustable with their loft and angle (how the club face aims), so we can work together to find the exact configuration for you without changing your swing!

Woods

A wood golf club

Your woods will be your second in command - like a driver but for the fairway. You’ll get great use out of these clubs on the longer holes like the par 5 to get up close to that green on your second shot. The most common ones are a 3 (longest) and 5; however there are some options for a 4 or 7 wood (even higher at times for more control), but we can work out if those are necessary based on your distances.

These clubs can be difficult to hit, but if utilized correctly they will be an essential weapon in your bag. They are longer in length, and the ball will not be tee’d up like it was with your driver, so using woods requires a nice slow long swing to make sure the club stays on plane and makes proper contact. I wouldn’t recommend using this club when the ball is significantly above or below your feet as consistency with a solid ball strike will be tough. And I would definitely shy away from the in the rough; that job is for the hybrid, which we will get to shortly. If you have a nice flat like and a safe, long shot in front of you from the fairway this is the perfect club to pull from the bag. Definitely try them off the tee box when you think a driver might be too much club or too risky! A tee’d ball with these will make for an easier, smooth shot without trying to power the ball.

Hybrids

A Callaway hybrid golf club

Hybrids are some of the most underutilized clubs in the bag, in my opinion. The younger cousin of the wood category, hybrids are a similar shape but are shorter and have smaller heads. The will be EXCELLENT in those longer, scary shots out of the rough. Dubbed “The Rescue Club,” they are built to dig down and launch the ball out of the rough, whereas fairway woods (as I mentioned earlier) would be tough because their large clubhead can easily get snagged by the grass.

The most common of these is a 3 hybrid which can also double as a long iron, and in my opinion, are actually a little easier to hit because of the thicker head and more forgiving face. There are also often 3 and 4 hybrids (sometimes a 2) that players like to use in place of the longer irons in their bag as the sweet spot is larger and they are frequently a little lighter weight to scale back on severeness of mishits. I’ll often use this club instead of a wood sometimes. While they may lack a little distance, you definitely make up for in control.

Irons

An 8 iron golf club

Your irons will, without a doubt, be the most-often-used clubs in your bag. Which one you chose in a particular situation could be the difference between a low score and high score on a hole. It’s imperative when you practice to hit a few shots with each one, so you can easily judge which iron you may need for your on-the-course shots. Typically, each iron that’s one number higher will go 10 yards less than the before it (i.e. 3 iron – 180 yds, 4 iron 170 yds, 5 iron 160 yds). These are the clubs you will be using when you want to advance the ball onto the green and hopefully a few feet from the hole. Here are the main categories of irons:

  • Long to Mid Irons – 3-6: The 3 and 4 iron will be your designated long irons, and depending on your set’s loft, the 5 and 6 will likely be long irons as well (although they can be referred to as mid sometimes). These are for the shots that would be a bit too long for you to use your woods or your hybrid, but still have a chance at reaching the green. They’re also great if you find yourself with a long shot in the fairway and the ball is either above or below your feed. You’ll notice they have a longer feel, but don’t worry - just swing nice and easy, and you’ll have no trouble nailing the sweet spot. These are great for windy shots as well, due to their lower ball flight and more roll.
  • Short Irons – 7-9: These will likely be some of your favorite clubs in your bag. They’re for the “awesome” shots. Light weight, high flying, and lots of spin, these are the clubs you’ll use when you have the chance to hit a shot close to the hole. Your iron choices will probably depend on how these feel in your hand as you have a huge amount of control with them. Some are lighter weight than others which some players love, while others like a little bit of a heavier choice. Totally up to you. For most players, these will be coming into play at 150 yards and less, and are usually favorite choices for a par 3.

Wedges

A Callaway wedge golf club

The ultimate category of clubs when it comes to getting very close to the green. With your wedges, you’ll get maximum spin and height, and you can learn to stop them on a dime. They are also how we can rescue ourselves from missing the green by pitching it up close to the hole to get up and down and save a few strokes. You’ll really want to practice with these as they’ll be lifesavers in some tricky situations, and you’ll be thankful you learn how to easily control them to land near the hole far more often than not. Here are the most common types:

  • Pitching Wedge (PW) – 46-50 Degree Loft: I love a pitching wedge when I want more height and spin but want a distance that’s closer to a 9 iron. You’ll learn that there are some holes where you want to spin the ball, and others where you want a little more roll depending on the layout of the green. This club is much more spin oriented. Super popular for those shots about 100 yards for your average golfer.
  • Gap Wedge or Attack Wedge (GW/AW) – 52-54 Degree Loft: These two are often interchangeable, although a couple sets do have both with a few, small degree differences for players that rely on wedges more than others. These clubs will have just a bit more control but a little less distance, usually about five or 10 yards less, than your PW. They are also fantastic out of the rough to get those clutch saves.
  • Sand Wedge (SW) – 56 Degree: The name says it all. This is your go-to when you find yourself in a dreaded greenside bunker. With the face built to dig out of the sand, practicing with this club will save your hole - and your score - more than you expect. They can be used for some lower, controlled wedge shots as well, but their main purpose is to get you off of that beach!
  • Lob Wedge (LW) – 60 Degree: Find yourself needing to hit a SUPER high shot without much distance but a ton of spin? This is your club right here. With a super flat loft of 60 degrees the lob wedge is designed to sweep under the ball, popping it nearly vertical off the face. Fantastic for hitting a higher shot to make sure you get over a hazard such as a bunker or water, they’re also amazing out of the rough, almost cutting the grass out from under the ball. A excellent weapon to impress your friends when you’re right near the green but in a sticky situation. You’ll look like a superhero in no time.

Putter

A putter

The putter is without a doubt the most important club in your bag to go low, although it may not seem like it. It sure doesn’t give you the “cool look” that other golf shots might, but this is how you’re going to score. If you can practice with this club and start to learn to make those testy 10 to 15 foot putts, or always get those 30 footers within a few inches of the hole, you’ll be taking your handicap from a 20 to a 10 in no time. I almost always recommend trying out putters if you haven’t already. They’re a very personal club, with many different heads and weights to choose from. For instance, you may like a lighter putter but find a big fat putter head distracting to look at. It’s all about how they feel in your hands, and you’ll have to learn to be delicate or aggressive with them depending on the length and angle of your putt, so learning how the ball moves off a putter face that you're comfortable with is key.

Antique golf club set in a bag with grass in the background
Photo by Sydney Rae

And there you have it. All the necessary clubs you’ll need in your bag to be a consistent and excellent golfer - with practice, of course. With a build involving all of these club types, you’ll now be able to show off your set and call yourself a true golfer. Let's find the perfect combination that works for you!

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Written By
I grew up in Connecticut, playing golf for most of my life. It wasn’t until I was 10 years old and I hit that “perfect shot” and I said to myself, “That felt amazing, I can’t wait to do that again”. From there my obsession only grew. Once I entered high school, I got a job at our local course, Newto...

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