Do you ever feel out of your depth when you step up to the bag to select your club? It takes beginner golfers a while to distinguish between the performance of their clubs and which one to pull from the bag at the right time.
Before stepping onto a real golf course, beginners can benefit from experimenting with the driving range and the short course. Practicing on the course is a waste of time, and you’re likely to upset the people you’re with if you can’t play properly.
So, you’ll need to put plenty of time in at the driving range. Practice with the drivers and fairway woods, and go through all the irons and wedges until you understand the handling and performance of each of the clubs. You should understand each of the clubs in the bag before ever setting foot on the golf course.
This post unpacks everything you need to know about when to use which golf club in what circumstances.
Why Do Golf Clubs Have Numbers?
As a beginner, it might seem confusing to stare at all the numbers presented to you in your golf bag. What’s the difference between a #3 iron and a #7 iron? Does it really matter?
- The number on the clubhead’s heel refers to the clubface’s loft.
- The “loft” is the angle of the clubface. Adjusting the loft changes the height of the shot. The higher the number, the steeper the loft, and vice versa.
- A clubface with low loft provides a straight, low flight trajectory to the ball with more carry.
- The higher the loft, the more open the clubface, the higher the flight height, and the less distance and carry.
When To Use Which Golf Club? – Average Club Distances
Playing styles vary between golfers, and there’s no rule set in stone regarding club selection and distance. However, for the purpose of this article, we’ll make some assumptions and generalizations. Here are the average distances suited to each club in the bag.
- Driver: 230+ yards.
- #3-wood: 210-yards.
- #2-iron & #4-wood: 190-yards .
- #3-iron & #5-wood: 180-yards .
- #4-iron: 170-yards.
- #5-iron: 160-yards.
- #6-iron: 150-yards.
- #7-iron: 140-yards.
- #8-iron: 130-yards.
- #9-iron: 120-yards.
- Pitching wedge: 110-yards.
- Sand wedge: 90-yards.
- Lob wedge: 65-yards.
- Putter: On the green.
How Do You Choose the Right Club for Your Shot?
The distances above are just generalizations, and you might hit further or shorter than these distances. So, how do you tailor your club choice to your shot?
Golf clubs must conform to USGA rules for weight, dimension, and length, but you’re free to use any of the 14 clubs in your bag for any shot.
Here are the common club choices in different situations around the course.
Golf Clubs for the Tee Box
- Fairway Wood
Golf Clubs for the Fairway
- Fairway Wood
Golf Clubs for the Rough
- Maybe Fairway Wood (higher numbers like the #7 or #9)
Golf Clubs for Around the Green
- High Numbered Hybrids or Irons (#8 or #9)
- Putter (you can putt from off the green)
Golf Clubs for On the Green
Understanding Club Dynamics
The driver, or big dog, is the first club you reach for when stepping onto the hole. The driver is designed for distance; the best pros can hit distances up to 400+ yards.
Typically, the driver has more flex in the shaft and the longest length of any club in the bag. You’ll only use the driver when teeing off; it’s not suitable for use on the fairway.
Drivers come in a wide range of head volumes, with 460cc being the legal limit for clubhead weights and volume according to the rules.
The fairway wood is versatile and a good choice for shots from the fairway and for getting out of the rough and back onto the course.
If you struggle with your driver off the tee, you may substitute it with the fairway wood on shorter holes. When pulling the fairway wood from your bag, you can expect to achieve the following distances.
- #3-wood: 125 to 240-yards.
- #4-wood: 110 to 220-yards.
- #5-wood: 105 to 215-yards.
Please Note: Some golfers get a better distance from their shots than others. Don’t compare the performance of another player with the same club to yours. Each player is different, and you must master your swing to generate optimal clubhead speed. The only way to achieve this is through consistent practice.
The hybrid is a combination of irons and fairway woods. Hybrids are becoming more popular with recreational players and pros due to the versatility they offer on the course. You get the best aspects of the fairway wood and the iron in one club, adding a new dimension to your game.
Hybrids can replace some of the harder-to-handle long irons in the bag while replicating the distance the clubs offer you. Hybrids can increase control without compromising o trajectory or distance in your shots.
The irons are the most common club in the bag, with the biggest range of loft for any situation on the fairway. The low irons have more distance and carry to them, while the higher irons are better for closer shots where you need less roll and carry in the ball.
Typically, you can expect the following distances from each of the irons in the bag.
- #2-iron: 105 to 210-yards.
- #3-iron: 100 to 205-yards.
- #4-iron: 90 to 190-yards.
- #5-iron: 80 to 175-yards.
- #6-iron: 70 to 165-yards.
- #7-iron: 65 to 155-yards.
- #8-iron: 60 to 145-yards.
- #9-iron: 55 to 135-yards.
As mentioned, these distances are only guidelines. Some players will get more distance from clubs than others. However, the distance between clubs should remain constant, regardless of the range.
The wedges are for your short game around the course where you need to get out of trouble. A wedge can get your game back on track if you find yourself trapped in a bunker or in the rough. There are four types of wedges. Let’s look at each of them individually.
This wedge has the lowest loft of any club in the bag. You get excellent distance, and it’s great for powering out of situations like being stuck in the rough and approaching the green. The pitching wedge is ideal for shots from 50 to 120-yards.
The gap has a bit more loft than the pitching wedge. You get a shorter shot but more distance than a sand wedge.
If you’re stuck in the bunker, the sand wedge is your go-to club to get you out of a pickle. The sand wedge creates a high loft in your shot, allowing you to get to the ball under the sand.
The lob wedge is the highest-lofted club in the bag. You get a steep angle of descent and ascent, allowing you to launch the ball over objects like a fallen tree. They are the ideal choice for shots with distances of 35 to 90-yards.
The putter is a specialized club designed for use around the green only. There are different clubhead designs for putters. We recommend choosing a model offering you two or three alignment posts on the rear of the clubhead. These alignment posts let you line up your shot properly before executing.
Putters come in a range of neck designs and configurations to suit your playing style. You also have options for the traditional putter or the mallet-style putter. The mallet-style putter has a long broom-handle shaft that some golfers prefer over the shorter standard putter shaft length.
How Do Fairway Conditions Impact Club Choice?
The fairway conditions impact your choice of club. If you want to pull the correct club from the bag, you’ll need to consider the environmental factors.
The distance from the ball to the pin isn’t the only concerning factor you need to be looking at when assessing the lie.
If you see hazards or obstacles in your path to the target, you’ll need to “lay up” and hit the ball short to avoid landing in trouble. If you’re dealing with a slope or elevated green, you need to know which club provides the distance you need to make the shot.
Are you fighting the wind or playing out of the rough? All these factors play a role in your club selection.
What Golf Clubs Do I Use In The Rough?
If you find yourself playing out of the rough, what club do you use for the shot? You need the club offering you the best distance from the lie you have in front of you.
When hitting out of the rough, every golfer’s first goal should be to contact the ball properly, advancing it as close to the target as possible.
Your hybrids, long irons, and woods will add to the challenge of hitting out of the rough. These clubs have a shallower swing path when attacking the ball. As a result, you get more grass between the ball and the clubhead.
The only way to figure out which club performs best for you in the rough is to practice with all of them. Practice on the course when there’s no one around, and you won’t get in people’s way. Drop a few balls and play around with your irons and wedges to see which ones offer you the best performance in the rough.
You’ll eventually get a feel for the right irons to use when you’re in the rough. It takes time and experience to master these rough shots and your club selections in these conditions.
Which Golf Clubs Do I Use for Chip Shots?
Sometimes you need precision placement of the ball on the green or around it. In this case, you’ll need to turn to the lob wedge to master these conditions.
If you’re dealing with wind or obstacles in your path to the target, the lob wedge has the loft you need to navigate over these challenges with a chip shot.
Learning to chip effectively is a skill that takes golfers years to master. So, don’t give up if you feel you’re not coming right with it. Practice makes perfect, so keep trying. Chip shots allow you to get more airtime and hang with the ball, finishing with a long roll.
We recommend using clubs with higher lofts for your chip shots, and the wedges usually are the best choices in these conditions.
Which Golf Clubs Do I Use for Bunker Shots?
We recommend using the sand wedge to get the best results from your bunker shout. The sand wedge gets under the ball, into the sand, lifting it up and out and onto the green.
The sand wedge has a decent loft to it, allowing you to compensate for the friction and drag of the shot pulling the ball to the ground.
There are those times when things just don’t seem to go right on the course. You end up in the sand and end up thrashing around, adding more strokes to the scorecard, with no results. Bunker shots are challenges, and you need the right club for the job.
The sand wedge puts more spin on the ball. So, it’s also a good choice for situations where you need the ball to stop dead and limit roll around the green. Irons also suit long shots out of bunkers, and you can stick to the #8 and #9 irons for this task.
In Closing – What are the Best Club Choices for Beginner Golfers?
If you’re a beginner, we recommend learning how to handle the #7 and #8 irons first. These two clubs have a good balance of loft in the face and suit 80% of all shots you take in golf outside of the green.
It’s important for golfers to become comfortable with every club in their bag. However, the #7 and #8 iron are more user-friendly due to the easier to less loft in the clubface and good contact with the ball.