5 shots golfers need if they want to become a low handicap

These shots will help you become a low handicap.

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There’s not actually that much separating a low, single-digit handicap and those who clock scores closer to 90. Generally, it’s a few shots here and there: An extra drive or two per round which stays out of trouble. Perhaps it’s a duffed chip, instead, or a topped iron shot from an awkward lie in the fairway.

That’s the topic my co-host, Reed Howard, and I tackled on Tuesday’s episode of the Play Smart podcast: Spending 10 minutes breaking down the key shots golfers need to learn to hit if they want to improve their score.

“There are a lot of amateur golfers that have giant blind spots in their game,” Howard, a certified TPI coach, says. “They might be able to be a five handicap, but because of these specific shots that they lack,” he says.

The good news is they’re all relatively easy to learn, once you know what to look for.

You can listen to the full 10-minute episode below, and subscribe to the Play Smart podcast on Apple here, or on Spotify right here.

1. Sideslope iron shots

We’re both speaking from the perspective not as coaches, but as low-handicaps. And two of the five shots we think are important to learn involve awkward lies from the fairway. Generally speaking, the ball will move from right-to-left when it’s above your feet, and left-to-right when the ball is below your feet. Learning to plan — and play — these is essential.

2. Uphill/downhill

When the ball is on an upslope, it’ll go higher. Downslope means it’ll go lower.

You can read a full breakdown from GOLF Top 100 Teacher Gary Weir on slopes right here.

3. A high chip

It won’t be a shot you call upon too often, but it’s an important one to call upon. If you have a high shot, you’ll be able to float it over a bunker, for example, and have it stop on the green. You don’t need to perfect the art of the flop shot and hit your ball close each time, but as long as you can hit one high enough to hold the green, you’ll be better off.

4. A low chip

A high-percentage, low chip shot is a golfer’s bread and butter. The technique is comparatively easy to perfect, and it’s one that will rarely steer you wrong.

“I don’t care if it’s a low shot with a lofted club, or you use your 8-iron for a bump-and-run, as long as you have one,” Reed says.

5. A “go-to” shot shape

And finally, golfers should have a go-to shot shape off the tee. Something you can call upon when things aren’t going your way. It could be a knockdown or a big slice. Curve is ok; if you know which direction it’s going, you’ll be better off.


Luke Kerr-Dineen

Golf.com Contributor

Luke Kerr-Dineen is the Game Improvement Editor at GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com. In his role he oversees the brand’s game improvement content spanning instruction, equipment, health and fitness, across all of GOLF’s multimedia platforms.

An alumni of the International Junior Golf Academy and the University of South Carolina–Beaufort golf team, where he helped them to No. 1 in the national NAIA rankings, Luke moved to New York in 2012 to pursue his Masters degree in Journalism from Columbia University. His work has also appeared in USA Today, Golf Digest, Newsweek and The Daily Beast.