Golf is a sport that requires precision, skill, and strategy. With so many different types of shots to choose from, golfers are always looking for the most impressive and effective shot to play. While there is no universally agreed upon “best shot” in golf, there are several standout shots that are considered the pinnacle of the sport.
Perhaps the most celebrated shot in golf is the hole-in-one. As the name suggests, a hole-in-one occurs when a player hits the ball from the tee box directly into the hole in a single shot. This is an incredibly rare feat, even for professional golfers. According to the National Hole-In-One Registry, the odds of an amateur golfer making a hole-in-one are about 12,000 to 1. For pros, the odds are closer to 2,500 to 1. But when it does happen, it’s a thrilling moment that brings cheers from the gallery and often earns prizes and congratulations for the lucky golfer. Making a hole-in-one demonstrates outstanding accuracy, distance control, and a little bit of luck. It’s the ultimate bragging rights shot in golf.
An albatross, also known as a double eagle, is another celebrated rarity in golf. It occurs when a player holes out in just three shots on a par-5 hole. Like the hole-in-one, it demonstrates outstanding skill and a dash of good fortune. Albatrosses are more common than holes-in-one, but still only happen a handful of times per year on the PGA Tour. Famous albatrosses include Gene Sarazen’s shot at the 1935 Masters, which helped propel him to victory, and Louis Oosthuizen’s 253-yard albatross at the 2012 Masters. For amateurs, an albatross is a once-in-a-lifetime achievement.
An eagle is similar to an albatross, except it happens on a par-4 hole instead of a par 5. When a player sinks the ball in just two strokes on a par 4, he or she makes an eagle. Though easier to accomplish than an albatross, eagles still demonstrate excellent ball striking and distance control. PGA Tour pros make eagles somewhat regularly, averaging a couple per tournament. For amateurs, eagles are rare and memorable occurrences. Scoring an eagle will definitely give your golf partners something to talk about after the round!
Birdies are more common than eagles or albatrosses, but they are still a highlight-reel shot for amateurs. A birdie occurs when a player completes a hole in one stroke under par. So a birdie on a par 4 means holing out in just three shots. Birdies showcase precise iron play, deft putting, and good strategy. PGA Tour pros aim to record several birdies per round as part of a low overall score. Amateurs might just have a handful of birdies over the course of several rounds. No matter what level of golfer, making birdies is always satisfying.
The Bump and Run
The bump and run is a low-risk recovery shot utilized close to the green when the player does not have a good lie to hit a lofted approach. To execute a bump and run, the player makes a low-lofted swing (a 7-iron for example) to bump the ball onto the green. The ball then rolls out toward the hole like a putt. This allows the player to get up and down instead of struggling with a difficult chip shot and potentially landing in a bunker or the rough. Good judgment, feel, and finesse are needed for the bump and run. It’s a reliable, clever shot that can save strokes.
The Flop Shot
On the opposite end of the spectrum from the bump and run is the flop shot. The flop requires opening the clubface to add loft and hitting down sharply on the ball to create backspin that stops it immediately. Well-struck flop shots will fly high in the air in a dramatic arc before spinning back toward the hole once they hit the green. Flopping is one of the most stylish and recognizable shots in golf. Players like Phil Mickelson have built a reputation for their gorgeous flop shots. Executing a flop out of the rough or a bunker to save par is an impressive display of short game skill.
The stinger is a low, boring bullet of a shot that is usually hit with a long iron or fairway wood. To hit a stinger, the player chokes down on the club, leans the shaft forward at address, and makes a sweepingly level swing to keep the ball low. The stinger is useful for keeping the ball out of the wind on blustery days, and for sneaking under tree branches. When crushed just right, the stinger can soar out to 250+ yards without getting more than 10-15 feet off the ground. Golfer Bryson DeChambeau has become known for his towering stingers off the tee. It’s one of the most aesthetically pleasing shots, especially when the ball runs forever once it hits the fairway.
The Punch Shot
Punch shots are low-trajectory shots hit with an abbreviated swing and very little wrist break. They are utilized when the player needs to keep the ball under tree branches and prevent it from rolling forward after landing. To hit a punch, the player makes a three-quarter backswing, accelerates through the ball, and retains the triangle formed by the arms and chest at impact. Good timing and coordination are required to compress the ball without losing control of the face angle and low launch. The punch shot demonstrates strong course management skills.
The Splash Shot
You know you’ve hit the ball fat when you see a splash of sand or soil as the club makes contact behind the ball. While this “splash” is usually the sign of a mishit, some players intentionally splash the ball out of the rough or a bunker when they need extra height or spin. By hitting several inches behind, the ball rockets almost straight up to land softly instead of racing forward. Splash shots seem unorthodox but can actually take a high degree of skill and precision. When pulled off correctly, they provide dramatic elevation from tricky lies.
The Fade and Draw
Curving the ball’s flight intentionally is an advanced shot-making skill in golf. A fade moves the ball slightly left-to-right in the air for a right-handed golfer (and right-to-left for a lefty). A draw moves the opposite direction. Shaping a fade or draw requires manipulating the face angle, swing path, angle of attack, and spin loft. A shot that starts straight but curves at the last moment demonstrates mastery. Being able to bend shots both ways allows advanced players to attack pins protected by hazards or terrain. The late curve is beautiful and satisfying to watch when executed properly.
While not every golfer has the skillset to pull off these amazing shots, they represent aspirational goals for players to get better. Even pros spend countless hours honing these specialty shots through practice and play. Amateurs should focus less on replicating the shots exactly and more on developing solid fundamentals – good grip, setup, alignment, tempo, and balance. With a strong foundation and some dedication, golfers of all levels can experience the joy and thrill of creating these signature shots. The quest to master these iconic golf swings keeps players striving to improve through a lifetime of practice.