The 10 hardest shots in golf

The toughest challenges you're likely to face out on the course

hardest shots in golf
Best of luck
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Golf is tough, there’s no getting around it. Some days a round of golf can seem a Herculean challenge where every shot could go horribly wrong. But some situations on the golf course demand an extra degree of skill and/or self belief. Here we take a look at 10 of the hardest shots in golf (in no particular order):

The 1st tee shot

hardest shots in golf

Anywhere on grass will be fine
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It doesn’t mater how well you’ve prepared, how mentally ready you are or how many balls you’ve hit in the nets, you have no idea how your day is going to pan out until you strike that tee shot on the first. This is the blow that will set the tone for the day. Can you compose yourself to swipe it down the middle in relaxed fashion? Or will it be a nervy, powerless prod that, quite frankly could end up anywhere? Whatever course you’re playing on, in whatever event, the 1st tee shot is a mental hurdle that you want to sail over rather than stumble into.

The 40-yard bunker shot

hardest shots

Don't catch it heavy, but don't catch it too clean
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Ask Tour pros what the most difficult shot in the game is and many will answer the mid-length to long bunker shot. Give them a greenside splash shot from the trap and they’ll get up-and-down a high percentage of the time. But, put them 50 yards out and it’s a different story. If it’s hard for them, it should be quite clear how difficult it is for us.

This is a shot that requires absolute precision in terms of the strike. You must decide whether to pick it absolutely cleanly or use just a modicum of sand as a cushion. You must then commit to your decision and execute perfectly. Slightly heavy and the ball will come up woefully short, slightly thin and the ball will go flying through the green and, inevitably, into more trouble. If you get it right, you’ll be a legend of your own tee-time.

The flop shot from a bare lie

hardest shots

Take a deep breath

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As you wander to where your slightly misjudged approach shot has finished, a feeling of panic suddenly grips you. You look at your ball and analyse the lie – it’s sitting on a piece of ground that could only be described as baked mud. “Oh no,” you think. “It’s going to be very difficult to catch it cleanly from there.” The situation looks bleak, but things take a turn for the even worse when you look at what’s between you and the hole. Five yards ahead is a gaping bunker with the pin sitting just over the top of it. Could somebody please provide me with a brown paper bag?

The long iron shot into the wind

hardest shots in golf

Arnie had the necessary skills
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When it’s gusting straight at you and you’ve got a 4-iron in hand, you’re about to find out just how well you’re hitting it. Playing down breeze you’ve gotten away with a few iffy strikes and one that looked decidedly like a slice.

Any sidespin on this one and it could be a goner. You know the old moniker “when it’s breezy, swing it easy,” but it’s just so hard to adhere to that when you’re battling into the teeth. It feels you have to throw the kitchen sink at it to get it to the green. But, if you do, you’ll put too much backspin on the ball and it will balloon and go nowhere. This shot requires a combination of physical prowess and mental control.

The pitch from thick rough to a downward sloping green

hardest shots

Good luck with this one
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Just through the back of the surface you find your ball in a lie so tangled that it looks as though a crow has mistaken your Titleist for an egg and built a wee nest for it. The pin is just five yards on from where you are and on a downslope. Your only option is to throw open the face and swing aggressively. You’ll have to go under the ball perfectly to throw it up near vertically and get it to land as softly as a mote of dust touching down on a bud of cotton wool. Go too far under it and you’ll leave the ball exactly where it is. Catch too much of it, or allow the face to turn in and you’ll be 50 yards across the other side of the putting surface.

The drive through an avenue of trees

hardest shots

Straight is great
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There’s no option here, it simply must go straight. With no bail-out on either side, those who tend to be a touch errant with the longer clubs are facing a serious challenge. The sight of encroaching trouble on either side can set the pulse racing and lead you to make a defensive swing, trying to guide it down the narrow corridor. Tightening up like this will generally make it more likely for you to stray into the woods but trusting yourself to make a free and full swing is incredibly difficult.

The four-foot putt on the 18th green

hardest shots

Just hit it firm and straight
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For some players, every putt is difficult but this one is the most challenging of all for amateur players. Make this and the day will be saved. You can go home and enjoy the rest of the weekend. Miss it and you’ll feel you’ve wasted four hours and will want to spend the rest of the weekend in the cupboard under the stairs. “I think it’s pretty straight. No wait, maybe it moves a little from the right… But if I hit it firmly enough…” Aaarrggghh.

The next iron shot after a shank

Anything but another "unmentionable"

Anything but another "unmentionable"

 Please, please, please don’t let it happen again!

The carry over trouble

hardest shots

We're going "all in" here
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 If you don’t catch this right, it’s curtains. Between you and safety lies water, gorse, the sea, a canyon… whatever... but you have only one option: to make a decent contact and fly the trouble. With nothing to fear, you’ll achieve a reasonable enough strike nine of 10 times. But with the threat of imminent doom to your precious white orb, the odds of failure are greatly shortened.

Second go at chipping/pitching over a water hazard

hardest shots

Any tips Jordan?
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You’d thought your approach was spot on but it fell just two yards short and tumbled back into the water. You pulled it out and dropped, thinking you now needed a deft pitch to perhaps save a bogey. You got a little cute, caught the ball a touch heavy and plopped it straight back in the water. You’ve now retrieved it and have dropped again – it’s now up-and-down for a triple bogey. You don’t want to dunk it again, but there’s a bunker just through the back… In the words of Donny Osmond – “Someone help me, help me pleeeeeaassee!”

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin (also of Golf Monthly)... Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?