7 Epic Shots… And How To Play Them!

In this video, Kit Alexander is joined at The Belfry by PGA Professional Alex Elliott to look at 7 epic shots and how to play them. From hitting powerful drives to approaching the green over water, these are all risk and reward moments that, if you choose to take on, could really help your overall score. Alex’s simple and effective tips illustrate how to approach these key moments with confidence.

Power drive

Intimidating tee shot

There are times on the golf course when you just need to hit a long and accurate drive, just like the 18th tee at The Belfry. There are three things I want you to think about in a situation like this. Firstly, tee height. I tend to use three different tee heights with driver: A lower one for a lower shot that’s good in the wind, mid-height for my stock fairway finder and a little higher for my ‘bombs away’ tee shot when I want to maximise distance. You want to have roughly half the ball above the top of the driver at address and the ball level with your lead heel to help you hit it on the up.

Club selection: Callaway Epic Speed Driver

Secondly, having the ball forward in the stance can throw off your shoulder alignment so make sure they’re pointing parallel to your target line and your lead shoulder is a touch higher than your trail shoulder at address. Thirdly, most of the drives I hit are at the equivalent of gear four if you’re driving a car, but when you need that extra distance you have to step it up to gear five. You’ve got to stay balanced and maintain your timing, but just feel like you give it that little bit more without losing your technique.

Long iron approach over water

A long shot over water like the approach to the 18th hole at The Belfry is one of the scariest shots in golf. You can lay up short of the water, but that will make it very hard to make your par. If you’re able to hit a solid long iron shot, there’s no reason you can’t go for the green with confidence – and it’s easier to do than you probably think.

Club Selection: Callaway X Forged UT 18˚

A lot of amateurs struggle with long irons because you don’t see a lot of loft when you look down on it and you try and help it into the air and end up hitting it a bit thin. You have to trust the club to do what it’s been designed to do and launch the ball into the air if you make a good swing, because it will.

You want to feel like your right arm stays long and releases to the target in your swing, so make some practice motions doing that without the club to ingrain that feeling. That will help you hit it more solid and reduce that fade or slice that a lot of players have with the less lofted club.

Fairway bunker recovery 

There’s always a big decision to be made from a fairway bunker that has a reasonably steep face. It’s all about the lie, because if it’s not sitting well and it looks like you’ll get some sand between the clubface and the ball at impact that makes it more difficult to hit a clean shot. If it’s sitting down, you probably have to take your medicine and get it back on the fairway. 

Fairway bunker club selection

Club selection: Callaway Apex Pro irons

Choose a club that guarantees you get the ball above the lip and out the bunker, even if that doesn’t quite reach the green. You can still make a par from just short, but the last thing you want to do is hit the face of the bunker and leave yourself with the same shot again. Use your normal grip, stance and ball position, but don’t dig your feet into the sand as much as you would for a greenside bunker shot, because that drops your swing arc and increases the chances of fatting it. Get your feet into the sand as little as you can while still giving yourself a stable base. Pick out a mark just ahead of the ball to focus on, keep your legs pretty quiet during the swing and make sure you hit down on it to contact the ball before the sand.

Punch under the trees

The ability to hit a recovery under overhanging branches will enable you to be aggressive and save shots when you get out of position. You need a lie that will enable you to play the punch shot, so you don’t want to try it from rough that’s too thick. You also need to be able to get the ball running up the fairway, so the amount of rough you have to carry to reach it and the angle you’re playing up the hole are also important.

Long iron from trees

Club selection: Callaway X Forged UT 18˚

You want to take the lowest lofted iron you have in the bag. You want to hit down on the ball more and have less loft on the clubface at impact than for a normal iron shot, but a lot of this can be achieved from how you set up at address. Grip down the shaft, position the ball an inch or two further back in your stance, shift a little more weight into your lead leg, aim your body just a touch left of the target to account for impact coming slightly earlier in the swing arc, and make a smooth three-quarter swing.

Flop shot over trouble

If you’re short-sided and there’s a hazard you need to carry between you and the pin, the only way to stop the ball close to the hole is with height. To get maximum height while hitting the ball only a short distance you need to play a flop shot. But it’s a high-risk shot so don’t be afraid to play a simpler shot long of the pin to make sure your next shot is a putt if you aren’t confident about going aerial.

Club selection: Callaway Jaws MD5 Tour Grey 60˚ wedge, Callaway Chrome Soft X Triple Track ball

You need the right lie to give yourself a realistic chance of success. The ball sitting just above the ground in light rough gives you more room to slide the clubhead under the ball and just enough margin for error. Take the most lofted wedge you carry and treat it a bit like a bunker shot. Open the face as much as you can and then take your grip with the face already open. Take a wide stance with the ball a little forward of centre. Bend your knees, drop your hands a little and favour your lead leg with your weight, which will get the open face aiming at the target.

Imagine there’s a smiley face on the clubface and get it pointing back at you in the follow-through and finish position to encourage the correct path through impact and release. Take a few practice swings to get used to how the club will move through the grass and picture how much force and speed you need to put into it.

Driveable par 4 with danger

A short par 4 is a great opportunity to make a birdie or maybe even an eagle, but there’s still danger involved, especially when the green is as well protected as the iconic 10th hole at The Belfry. You have to think of it like any other drive. If you start attaching greater importance to a shot like this, you’re going to get nervous and tense and probably won’t make your best swing. It’s important to be precise so really hone in on your specific target like the pin itself or a tree behind the green. Stay relaxed and make sure you stay balanced and smooth throughout the swing to maintain good rhythm.

driver alignment

Club selection: Callaway Epic Speed Driver

Good alignment is vital when you’re playing to a specific target, especially if it’s quite a long way away. I like to use a line on my ball and aim it where I want to start the ball. Get the clubhead square to the line on the ball and build your stance around that so your body is aligned correctly too.

Going for it from the rough 

What you do when you’re faced with a long approach shot from the rough can have a huge impact on your scorecard, especially when there’s water involved. There are two options, depending on how you’re playing and feeling: lay up to a sensible yardage or go for it, which could save you one or two shots.

Club selection: Callaway Apex 21 Pro 20˚ hybrid

When the ball is in the rough you need to use a club that’s going to help you get it into the air and maximise your carry distance. A hybrid is a much better option than a long iron because it’s designed to launch the ball higher and will maintain more clubhead speed as it goes through the rough. You want to play it like it’s an iron shot, so you’re hitting down on the ball. Get the ball a clubhead’s length inside your left heel and swing just like you would for a mid-iron so you have a slight descending blow that contacts the ball before bruising the turf or taking a small divot.