Ball Striking vs. Shot Making
We often hear these two terms used to describe a given golfer's particular skills — and sometimes they are used interchangeably. Today, I would like to discuss the difference and then pose a question to all of you to weigh in on, if you would please.

Reading through the dialog out there, here’s how I would define each and explain the difference:

Ball striking refers to a golfer's ability to make extremely solid contact with the ball, shot after shot, club to club, with remarkable consistency. It is the core essence of the game, actually, because until you get reasonably consistent in making solid contact in the center of the face of the club, you really don't know what the ball is going to do.

Shot making on the other hand, is the golfer's ability to make the ball do what he or she wants — shaping shots to move the ball around, fades and draws, high and low, take a little off of it, amp it up a bit, etc. These are the skills that define the highly accomplished player.

In discussions of "ball striking," the same names come up time and again, obviously most of them successful tour professional: Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Tommy Bolt, and Lee Trevino are maybe the most noted. One of the more common is also the legendary Moe Norman. It was said by those who had the opportunity to see him that he almost never mis-hit a shot, and every one took off on the same trajectory and flight. It was said that Mr. Norman never achieved financial fame on the golf course, and I have read it was because of his nerves and quirky nature. Nevertheless, he is the subject of countless legends.

Moving on to "shot making," again we see many of the same names, with the addition of Tiger Woods, of course, who has shown us some remarkable imagination and execution of shots most wouldn't even have the ability to see. It was said about Ben Hogan that he was one of the very few that combined both skills. Ben Hogan was noted for this insightful piece of advice about how to approach a pin location:
"You work the ball toward the flag. If it is in the right side of the green, you hit a fade, and hit a draw to any left flag location. Pins in the front require a high shot with spin, and those toward the back of the green require a lower shot with less spin. You always work the ball flight from the center of the green toward the edges."
Now that's serious insight into how the game can be played... at least if you have complete control over the ball flight — or at least want to. And that brings me to my question today, to which I would like for all of you to weigh in.

I would like for as many of you as possible to chime with your answer to this question:

Do you ever try to hit various shots — draws, fades, high, low, "carve it," etc. — and how often? Only when necessary, frequently, often? Please also indicate your handicap with your answer, OK?

Let's have some fun with this.
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[ comments ]
slimpks1850 says:
I mainly try to play the same shot [with only an attempt @ solid ball striking].

I have played something low when in the trees but just a safe punch out. I have clubbed up swung smooth to hit it lower with less spin into the wind. I have also flighted the ball left to right with intended amounts. There's basically no draw in my game.

Alot of it done only when necessary & rarely when not required.

Handicap: 18
bkuehn1952 says:
I only attempt to work a ball left or right when a relatively straight shot won't get the job done. Same with high or low, if my normal trajectory will work, that is what I do.

Index of 8 or so.
cicero says:
I worked it both ways during a couple of rounds. I didn't always know where it would end up, so I did it mostly off the tee. Felt more in control of the ball; less shots seemed like happy accidents. But the curves I hit were so big that I had to start the ball off the fairway or the green, so if it didn't curve, it was a problem. Now I play a small fade. My misses are much better playing this way, but having a shot come to you off the tee and then hitting it had me feeling like I knee what I was doing out there--well, almost.

Shoot in the 90's
legitimatebeef says:
If there is room in which to miss I will try almost anything.

Handicap is fourteen. (screw you)
gpickin says:
I usually only work the ball when needed.

I am trying to get more work in my shots when on the range, so I could do this more often on the course, but I don't practice or play enough to be able to make solid contact, and without that, its hard to work the ball.

Handicap 15 and going up
GolfSmith7 says:
I attempt to work the ball only when needed for the most part my stock shot is a straight shot.

Handicap 5
jonbin28 says:
I am like slimpks1850. Generallym only when I have to but again very little draw in my iron shots (I am improving). The advise on shot making towards the flag is the 1st time I have heard that fully explained. The consistent ball strike is my problem though I'll try the shot making every time from here on. 19-21 HC.
jasonfish11 says:
I was told by a former pro (played the now tour and 2 US Opens) that there are less than 50 people in the world that are good enough to attempt to hit the ball both ways at will. He said for 18 months he had only been hitting a cut (unless a tree or something required him to draw it).

Until I get to be one of those 50 people I just go to the range and figure out who my dancing partner will be that day.

I only try to move the ball one way or ther other if I have an obstruction that prevents me from hitting my normal shot.

handicap 11.

Pro who gave me that advice carried a +5 handicap at his home course.
birdieXris says:
I can work it both ways when i try. lately i've just been trying to make solid contact after my back issues. Seems to be working out OK. I'm going to go back to playing shots, but the last couple of rounds i've just been slapping it around and finding it. I always aim for the center of the green, generally speaking. The only time i change that is when i have a noticeable miss any given day. If i'm pulling a bunch, i'll cheat my aim to the right center, etc.

oobgolf 5.3, USGA 4.5
Gromit5 says:
When I was playing (damn injuries!), I always tried to hit the shot that was called for. It helps to sharpen one's focus. Who said "If you've hit it straight, you've missed it?" Venturi? Or, "The straight shot is the hardest of all." Even if you can't pull the shot off, at least try. Of course, it helps to have clubs suited for your purpose and personally fit.
sjduffers says:
I have a stock fade, but can draw the ball when it's really needed (i.e. around obstructions, etc...), except with the driver. However I don't try to draw for left pin positions, because I don't necessarily control the amount of draw. I do lower the ball trajectory into the wind, for punch shots under trees, etc... but hardly ever add more height unless I absolutely have to go over a tree, but that does not always work, which is why I don't do it systematically for front pins.

Handicap 10.
aaronm04 says:
My stock shot is a draw. I can hit a hook but usually only do so to work around obstacles.

I have an unreliable cut that often cuts too much or that I push. I play this on only a few holes and it costs me about 20+ yards. I have a more reliable low fade/slice as a "just get it in the fairway" shot (driver, ball teed low, middle of stance, less than full swing, aim WAY left, and do NOT let those forearms roll over). That one costs me about 60 yards.

I seldom hit a fade with my irons. I do try to work from the middle of the green but usually through club selection. If it's a back pin and there's any debate on club selection, I will take the lesser club and err on the side of being in the middle of the green. If it's a right pin, depending on conditions and distance, I will aim at the flag and let it draw back towards the middle.

I will be way more aggressive with full or 3/4 wedge shots than with longer clubs.

oobgolf HCP: 6.2, GHIN HCP: 6.0
kayagum says:
Stock good shot is a draw. My consistency is dependent on it, so I rarely try for anything else.

Can hit a high fade out of trouble.

I think modern equipment (particularly the ball) makes it difficult to shape it left or right. Trajectory seems to be a better way to manage shots to green.... we shouldn't be going for sucker pins anyway, right?

Where shaping has helped me a lot has been in the short game, particularly pitches. Deliberately putting on a draw or fade spin on the ball has helped me tremendously, if for nothing else to get me to be specific on how I want the shot to go. Obviously trajectory follows from this.

15-16 handicap, going for 12.
joe jones says:
When I was younger and playing with blades and balata balls I could work the ball both ways. After a while I chose to play a fade most of the time. It became a matter of taking one side of the course out of play to be more consistent.As Trevino said " You can talk to a fade but a hook won't listen".. Kayagum is correct about the new ball. Very few players today can or do move the ball both ways.Terry is correct about Hogan but I feel he played his approach shots with a purpose.Later in his career he felt that his putting let him down so he always played to keep the ball in a position that afforded him the best possible putt.It was one way to reduce the yips which crept into his game on difficult putts.
GBogey says:
When I'm playing well I have a very straight shot. I can play a fade with my irons if need be, but getting the right amount of fade is hard. I would really like to be better able to shape tee shots but lots of practice has yielded little progress. Driver tends to fade, 3W tends to draw, neither reliably.

Handicap around 10.
GBogey says:
When I'm playing well I have a very straight shot. I can play a fade with my irons if need be, but getting the right amount of fade is hard. I would really like to be better able to shape tee shots but lots of practice has yielded little progress. Driver tends to fade, 3W tends to draw, neither reliably.

Handicap around 10.
GBogey says:
When I'm playing well I have a very straight shot. I can play a fade with my irons if need be, but getting the right amount of fade is hard. I would really like to be better able to shape tee shots but lots of practice has yielded little progress. Driver tends to fade, 3W tends to draw, neither reliably.

Handicap around 10.
Matt F says:
I can't, for the life of me, work the ball. I have enough trouble hitting it straight all the time.

Handicap: 20.
falcon50driver says:
I can scorch grass for 60 or 70 yards in a perfectly straight line. I can demonstrate that technique reliably to groups of people, the larger the group, the more reliable the demonstration.
ptwheels says:
I typically hit my normal shots with a baby draw. I will on occasion attempt to move the ball in various directions with limited success. As a high handicapper, I look for a good ball striking round anytime! Index 18.6
onedollarwed says:
I always work the ball from the tee, with every club - especially the driver. Typically, I'm hitting fairly straight with irons and focused on aiming and distance control. I can work the ball into all of the "nine shot types" if needed, and practice that on the range. When playing off of the ground, it's harder to play the hooks and draws with the low irons, except the push draws. Likewise, the fades become less distinct with the higher lofts. I rarely play fades with clubs over 8-iron. Distance is just too weak and unpredictable.
I have been called a ball-striker by people often - even before I had any idea what that meant. As far as shot making, I have trouble dialing it back, and often prefer the aggressive play. I also have poor judgement when weighing all of the factors necessary to make the ideal shots. Maybe that's the plight of the ball striker? I get up to the green and say, "shoot, I should've done something else."
The shot-makers plight - know exactly what to, poor contact?
e_c_poirier says:
I have a 13 handicap index and I have just 2 goals:
1) to hit the sweet spot of the club face, each and every time.
2) hit the ball towards my target in a straight line.

The only time I shape my shot, and the only shape I have is a slice, is by accident and I leave my club face open, or on purpose - when I'm forced to do so based on my current lie/circumstance.
BlameMe says:
I'm with e_c_poirier on this. I've never tried to work the ball left or right. My usual shot was a slice and now a baby fade. Reason why I don't work it, its because I'm not a good enough consistent ball striker to to it yet. If I did try I'd be putting myself in to more trouble than if I did not. When I can manage to hit the ball stright'ish on a regular basis then I may start.

A few who have replied are above 15 handicap and for those I would suggest forget about working the ball and try more for a straight shot to the center of a fairway or green and manage yourself round a course in as simpler fashion as you can, doing that may see your handicap come down.

I'm an 11 hdp
onedollarwed says:
Wait! Wait! Don't stop trying to work the ball! Especially if you've got a high index.
I'll be more specific - and yes, in reality your slices and hooks are working the ball. Unless you're missing the club head and shanking, popping, toeing your life away, you can learn much from the ball flight. Research the nine shot types and try to play it the other way.
If you're a massive slicer and can hook the ball on purpose then you're getting somewhere.
Of course it's not that simple, but a crazy ball flight will tell you lots. Besides mishits, you've really only got angle of clubface and "English," or spin imparted by the path of the club. Just like in Tennis, Ping Pong, soccer, etc.
Of course there is loft as well, and the dirt/grass/sand.
elliottgaryusa says:
I always practice working the ball RL/LR/High/Low on the range but don't have the ball striking skills to do it consistently on the course. So simple ball-striking would probably improve my score more that shot shaping. That said, I love the challenge of making the ball do what I want it to do.
biglou11 says:
I hit a predominant draw, unless I'm trying to hit a draw/hook around something...then it usually fades!

18 hcp
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