What is a Duff in Golf

In the world of golf, the term “duff” is commonly used to describe a less-than-perfect golf shot, typically one that results in poor contact between the clubface and the golf ball. Duffing a shot can be a source of frustration for golfers of all skill levels, and it often leads to subpar performance on the golf course. In this article, we’ll delve into what exactly a “duff” is, what causes it, and how to avoid it.

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Definition of a Duff

A “duff” in golf refers to a shot where a golfer makes poor contact with the ball, resulting in a weak or mishit shot. It is characterized by hitting the ground before striking the ball or hitting the ball with the clubhead’s toe or heel instead of the sweet spot. When a duff occurs, the ball typically travels a shorter distance than intended and may not follow the desired trajectory.

Causes of a Duff

Several factors can contribute to duffing a golf shot:

1. Poor Swing Mechanics

One of the most common reasons for duffing a shot is improper swing mechanics. If a golfer fails to maintain a balanced and smooth swing, they may make contact with the ground before the ball or strike the ball off-center, resulting in a duff.

2. Lack of Focus

Mental lapses and lack of concentration can also lead to duffed shots. Golf is a mentally demanding game, and distractions or loss of focus can cause golfers to mishit the ball.

3. Inadequate Setup

A proper setup is crucial for a successful golf shot. If a golfer’s stance, grip, or alignment is incorrect, it can lead to poor contact with the ball and result in a duff.

4. Challenging Lies

Playing from difficult lies, such as deep rough or bunkers, increases the likelihood of duffing a shot. These conditions make it harder to make clean contact with the ball.

5. Club Selection

Selecting the wrong club for a particular shot can also lead to duffing. Using a club with too much or too little loft for the situation can result in a poor strike.

How to Avoid Duffing Shots

To minimize the occurrence of duffed shots and improve overall golf performance, golfers can consider the following tips:

1. Practice Proper Swing Mechanics

Regular practice and lessons with a golf professional can help improve swing mechanics. Focusing on a balanced and fluid swing motion is key to making clean contact with the ball.

2. Maintain Concentration

Concentration and mental focus are essential in golf. Golfers should develop pre-shot routines and strategies to stay mentally engaged throughout the round.

3. Check Your Setup

Ensuring a proper setup with the right grip, stance, and alignment is crucial. Pay attention to fundamentals before each shot to increase the chances of a clean strike.

4. Adapt to Different Lies

When faced with challenging lies, adapt your technique accordingly. This might involve adjusting your stance, ball position, or club selection to make better contact.

5. Choose the Right Club

Selecting the appropriate club for each shot is vital. Knowing your distances and considering factors like wind and hazards can help you choose the right club and reduce duffed shots.

Common Types of Duffed Shots

Duffed shots can manifest in various forms, each with its own challenges and causes. Here are some common types of duffed shots and insights into what causes them:

1. Chunked Shot

A “chunked” shot occurs when a golfer hits the ground behind the ball before making contact. This typically results in the ball traveling only a short distance. A chunked shot often happens due to poor weight transfer during the swing or an overly steep downswing.

How to Fix It:

  • Focus on transferring your weight smoothly from your back foot to your front foot during the downswing.
  • Practice shallowing out your downswing to avoid excessively steep angles of attack.

2. Topped Shot

A “topped” shot happens when a golfer strikes the ball above its equator, causing it to skim along the ground or pop up into the air with minimal distance. Topped shots are often caused by lifting the upper body during the swing, leading to poor ball contact.

How to Fix It:

  • Maintain a stable and centered position throughout the swing, avoiding any excessive lifting.
  • Work on maintaining a consistent spine angle throughout the swing.

3. Fat Shot

A “fat” shot is when a golfer strikes the ground too far behind the ball, causing the club to dig into the turf before making contact with the ball. This can result in a loss of distance and accuracy. Fat shots often occur due to poor weight distribution and improper ball positioning.

How to Fix It:

  • Ensure that your weight is evenly distributed between your feet at address.
  • Position the ball correctly in your stance; it should be just ahead of center for most iron shots.

4. Shanked Shot

A “shank” is a dreaded occurrence where the ball is struck on the hosel of the club, sending it sharply to the right (for a right-handed golfer). Shanks can be especially frustrating and challenging to overcome.

How to Fix It:

  • Address your setup to ensure you’re not standing too close to the ball.
  • Focus on making an inside-to-out swing path and keeping the clubhead away from your body during the downswing.


Duffing shots in golf is a common challenge that golfers of all skill levels face. Understanding the various types of duffed shots and their underlying causes is essential for improvement. By practicing proper swing mechanics, maintaining mental focus, checking setup fundamentals, adapting to challenging lies, and selecting the right club, golfers can significantly reduce the occurrence of duffed shots.


Types of Golf Swings

Type of SwingDescriptionCommon CausesImpact on ShotExample
DuffA poor shot where the club head hits the ground before the ball, resulting in minimal distance and accuracy.Poor ball contact, lack of focus, and incorrect weight shift.Short distance, lack of control.Hitting the turf before the ball on a chip shot.
SliceA shot that curves sharply to the right (for right-handed golfers) due to improper clubface alignment at impact.Open clubface, outside-in swing path.Ball curves right of target.Ball lands in the rough or out of bounds.
HookA shot that curves sharply to the left (for right-handed golfers) due to excessive clubface closure at impact.Closed clubface, inside-out swing path.Ball curves left of target.Ball lands in the rough or a hazard.
ShankA shot where the ball contacts the hosel of the club, sending it sharply to the right (for right-handed golfers).Clubface too open at impact, poor weight transfer.Ball goes off to the right.Embarrassing and often results in penalty strokes.
Worm BurnerA low, fast shot that skims along the ground and doesn’t get much height.Hitting the ball too low on the clubface.Low trajectory, limited distance.Ball stays close to the ground, difficult to control.

 Common Causes of a Duff in Golf

Poor weight transferFailing to shift your weight correctly from backswing to downswing.
Lack of focusLosing concentration and not maintaining the proper stance and setup.
Incorrect ball positionPlacing the golf ball too far forward or backward in your stance.
OverswingingSwinging the club too aggressively or beyond your control.
Tight gripGripping the club too tightly, limiting wrist flexibility and control.
SwayingMoving laterally during the swing instead of rotating the hips.
Improper alignmentIncorrect alignment of the feet, hips, and shoulders at address.
Hitting the ground behind the ballStriking the turf behind the ball instead of making clean ball contact.
Rushing the downswingRushing the transition from backswing to downswing, causing instability.
Lack of practiceInconsistent practice leading to poor muscle memory and swing mechanics.

Tips to Avoid Duffing in Golf

Maintain a balanced stanceEnsure a stable setup with equal weight on both feet.
Practice weight transferFocus on shifting your weight smoothly from backswing to downswing.
Keep a light gripHold the club with a relaxed grip to promote wrist flexibility.
Choose the right clubSelect the appropriate club for the distance and lie of the ball.
Check ball positionPosition the ball correctly in your stance for different shots.
Maintain a steady tempoSwing with a consistent and controlled tempo.
Stay relaxedKeep your muscles loose to enable a fluid swing motion.
Visualize a clean strikeMentally picture making solid contact with the ball.
Work on alignmentEnsure proper alignment of your feet, hips, and shoulders.
Practice regularlyRegular practice and lessons to improve swing mechanics.

Effects of a Duff on Your Game

Loss of distanceDuff shots typically result in reduced shot distance.
Decreased accuracyDuffs often lead to shots veering off target.
FrustrationRepeated duff shots can be mentally frustrating.
Scorecard impactDuffs can add strokes to your scorecard.
Confidence dentA series of duff shots can erode your confidence.
Longer roundsDuff shots can slow down the pace of play.
Missed opportunitiesDuffs can prevent you from capitalizing on scoring chances.
Difficulty recoveryDuffs in challenging lies make recovery shots tougher.
Impact on enjoymentConsistent duffs can make golf less enjoyable.
Risk of injuryPoor technique when duffing may risk injury.

Common Scenarios Leading to a Duff

Chipping from the roughThe uneven lie and thick grass can lead to duff shots.
Hitting from a bunkerHitting the sand before the ball often results in a duff.
Wet or soggy turfMoist conditions can cause clubhead drag and duffing.
Uphill or downhill liesUneven lies can make it challenging to make clean contact.
Tight lies on the fairwayThin grass can make it easy to hit the ground first.
Inconsistent swing tempoA rushed or decelerated swing can result in duffs.
Nervousness or pressureAnxiety on critical shots can lead to duffing.
Overly long shotsAttempting to hit too hard can cause a duff.
Poor club selectionUsing the wrong club for the situation can lead to duffs.
Lack of practiceInsufficient practice can result in inconsistent ball contact.


It’s important to remember that even professional golfers occasionally duff shots. Golf is a game of skill and precision, and the journey to improvement is ongoing. With dedication, practice, and a willingness to learn from your mistakes, you can become a more consistent and proficient golfer, minimizing the frustration of duffing shots and enhancing your overall enjoyment of the game.


What is a Duff in Golf


  • Anglo Carson

    Anglo Carson, a Certified Golf Instructor, embarked on a remarkable journey, driven by his unwavering love for golf. He founded The Golf Mine with a singular mission - to create a golfing haven where passion knows no boundaries. His lifelong love affair with golf, combined with his expertise as a Certified Golf Instructor, turned into a vision to share his extensive knowledge, inspire, and promote the game he holds dear.

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