The Cut Shot in Golf: What It Is and How to Hit One

Golfer Daniel Brooks plays from behind a tree during the Madeira Islands Open tournament
One reason to play a cut shot is when there is a tree or other obstacle that prevents a direct route to the target. Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

In golf, "cut shot" is a term applied to a type of controlled golf shot in which a golfer induces a fade ball flight. For a right-handed golfer, that means the path the golf ball travels in flight curves left-to-right (for left-handed golfers, a cut shot moves from right-to-left).

Are cut shots and fades the same thing? The two terms are often used interchangeably, and that's OK. There can be a difference of intent, however.

"Fade" is a term applied to any moderate left-to-right ball movement (for a right-hander) in flight. (A severe curve from left to right is a "slice.") That means a golfer playing such a shot intentionally is hitting a fade; but also, a golfer who accidentally hits a left-to-right shot - and has no idea how it happened - is hitting a fade.

Using the term "cut shot," however, implies intent on the part of the golfer to hit that specific type of shot.

When to Play a Cut Shot

Why would a golfer want to induce the ball to curve left-to-right (for a right-handed golfer) in flight?

A cut shot is usually played in order to get the ball around some obstruction in its flight path. For example, your drive lands on the right side of the fairway, where overhanging tree branches pose a problem. A cut shot will start the ball out to the left - going around the problem - before moving the ball back to the right.

You can't go straight at the target, in other words, because of those tree branches, so the cut shot lets you curve the ball around the problem.

Cut shots are frequently played on approaches to the green, as well, as a way of avoiding greenside hazards. For example, a right-handed player facing a green that is well-protected on the right but open on the left might play a cut shot, bringing the ball into the green from left-to-right.

How to Play a Cut Shot

Golfers typically play a cut shot in one of two ways:

Both options (assuming an otherwise good golf swing) puts the clubface on the ball at impact in an open position. Think of the impact as more of a swipe across the golf ball, from outside to inside, as opposed to a square impact - one that causes the ball to spin in a way that makes it curve in flight.

How big a cut you need to play - how modest or severe you wish the curving to be - determines just how open your stance or clubface needs to be. (A severe cut shot might require combining both maneuvers.)

That's the basic version of playing a cut shot. Another way of putting it: Learn how to hit a fade on command, and you'll have the cut shot in your arsenal. For more on that:

Usage Examples

  • "I'm going to have to play a cut shot to get around that tree."
  • "This approach into the green calls for a cut shot to avoid the bunker on the right side."
  • A golfer who is attempting a cut shot might be said to be "cutting the ball around" the tree or other obstacle.
  • You might hear a TV announcer say, "She needs to cut this ball in from the left," for another example, to avoid a hazard guarding the right side of a green.