When the average amateur finds his golf ball lying on a cart path, the typical reaction is to pick it up and take a free drop onto the nearest patch of grass (no nearer the hole, of course).
Professional golfers don’t always act so automatically. In fact, it’s common for a pro to play a shot right off a cart path.
Why do they risk cracking a club on rock-hard concrete, and possibly injuring themselves in the bargain, when grassy relief may be mere feet away? For one thing, pros are capable of picking the ball cleanly off the surface, even swinging at full speed. But they’ll only chance it if taking a drop will obstruct their line to the hole or result in a poor lie.
Unless you’re a low-handicapper with excellent control of the clubhead – and lots of confidence -- taking a full rip at a ball on the cart path isn’t recommended. What you don’t want is to make a tentative swing that causes you to pull up in fear at the last instant – you’ll most likely top the shot.
That said, here are factors that make a cart-path shot worth a try:
- Your drop option(s) put you in an unfavorable position or lie.
- You only need to advance the ball a short distance, requiring only a partial swing.
- The shot doesn’t require much if any height and can be rolled to the target, with no hazards or obstacles in the line.
- The ball is lying on a smooth patch of path. (If it’s sitting between ridges or ripples, it may bounce unpredictably on contact.)
If conditions are right, use a long to medium iron (3-6), a hybrid club or fairway wood; grip down the shaft an inch or more for control, and to keep the club’s sole above the surface; play the ball in the middle of your stance; make a shallow swing that picks or sweeps the ball off the path; keep your eyes and shoulders down through impact -- and try not to flinch!