There's nothing worse than finding your ball sitting down in thick rough or resting in the bottom of a divot. But sometimes, the ball may be sitting up too good.
For instance, when the grass in the rough is especially dense, the ball will sometimes perch on top. This leaves a golf lie with lots of air underneath, if you will, making it difficult to compress the ball between the clubface and the ground and costing you control.
Fluffy golf lies often generate so-called “flier” shots, too. This happens when grass is caught between the ball and clubface, reducing contact with the grooves and decreasing backspin. The result – a shot that flies and rolls farther than usual.
The first key to dealing with a fluffy golf lie is recognizing it. A quick visual assessment will usually tell you if the ball is sitting well above ground level, or if there's a lot of grass around it.
Once you've determined that your ball is sitting up, the next move is club selection. If you've got a long approach to the green, consider using a hybrid instead of a middle iron. The rounded head shape of a hybrid helps it glide more easily through the grass.
Whether hitting a hybrid, mid-iron or short iron, you'll want to sweep the ball from the rough. Proceed as follows:
- Position the ball between the middle of your stance and the left foot (right foot if you're left handed).
- Aim away from hazards and plan for the ball to roll a bit after landing.
- Your weight should be distributed evenly across the feet.
- Take a slightly firmer grip than normal to prevent the club from turning in the tall grass.
- Grip down an inch or so to shorten the club. This will prevent the club from sliding too far under the ball and popping it up.
- Hover the club so the leading edge is level with the bottom of the ball, or slightly higher.
- Swing with the intention of sweeping the clubhead through the ball. It's OK to make a slightly downward blow.
Fluffy golf lies can be unpredictable, but keep your routine consistent and you'll fare better than most golfers.
Top Five Fluffy Lie Basics – Full Shots
As you may already know, the lie of the ball in the grass largely dictates the kinds of shots that you are able to hit. When you have a good lie, nearly anything is possible – you can hit it high, hit it low, turn it to the left or right, or do just about anything else you need to do in order to reach the target. Of course, when you have a poor lie, just the opposite is true. You will have very little control over the ball when you have a bad lie, so you will be forced to just 'chop it out' while hoping for the best. Players who learn how to correctly read their lies around the course will have a great advantage at the end of the day.
One of the trickiest lies you will have to deal with from time to time on the course is the 'fluffy' lie. This is a situation where your ball is in the rough, but it is not sitting down at the bottom of the grass. Instead, it is sitting on top of the rough, hanging at least a couple of inches off the ground. Many golfers walk up to this kind of a lie and they think they have caught a break – after all, the ball looks like it is on a tee! Wouldn't this have to be better than if the ball was sitting down at the bottom of the long grass? Not necessarily.
A fluffy lie presents you with a number of problems. First and foremost, it is going to be hard to find the sweet spot at impact since the ball is not sitting down on the ground. You won't be hitting your driver on this shot like you would be from the tee, so the clubs you are using aren't designed to hit the ball while it is hanging in the air. For instance, if you need to hit a nine iron or pitching wedge from a fluffy lie, you are going to have a hard time making solid contact. It is not impossible to produce a good shot from this situation, but it will take a combination of skill and a little bit of luck.
Another problem you will face when dealing with a fluffy lie is the fact that you aren't going to be able to hit down on the ball as you would if it was sitting directly on the turf. Hitting down through impact is a key ingredient to good ball striking with the irons, but that is going to go out the window once your ball comes to rest in this tricky lie. Only when you have a good plan for how you are going to handle this situation will you be able to get your ball safely back onto the short grass in a good position time after time.
Below you will find a list of the top five basics that you should use when playing a shot from a fluffy lie. If you can put each of these tips to use when you are forced to play from this kind of lie, you should see your results quickly improve.
#1 Choke Down on the Grip
The first adjustment you need to make when playing from a fluffy lie is choking down on the grip of the club. No matter what kind of a shot you are going to be playing from this lie – even if you are trying to hit a full shot that covers a couple hundreds yards or more – you should still be choking down at address. Since the ball is up off of the ground by an inch or two, you need to choke down a matching amount in order to give yourself the best chance to put the sweet spot on the back of the ball at impact. If you were to use the entire length of the club, it would be very likely that you would swing through impact too low to the ground, and you would hit the ball high on the face.
While you might feel like you are going to lose swing speed when you choke down, you will regain any lost power by contacting the ball on the sweet spot more frequently. Swinging hard doesn't do you any good if you are unable to hit the ball cleanly, which should always be the top priority for any shot – especially one played from this kind of lie. Remember, the goal is to get back in play as quickly as possible without doing damage to your score, and playing this shot while choked down on the grip is a smart move when you have that goal in mind.
As you choke down, you may also find it necessary to move slightly close to the ball at address. The club is going to effectively be shorter during your swing when you choke down, so standing closer to the ball by and inch or two will make it easier to reach impact properly. If you were to leave your feet in the same spot while choking down, you would have to reach out to find the ball at the bottom of the swing – and your mechanics could be thrown off-track as a result. Experiment with different address positions until you find a spot that is comfortable and allows you to reach the ball with ease on the way through the hitting area.
#2 – Pick a Line with Plenty of Margin
This is a course management tip that needs to be properly understood if you are going to successfully get yourself back on track after finding your ball sitting in the rough with a fluffy lie. It is tempting to play aggressively from the rough, especially when you see the ball sitting on top of the grass, but that would usually be a mistake. If there is any kind of danger lurking near the target, the best course of action is to play it safe and pick a line that gives you plenty of margin for error.
What does it mean to play with margin? Basically, this means that you are going to pick a target line which allows you to miss in either direction without getting into too much trouble. The best way to think about this point is with an example. Imagine that you are facing a shot from a fluffy lie in the rough, and you have 150 yards to the hole. The hole is located on the right side of the green, and that side is also protected by a deep bunker. When playing from the fairway, you would certainly take dead aim, as the risk of going in the sand is worth taking a chance on setting up a short birdie putt. However, if you are dealing with a fluffy lie, you can't afford to be so aggressive. Even if you make a good swing, there is no way to predict exactly where the ball is going to go with this shot. The nature of this lie dictates that the ball could quickly fly off line even after making a good strike, so the ultimate outcome of the shot really isn't within your control.
In the case of this example, you would want to aim to the left of the target to reduce the risk of putting your ball in the right bunker. Will this also reduce the chances of hitting the ball close to the hole? Yes, it probably will. However, that it is trade you should be willing to make. The most important thing you need to keep in mind when playing from the rough is getting your ball back into good position after just one shot. If you were to hit the ball from your fluffy lie in the rough into the greenside bunker, you will have just gone from one problem to another. The best way to keep your score under control is to limit the amount of time you spend in tough spots. Find the short grass by playing a shot with plenty of margin and move on quickly.
It should be noted that you are going to have to have plenty of patience if you are going to play golf in this manner. When you find your ball in the rough, you will likely be a little frustrated that you missed the fairway to begin with – and you will want to hit a great shot in order to recover in impressive fashion. It can be hard to maintain your patience at this point in a round, but that is exactly what you need to do. Make sure you take a deep breath before calmly looking over your options and picking the path that makes the most sense based on your lie and the terrain in front of you. By taking the patient, smart approach time after time, you will stand a much better chance of keeping your score under control at the end of the day.
#3 – Don't Plan on Spin
To spin the golf ball, you need to have clean, solid contact between your club face and the ball – and that just isn't going to happen when playing from a fluffy lie. Since you can't pinch the ball against the ground on this kind of shot, there will never be a high rate of backspin like you might find when you play from the fairway. Also, there is going to be some grass trapped between the ball and the club face at impact, further reducing the overall spin rate of the shot. When you add everything up, you come to one clear conclusion – the ball is not going to be spinning very much while it is in the air.
As you may already understand, a lack of spin can be both a good and a bad thing. On the positive side, a shot that has a low spin rate is not going to curve dramatically in the air, so you shouldn't need to worry about a big hook or slice when playing from a fluffy lie. While you can certainly miss your target line due to the ball taking off in the wrong direction as it comes off the club face, there shouldn't be too much curve involved as it flies. If you are someone who typically plays a large draw or fade on most of your shots, you should expect that pattern to be greatly reduced from a fluffy lie.
On the downside of the spin equation, you are going to face some ball flight limitations. For one thing, the lack of backspin is going to mean that the ball will fly lower than it would normally. It is backspin that causes the ball to climb high into the air, so you won't be able to achieve that effect if you have a lie that prevents spin from being imparted on the shot. Also, the lack of spin will mean that the shot takes a bigger bounce when it lands, and it will likely roll out farther as well. All of that adds up to a shot that comes out low, stays low, and bounces and rolls once it does come down. None of those characteristics will give you much control over the shot at hand – another reason to play with plenty of margin in all directions, if possible.
If you are playing on a course that has been softened by rain, these changes to your ball flight might not be a big deal. After all, the ball isn't going to bounce and roll very far on a soft course anyway, so you shouldn't worry too much about that factor if the turf is soft. However, when you play on a dry and firm course, you will have to pay close attention to the spin rate that you are likely to achieve. Without a healthy spin rate, it is nearly impossible to hit firm greens out of the rough.
#4 – The Dreaded Flier
Have you ever heard another golfer say that they 'caught a flier'? Do you know what that means? Usually, they will be talking about the same sort of lie that we are discussing in this article. When you have a fluffy lie on top of the rough, you will run the risk of 'catching a flier' – in other words, you will risk hitting the ball well over the target due to the lack of spin sending the ball launching into the distance. The ball will occasionally come out 'hot' from this kind of lie, especially if you make perfect contact at impact. It is rather common for a golfer to think they have hit a beautiful shot from a fluffy lie only to see the ball land well beyond the target.
The biggest problem with a flier is the fact that you never really know when it's coming. Sure, you can guess that you might have a flier lie in certain situations, but you could always be wrong. This part of the game is a guess by nature, as there is no way to know precisely when you are going to catch a flier and when you are going to hit a shot that travels a regular distance. As you gain experience you will gradually get better at making this educated guess, but golfers of all skill levels are prone to catching a flier from time to time.
So is there anything you can do to reduce your chances of catching a flier and sending the ball well beyond the target? While there are no methods that are going to completely eliminate the possibility of launching the ball over the green, there are some steps you can take to put the odds in your favor. One adjustment you can make is to move the ball slightly back in your stance at address. This is a tip that is particularly useful when hitting a short iron shot from a fluffy lie. Of course, the ball will come out lower when you make this change, but you should be able to prevent against a flier most of the time.
One other option for avoiding the flier is to feel like you are trying to hit a cut through impact. By holding off the release of the club head through the ball, you might be able to take some speed off of the shot even if the ball does jump out of the grass. You shouldn't expect to see the ball actually cut much in the air – remember, there won't be much spin on the shot – but just feeling like you are trying to hit a cut may be enough to slow the shot down and prevent a big flier from putting your ball in a bad spot.
#5 – Beware of the Short Miss
It might seem a little odd to include a section about missing short after the previous section highlighted all the perils of hitting the ball long out of a flier lie. However, that is exactly what makes a fluffy lie so dangerous – you can easily miss either short or long, and it is hard to know when which of these misses is going to appear in your game. When the ball is sitting up on the top of the rough, controlling the distance of the shot is a major challenge, and there is much of anything you can do about that fact (other than keeping your ball out of the rough in the first place).
You will run the risk of missing significantly short of your target when the ball hits high on the face of the club at impact. Since the ball is up off the ground by at least an inch or two, you can easily go under the ball when swinging through the hitting area. Missing high on the face means you will miss the sweet spot, and your shot is sure to come up short as a result. Unfortunately, this isn't a shot that is likely to just come up a few yards short of the target, either – when you catch the ball high on the face, you can easily miss your target distance by 15 – 20 yards or more.
Choking down on the club as was suggested earlier in this article is a good place to start when trying to avoid this fate. By choking down, you will shorten the club and you will make it more likely that you are going to hit the sweet spot. However, even while choked down you can still get under the ball too far from time to time. So, with that in mind, you need to pick smart clubs and targets to minimize your risk. On a hole where there is nothing but fairway short of the green, you don't really need to worry about it – you can just make your best swing, and hope that the ball travels the right distance. If it does come up short, nothing is lost, as you will have a fairway lie and a chance to get up and down.
Things get more complicated however, when you have to deal with a hazard short of the green. If there is a water hazard in front of the green, for instance, you will have a choice to make – do you risk going over the water, or do you lay up and pitch across for safety? That is a choice that you will have to make for yourself, but don't discount the possibility of coming up short thanks to poor contact high on the face.
There isn't much good to say about playing a shot from a fluffy lie. It is hard to predict the distance that the ball is going to fly, it is hard to hit your target line, and it is hard to get the ball to stop quickly. Of course, the best thing you can do is keep your ball in the fairway to begin with, but that isn't going to happen every time. When you do draw a fluffy lie, use the information in this article to come up with a plan to get your ball back in position as quickly as possible.