flyer lie grooves

Rough that borders fairways is generally meant to punish golfers by making it harder to advance the ball all the way to the green. But sometimes, rough has the opposite effect – and that can cause even bigger headaches.

The so-called “flyer lie” usually occurs in lighter rough that offers little or no resistance to the clubhead. Instead, the grass is just fluffy enough to come between the ball and clubface, preventing the grooves from grabbing the ball and imparting backspin.

The result: A knuckling shot that flies farther than planned, then takes off running when it lands. Since many greens drop off sharply to the back -- often into trees or other trouble -- going long is often much worse than falling short.

So how do you know if you’re dealing with a flyer? Look for grass behind your ball that’s long enough to interfere with the clubface, but not so thick that it will slow the club down. Grass growing toward your target – rather than away from it – is another sure sign you’re in flyer-ville.

Southern Bermuda grass is notorious for producing flyers, especially when it’s dry. “Stickier” grasses, like bent, rye and fescue are less flyer-prone. Grass that’s heavy with moisture tends to slow the club – reducing flyers – while dew or light rain increase the risk of flyers. 

Here are a few basic steps for dealing with flyer lies:

flyer lie back stance

• Take less club: If your distance calls for, say, a 7-iron, hit an 8-iron or even a 9, depending on whether you’re better off missing short or long.

• Aim short of the green: If you’re playing to a green that’s open in front, choose the club that will land the ball short. Its lack of spin will send the ball bounding onto the green.

• Play the ball farther back in your stance: Let’s say you’ve picked a 7-iron, which you normally play in the middle of your stance. Move it an inch or so toward your right foot (for right-handers) to create a steeper swing and minimize clubface contact with grass. 

One more thing: A ball that’s found the fairway isn’t necessarily immune. In fact, lightly wet fairways are a key flyer breeding ground, since water fills the grooves on contact. That’s one reason professional caddies are obsessive about keeping clubs dry. No one wants to get fired over a flyer.