Some golfers make escaping trouble look like child’s play. Seve Ballesteros, the late, great Spaniard, seemed to delight in pulling off the miraculous recovery.
While most of us would prefer to keep it in the boring old fairway, we’re bound to hit the occasional ball into trees, desert, underbrush and other nasty territory. Sometimes, the only play is sideways to safety. But if you’ve got a decent repertoire of specialty shots, other avenues become available.
Here are three shots that will come in handy in a tight spot:
Up and over: You’ve got a tree in your direct line, but it’s just a short iron to reach the green and your lie is decent. Proceed as follows:
- If you’re between clubs (pitching wedge and 9-iron), go with the shorter club. Swinging harder will get the ball higher, faster.
- Play the ball just forward of the center of your stance, your weight spread evenly across both feet, the feet slightly open to the target line.
- Stand slightly closer to the ball than normal to create a steeper swing plane.
- Make a full swing, holding your hands high overhead at the finish.
Low and under: Here you’re left with no choice but to go beneath the branches. If the ball is sitting down in the rough, this shot isn’t your best option. Make sure you’ve got a clean lie, then:
- Choose a mid-iron or hybrid to keep the ball low.
- Grip down an inch or two on the handle.
- Play the ball slightly back of center in your stance, with the clubface square to the target and weight favoring your left (lead) foot.
- Make an abbreviated backswing and apply about 80% effort. Swinging too hard will cause the ball to shoot up.
The hybrid “putt”: Sometimes, there’s no getting to the green. In fact, there are times when you’re happy just to escape the woods. If your ball is lying cleanly with no room to go up, but there’s smooth ground (i.e. no big roots, humps or clumps of grass) between you and safety, just take a low-lofted hybrid, grip down and play a runner through the trees.