Hitting a shot into the woods is bad enough. Having your ball come to rest on the wrong side of a tree – where you’re unable to take a regular stance and swing -- adds insult to injury. Not to mention strokes to your scorecard.

You can always take an unplayable lie and drop, with a one-stroke penalty, at the nearest point of relief no nearer the hole. But first, determine whether you can advance the ball into a better position by playing it. If so, here are a couple of options:

Hit it left-handed

  • Take a short iron and turn it upside-down, so the toe is on the ground and the face pointing at the ball.
  • Assume a left-handed stance and grip, with your left hand below the right on the club. No need to interlock or overlap your fingers; a split-handed or baseball grip is fine.
  • Because swinging with your off hand is awkward, you want to make as brief a pass as possible. Remember, you’re only trying to advance the ball a short distance.
  • Focus intently on hitting the back of the ball, and swing away.

Play it backhanded

  • Using a short iron, stand next to the ball with your back to the target
  • Place the club in your right hand so that the clubhead sits behind the ball. The club’s heel may be slightly off the ground.
  • Using just your hand and wrist, pop the ball toward your target.

Whichever method you choose, make several practice swings to get your feel. In fact, try a few on the range at the end of a practice session – you never know when you might need it on the course.

One other option is to hit the ball backward, away from the target, using your normal stance. Typically, though, you’ll end up no better than if you take a drop – and possibly worse.