Chipping properly out of the rough is one of the many skills you need to possess in order to shoot good scores.

Chipping Rough Lie Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro Dean Butler

No one wants to have to chip out of the rough during a round of golf – you’d much rather keep your ball on the short grass throughout the day. Finding the rough from time to time is inevitable, however, so be sure to set out some practice time to work on this valuable skill.

In this article, we are going to provide a variety of tips on how you can improve your performance when chipping from the rough. As is always the case in golf, there is a physical component to playing well on these kinds of shots, and there is a mental piece, as well. We’ll touch on both sides of the issue in this article, hopefully providing you with everything you need to make meaningful progress during upcoming practice sessions.

Speaking of practice sessions, you aren’t going to get better at chipping from the rough by accident. You need to work on this skill if you are really going to improve, so make a habit of setting aside some of your practice time for short game work each time you head to the range. Even if it’s only a few minutes at a time, those practice shots will be valuable when you wind up facing similar situations on the course.

All of the content below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

The Challenges You Face

Chipping Rough Lie Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro Dean Butler

To get started, we’d like to talk about what it is that makes chipping out of the rough so difficult. To the inexperienced player, it might seem like chipping from the rough is not that much different from chipping off of shorter grass. In fact, some amateur golfers prefer to chip out of the rough at first, because the ball usually sits up off the ground, making it easier to get the shot airborne. However, as you gain experience and get more and more comfortable with your chipping technique, you’ll find that playing from short grass is almost always the preferred option.

Let’s look at a few points which highlight the challenge of chipping out of the rough –

  • Lack of spin. This is the big one. When you chip from the rough, you’ll usually be able to impart very little spin on the golf ball. Without backspin to help you stop the shot, it’s likely that the ball will roll out a long way before coming to rest, especially on firm and fast greens. That’s not such a big deal when you have plenty of green to work with for a given shot, but it’s a big problem when you are short-sided. Being able to spin the ball on a chip shot offers you a measure of control that is just not available otherwise. It’s important to note that the amount the ball will spin when chipping from the rough can vary wildly from one shot to the next. If you draw a decent lie without too much grass behind the ball, you might be able to make relatively clean contact and get some spin on the shot – although probably not as much as if you were chipping from the fairway. On the other hand, if the ball is nestled down deep in some lush grass, it probably won’t spin at all and you can expect both a big hop and plenty of roll. Learning how to read your lies in the rough and predict how much the ball will spin is one of many skills that you’ll need to develop as you go along.
  • Unpredictable speed. The main challenge you face when hitting any chip shot is controlling the distance that the ball travels before it stops. It’s pretty easy to get this kind of shot on line, since you are playing from so close to the target, so your big challenge is getting the speed right. With that in mind, part of the difficulty that comes along with chipping out of the rough is the fact that the ball won’t necessarily come out with the pace that you expect. Sometimes, these shots will come out quick, seeming to jump off the face faster than you felt like you were swinging. Or, the ball might come out soft, barely reaching the edge of the green (if it reaches the green at all). While practice will help you improve your ability to predict the speed of these chip shots, there is always going to be an element of unpredictability at play. Pros hate having to chip from the rough for the same reason as amateurs – these shots aren’t totally predictable, and you never quite know what you’ll get.
  • Limited options. One of the best things about hitting a chip shot from a good lie is the fact that there are so many options at your disposal. Assuming you have developed the appropriate skills in practice, you can hit many different shots depending on the circumstances you face. For instance, you may want to hit a bump-and-run shot to roll the ball back to a rear hole location, or you might decide to hit it high to get over a hump in the green. Unfortunately, some of those options are going to be taken away from the rough, especially if the grass is deep. Hitting a bump and run from deep grass can be tough, as you usually need loft to get the ball up and out properly. Likewise, it can be tough to hit the ball high if it is sitting down near the bottom of the grass. As you gain experience playing chip shots from the rough, you’ll find that there are often only one or two options available in any given situation, further making it tougher to get the ball up and down.

There are plenty of hurdles standing between you and a successful chip shot when your ball is resting in the rough. Don’t let that discourage you, however – all you can do on any given shot is give your best effort and hope for a positive outcome. While it’s not always easy, plenty of good shots can be produced in this situation if you have the right attitude and the right preparation. Let’s move forward with this article and discuss how you can tilt the odds in your favor.

Basic Technique for Chipping from the Rough

Chipping Rough Lie Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro Dean Butler

Everything in golf starts with technique. Yes, there is far more to this game than just using proper technique, but you need to have a solid technical foundation before you can make any real progress. One of the many things that makes golf so hard is the fact that there are a variety of techniques required. You need to have a bunch of different shots in your arsenal to get around a course successfully. With regard to a chip shot out of the rough, some of your technique will be very familiar from what you do on other chip shots, but there will be a couple of notable alterations.

The points below outline a basic chipping technique that should serve you nicely for most short shots played from long grass.

  • Make a big swing with a steady tempo. This is perhaps the biggest change that you’ll need to make as compared to chipping from a clean lie. When chipping from the fairway or fringe, you’ll usually keep your swing pretty short and accelerate aggressively through the ball to produce some spin. That’s the right plan for a good lie, but not necessarily the right approach when the grass is deeper. Instead, try making a bigger swing with an even tempo, not decelerating through the ball, but not necessarily accelerating much, either. If you accelerate too much, the ball may jump and travel too far. When you start working on hitting chip shots out of the rough, focus your efforts on learning this long and smooth swing technique so you are comfortable with it on the course.
  • Firm grip. Most of the time on the golf course, you want to use light grip pressure. Using light grip pressure helps you to feel the club head, swing the club with a nice tempo, and avoid getting into trouble when you are nervous. However, when in the rough for a chip shot, consider tightening your grip at least a bit. The grass is going to try to twist the club head by grabbing onto the hosel as you swing through. With a firmer grip, you can hopefully hold the face steady and keep it pointed in the right direction. When possible, you can also open up the face at address slightly to make it easier to cut through the grass by exposing more of the leading edge to the shot.
  • Outside-in can help. If you have spent any time previously working on your greenside bunker game, you already know that swinging across the ball from outside in is a good way to elevate your sand shots. This same concept applies to chip shots from the rough, as swinging across the ball slightly will help you get the shot up in the air. To make this happen, stand with an open stance and then swing along the line created by your feet.
  • Use a wide stance. This last tip should help you execute the long and smooth swing we talked about earlier. If you keep your feet too close together, it will be tough to make a long swing, and you might have to awkwardly force the club to speed up through impact in order hit the shot hard enough. There is some room for personal preference on this point, so experiment with various stance widths until you get into a position that allows you to be comfortable and make a quality swing.

Is it going to be enough to simply read through this list and then head out onto the course to put it into action? Of course not – you always have to practice new techniques in golf if you want to play up to the best of your ability. Find a short game practice area which includes some rough so you can test out these tips and see which work for you.

Thinking Strategically

Chipping Rough Lie Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro Dean Butler

Using the right strategy when chipping out of the rough is nearly as important as using the right technique. Make no mistake, when you are having to chip from the rough, you are out of position. That doesn’t mean you are doomed to make a big number on the hole, but you do need to pay close attention to your next move to make sure you don’t make things worse. Often, the score you shoot at the end of the day is determined by how you perform when you get into a troublesome spot. Doing the right thing when you are in trouble will go a long way toward keeping your score down as low as possible.

The list below highlights some key strategic points to consider when getting ready to chip out of the rough.

  • Safety first. It’s easy to be tempted into trying to hit the perfect shot on a chip shot out of the rough. That might mean cutting it close with your landing spot, aiming for a spot on the green that is only a short distance over the rough. So, if you do clear the rough, the shot could wind up perfect and you could be left with an easy tap-in for your par. However, if you miss your mark slightly, the ball could stay in the rough and you could quickly make a big number. It’s a better idea to err on the side of caution and play toward a safer landing spot. Sure, you may have a slightly longer putt left to finish off your up-and-down, but this approach is going to make a big number far less likely.
  • Putting uphill is ideal. You won’t have perfect control over the ball when you are playing from the rough. With that said, you can do your best to leave yourself with an uphill putt. It’s almost always easier to putt uphill rather than downhill, as you can be more aggressive with your speed when in such a position. When possible, play toward the low side of the hole so you can feel good about your chances to knock in the putt and save your par.
  • Evaluate the severity of the lie. Sometimes, you’ll draw a decent lie in the rough, and you can play a fairly aggressive chip shot as a result. On other occasions, you’ll get an absolutely terrible lie, and you will be happy just to advance the ball somewhere on the green. It would be a mistake to approach each chip shot from the rough with the same game plan, because no two situations are exactly alike in golf. So, each time you walk up to your ball and find that you will be chipping out of the rough, take a close look at the lie and base your plan on what you find. Decent lie? Go ahead and be relatively aggressive, within reason. Terrible lie? Find the safest path onto the green that is available, even if it isn’t going to leave you very close to the hole. Remember, the lie of your ball not only has to do with the grass around the ball, but also the slopes involved. Even if you have a decent lie in terms of the grass, you might have a bad lie because you are on a dramatic slope that makes it hard to take a good stance and make a comfortable swing.
  • Keep your round in perspective. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment on the golf course. You may feel like you absolutely cannot afford a bogey, so you wind up getting too aggressive with your chip shot and the possible bogey turns into a double or worse. While there are times when you should be aggressive and take chances on the course, often your best plan is to play conservatively and avoid big mistakes. While planning your shot, keep the overall scope of your round in perspective and decide how to proceed accordingly.

As you gain experience with these kinds of shots, you’ll get better and better at picking out a reasonable game plan. So much of golf comes down to making good decisions, and your decision-making ability is certainly put to the test when you face a challenging chip shot from some long grass.

Staying Out of Trouble

Chipping Rough Lie Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro Dean Butler

We would like to wrap up our discussion on this topic by switching gears a bit and talking about how to stay out of the rough in the first place. As we’ve mentioned, it’s never going to be easy to chip from the rough, even after you have practiced and honed your technique. So, instead of stressing your game by putting yourself in this situation frequently, it would be much better to just keep your ball on the shorter grass and away from trouble whenever possible. Obviously, you’ll still find the rough from time to time, but thinking clearly and making good decisions can actually help you limit the number of chip shots from the rough you need to play.

The first thing to understand in this discussion is that greens in regulation should be a priority in your game at all times. That’s one of those things that sounds obvious until you pay attention to how most people play this game. When the average golfer lines up an approach shot, he or she just takes dead aim at the flag – regardless of where that flag happens to be located. It might be fun to fire away at the flags in such a manner, but it’s not a great game plan for posting good scores. The occasional shot that sets up a birdie is going to be offset by the misses that lead to bogey or worse. Instead of trying to hit every shot close, make it a goal to hit as many greens in regulation as possible in each round. Hitting the green means putting for birdie – even if that is a long putt – and not having to play tough chip shots from the rough. There is little doubt that if your greens in regulation total goes up, your scores will go down.

Speaking of hitting more greens in regulation, it’s easiest to do that when you are playing from the fairway. And how do you hit more fairways? Well, improving the quality of your swing is a start, but it will also help to club down from time to time. On those holes where distance is not a big problem, think about using a three wood or hybrid club off the tee to improve your odds of finding the fairway. Hitting the fairway will mean having more control over your approach shot, so your chances of landing your ball on the green will go up. Everything is connected in golf, so it’s not a stretch to think that making better decisions from the tee will be able to help you hit more greens and avoid tough chip shots. There are certainly plenty of holes where driver is called for, but opting for less club on occasion is the wise play.

You won’t have total control over the ball when you chip from the rough, so there is also going to be a random element to these kinds of shots. With that said, you can perform pretty well with a combination of proper technique and a good game plan. Do your best to keep the ball on the short grass whenever possible and know that you are prepared for those occasions when your ball does stray into the longer grass. Thanks for reading and good luck!