Hitting Out of the Deep Rough

If you have ever hit the ball and it doesn’t stay in the fairway, you have experienced the wrath of many courses deep rough. You watched your ball roll into the deep but quickly it disappears, nestling down into the gnarly grass creating a very difficult next shot.

To combat thick rough, set up just left of your target and open up the club face just a bit. This will let the club cut through the grass a little bit better and not allow the grass to pull the clubface left. Choke down on the club a bit and tighten your grip to solidify your club as your swing rips through the deep grass.

During your swing, use an outside-to-inside swing path to create a steeper angle to attack the ball. This angle will help you to hit more of the ball first and not all grass behind it. This path will correspond to your stance. In effect, you will be swinging along the line you created with your feet.

When hitting from the rough where the grass is growing in the direction of the hole, use a more lofted club. Keep in mind that when the grass is growing away from the hole or target, the grass will create more resistance. In this case, it may be best to use a wedge to lay up your shot. No sense in trying to work against the nature of the grass!

Playing from the Bunker

When you encounter the dreaded bunker during your round, there are a number of ball position scenarios that affect the way you play your way out of the bunker. Let’s look at some rules and guidelines you can follow to help you with different bunker situations:
  • It is against the rules to let the clubhead touch the sand in the bunker as you address the ball or during the course of your backswing. Doing so will result in a penalty stroke. So be sure to keep your clubhead a good distance above the sand as you attempt your shot.
  • If you have ever landed your ball in a puddle in a bunker, you may have felt helpless. However, the opposite is true. If your ball lands in a bunker that is completely waterlogged, you have three options.
    • You can play your ball as it lies, getting wet in the process.
    • You can remove the ball and place it in the shallowest part of the water in the bunker (but no closer to the hole).
    • You can completely remove the ball from the bunker and take a drop outside the bunker. However, doing so will result in a penalty stroke as you have just deemed your submerged ball as in an unplayable lie.
  • There are always times where you find you and your buddies hit your balls in the same spot. Most of the time it is not a problem, but in the bunker, you never know what the sand will do. If you have two balls in the bunker you have some options as well.
    • If you feel that one shot will not affect the others lie, then play on as you normally would.
    • If not, decide which of the two is most practical to play first. Lift the other ball out of the way and mark it with a tee peg.
    • Once the ball is hit, replace the second ball in the exact condition as it was in when you picked it up. If it was a perfect lie, rake the sand then replace it. If it was a plugged ball, it must be plugged upon replacement.
  • Last, I think we all have landed a ball up against a bunker rake before, it happens far too often. If your ball comes to rest against a rake you are entitled to relief.
    • Before you lift and move the rake out of the way, if there is a chance that your ball might move, mark it with a tee peg.
    • Remember that you are allowed to PLACE your ball in the sand when you replace it in the sand, recreating the original lie as accurately as possible.
    • You are not required to drop the ball in the sand.

Water Hazards

Every golfer’s worst nightmare lies in a place where the grass ends and the water starts. Nobody likes the sound of a fresh Pro-V splashing in the pond, but it happens to the best of us.

When Playing Your Shot

You have three options:
  • You can play your ball as it lies without any penalty. This is the most difficult shot since the ball is either submerged very deeply under water, or it can just be very messy. The only time that playing the shot is best is if the ball is lying in the grassy area surrounding the water within the hazard. Remember, you may not ground the club prior to your shot, like in a bunker, not can you make contact with the hazard while taking your practice swing.
  • Next, you may drop the ball behind the hazard directly behind where it entered the hazard. You must keep the point of entry directly between the hole and where you drop the ball. Taking a drop will result in a one stroke penalty. But at least you can stay dry. This option is most popular since most balls shot into a water hazard cannot be found or retrieved.
  • Your third option is to go back to the spot where you played the offending shot, known as a stroke-and-distance penalty. You must add a stroke to your score, and forfeit the distance gained as well.

Lateral Hazards

Lateral hazards are a bit different and have two other options with them:
  • You may drop the ball within two club lengths of the point where the ball last crossed the boundary of the hazard.
  • You may also drop the ball at the point opposite side of the hazard also within two club lengths.
Either option will still result in you having to take a one stroke penatly. But remember, these two options are extra ones based on your situation. You may still exercise any of the three above if desired.

The Chip Shot and the Lie of the Ball

Being able to judge how the golf ball will behave when playing a chip shot is just as important as the shot itself. Spin, trajectory, and roll factor into effectively getting the ball to land close to the hole or preferably in the hole.

The lie of the ball has a significant impact on its flight through the air. A bare lie or one where there is little or no grass beneath the ball or where the grass is tightly mown, produces a lower than normal ball flight.

The ball will come out of a longer grass lie with a relatively high flight but with a lot less backspin because grass gets between the club face and the ball. Let’s look at a few situations.Give the Gift of Golf

Upslope Impact: Using a less lofted club on an upslope results in a shorter, softer swing making it easier to control the distance of the ball. Position the ball forward in your stance. The ball will shoot forward on a fairly low trajectory with little backspin making it easier to judge how far the ball with run.

Downslope Impact: On a downslope lie, the ball generally comes out on a low trajectory, making it difficult to control. Select a club with as much loft as possible to compensate. Generally, a sand wedge does the job. It provides some additional control while creating enough elevation on the ball to ensure a soft landing. Position the ball back in your stance.

The Drill: Before chipping, visualize the shot taking into account what the ball will do; identify an exact landing spot, preferably on the green to get an even bounce; and select the club that best fits the lie.

Improving Your Lie – Part One

One of golf’s basic rules is to play the ball as it lies. Let’s look at what that means…

Are there situations where you are allowed to adjust the area around your ball? Yes, on the teeing ground it is permissible to step down the grass around your ball or even remove grass from the area within infringing on the basic rule….play the ball as it lies.

Give the Gift of Golf
Throughout the course, however, you are not allowed to improve your lie. Many a player unknowingly break the basic rule. Let’s take Joe, who just landed his ball in a bush. He plunges his way through the area in order to take his stance. As he makes his way to his ball, he breaks down several bushes and branches. Is this a breach of the rule? Yes, the breaking of the bushes and branches may have improved his lie. What if Joe decides to step on a few branches to make way for his swing? This would be considered an effort to improve Joe’s lie and would be a breach of the rule.
Let’s look at Jill who just landed her ball to the right of the fairway in the 2-feet high fescue. In order to take her swing, Jill stomps down the fescue around the ball. Is this permissible? No, that’s a breach of the rule and considered improving the lie of her ball.
What happens when your ball lands behind a tree? Since you cannot improve your lie, it’s time to get creative in order to take your shot. It’s not always the skill of the shot but also the ingeniously of crafting the shot. The rules of golf permit a player to ease him or herself into position to play a given shot or better known as “fairly taking your stance”. Tiger Woods has continued to amaze us with his innate ability to make remarkable shots from extremely challenging lies.

Improving Your Lie – Part Two

How does the rule “play the ball as it lies” affect your ability to check a ball to ensure it’s yours? Let’s look at a few scenarios…

When playing golf, it’s key to verify before hitting a ball that it is indeed your ball. If it’s not your ball, you could incur penalty strokes. When your ball lands in the fairway, you can generally easily identify your ball by its logo and markings. In other situations, your ball may be more difficult to identify due to thick rough, fescue, or the like. The rules of golf do allow you to “touch” or “bend” the grasses around your ball to identify it. However, this must be done without improving your lie. In the event your ball is “buried” in the rough, you are permitted to lift ball to identify that it is yours. To do this without penalty, first mark the location of your ball with a tee, lift the ball, identify it, and then place the ball in the original location (identified by the “tee” marking). Before lifting your ball, tell your playing partners what you are going to do so that they can oversee your actions and eliminate any question about the possibility of improving your lie.

What’s the penalty if you don’t comply? Improving your lie by lifting the ball incurs a one-stroke penalty. If you are in a matchplay, it results in loss of the hole. So beware when you have the urge to move or lift that ball to verify it’s yours!

Lost Balls

So you hit your ball and you’re not sure where it went? Now what do you do?
If you think your ball may be lost, you should hit a provisional ball. Announce to your fellow players that you are going to hit a provisional ball. You then have 5 minutes to locate your original ball. While searching, be careful not to bump the ball to cause it to move, as this will cost you a penalty stroke. If your partner or caddie should cause your ball to move while assisting you in the search, again, that will cost you a penalty stoke. So search gingerly!
On the contrary, if your opponent should bump or move your ball accidently while helping you search for your ball, there is no penalty stroke. However, you do need to place the ball back to its original landing position.
If you are unable to find your ball within the 5-minute limitation, declare your ball lost to your fellow players and play your provisional ball. You will incur a stroke penalty as well as distance (in the event you lost some yardage when you hit your provisional ball). So take care when playing the provisional ball so that you get the most out of it should you need it!
By the way, if you hit your original ball in a water hazard, that does not qualify for a provisional ball. There are specific rules that apply for play from water hazards. So hit ‘em straight and avoid the lost ball quandary!

Pace of Play

Many a player becomes frustrated when they are not able to play the game of golf without delay. Maintaining an efficient pace of play certainly helps to make your round more enjoyable. To play 18 holes on most golf courses, the average allocated time to play is generally 4 hours and 15 minutes. Let’s look at a few pointers to keep you and your group moving…
  • Before walking to your ball, anticipate your lie and situation, bring an extra club to ensure you are prepared.
  • While others are hitting, plan your shot and be ready to hit when it’s your turn.
  • Record your score on the next tee, not on the green that you just finished playing.
  • Always keep an eye on your ball and your partner’s ball.
  • Identify a landscape marker to help you remember where yours or your partner’s ball landed.
  • If you think your ball may be lost, hit a provisional ball; avoid looking for your ball, identifying it lost, and having to go back to hit another ball.
  • A good way to judge your pace of play, is to stay in pace with the group ahead of you. If they are not in sight and the group behind you is waiting, it’s time to pick up your group’s pace.
  •  If the group behind you is a smaller group, and your group is lagging, allow the group behind to play through. It’s then your job to keep pace with that group.
  • Be aware of delays on the green. If your shot is within “making” distance, ask your fellow players if you can putt out. This will eliminate unnecessary delays to remark your ball. If you do putt out, be sure not to stand in any other players putting line.
  • When playing a casual round of golf, if your strokes exceed double the par value for that hole, pick up your ball to keep the group moving.
Following these simple guidelines, will help you and everyone else enjoy the round of golf!

Hitting Out of a Divot

Inevitably, there are unrepaired divots on the course and you may have the misfortune of landing your ball directly in the midst of one….. on the dirt. Hitting directly from dirt requires a few adjustments to get effective results.

Tips for hitting out of a divot…

  • Your stance should be centered with your weight slightly left.
  • Keep your lower body stable and avoid shifting your weight during the swing.
  • Position the ball toward the back of your stance; this will help you hit the ball with a descending stroke.
  • Position your hands slightly ahead of the ball.
  • Aim slightly left of your target; this helps you create more of a V shaped swing.
  • When taking your stroke, come down on the ball at a steeper angle so that you avoid hitting the grass at behind the divot.
  • Keep your clubface square to the ball’s path of flight.
  • Remember to hit the ball first…..not the ground. Hit the ball in the downward portion of your swing….not the upward motion.
Following these simple tips and your next divot shot should be trouble-free. And remember; repair your divots to help your fellow players avoid the challenges of a divot shot.

Stop Trying to Swing the Club too Parallel

Every week we see the greatest golfers in the world all swinging the club shaft in the general vicinity of parallel to the ground at the top of the backswing.  Some go slightly past parallel and some slightly short of parallel.  In general it is fair to say that most professional golfers swing the club shaft back to a point that is very close to parallel.  Another generalization is that most club professionals can walk down their driving range and watch many of their amateur students swinging the club shaft to a point at or past parallel to the ground at the top of the backswing.

Let us as golfers make it a goal to stop trying to swing the club shaft to parallel if we are not flexible enough to do so.  As a general rule, (if you are flexible enough) you should max out your upper body turn at around 80 degrees of rotation. Visit www.k-vest.com to find an instructor that can measure this. The arms and hinge should stop a nearly indiscernible split second after the upper body turn is complete.  If you cannot turn far enough to get the club shaft to parallel, do not try to get it there by adding unnecessary wrist hinge or arm bend.  Work towards setting your lead wrist (left for right-handed golfers) early in the backswing.  If you can have it fully hinged by the time your lead arm gets to parallel with the ground in the backswing, your chances of over swinging the backswing with your arms and hands will decrease!

The result will be a more repeatable swing that is not so dependent on perfect timing.  The percentage of solid shots will increase and the range of mis-directed shots will decrease.

Written by Scott Seifferlein, PGA Golf Guru at Grand Rapids Golf Lesson