Every golfer gets into trouble once in a while. Even the pros land in the rough, the sand or the lake. The key to a successful round is how well you can play yourself out of trouble. There are a few basic tips you can use for these problem shots. Learn them and next time you are stuck deep in a foot of rough grass your panic will be less and your game will improve.
What are the most typical trouble shots?
Plugged in a Sandbunker – your ball is plugged deep! – Take your normal stance with your weight on your forward foot. Choke down a little on the golf club (about 1-2 inches from the bottom of the grip.) You need to close the face of your sand wedge — a lot! And hit the sand just behind the ball, driving the wedge down and through so that sand splashes up and out of the bunker carrying the ball with it.
Keep your weight on your forward foot throughout the shot and hit down with confidence. The ball will catch the sand just behind the ball and splash it out. Be sure to follow through on your swing and concentrate on keeping the club face closed the whole time. (This is different from a ball sitting on top of hard sand where you might be able to “pick it off.” Imagine the difference between hard sand at low tide and that deep soft sand further up the beach.)
With a plugged ball, you need to hit down hard just behind the ball, keep the face of the club closed, and splash sand out. The ball will likely come out low so don’t expect a lot of spin or distance when it hits the green and rolls.
Bushwhacked – Your ball has landed under a bush where there is absolutely no chance of being able to hit it normally. Your only option is a left handed hit using the back of your right handed club (or the reverse if you are left handed). This might be doable but won’t get you far. Here’s where you might want to use a little creativity and think outside the box. One option is to stand to the side of the ball with your back to the target and swing your club with your dominant hand to try and get the ball out from under. You’ll have to take a few practice swings to get the feel of the club as it moves as it will be awkward at first, but this has a better chance of going in the right direction than the alternative.
One other option I’ve considered— if you have room in your bag and it’s worth the expense, buy a left-handed wedge for just this purpose! If your course has a lot of shrubbery you land in, it might be worth it!
Downhill chip shot – This is a tough shot to make. Don’t try to hit it high. Get your shoulders parallel with the hill and use your usual chip shot action, just make the backswing a little longer than the follow through. The ball will come out low, and hopefully roll to the hole.
Backward shot – Every once in a while your ball will land in an impossible position where only a backward shot will get you to the green. The pros practice these for fun and I don’t know if you will ever be able to perfect it, but Phil Mickelson has a backwards shot he uses when he’s in trouble. He explains how he does it, and it’s fun to watch.
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The best way to learn how to hit these trouble shots is to practice. Unfortunately a lot of practice facilities do not have areas in which you can learn to hit from the deep rough. You might have to be a bit more creative. It’s not the most glamorous choice to spend a couple of hours hitting a bucket of balls from the sandpit, woods or deep rough on the edge of the driving range, but the reward will come the next time you hit a slice deep into the brush on the fourth hole and you get out of trouble without a big hassle.
Ever been in trouble on the golf course? What’s your favorite “rescue” club?