From 150 Yards Out
Knock it stiff on your approach shots—no matter what the lie
OVER A TREE
If you find yourself with a tree between you and the green, don’t worry! The good news is that, since you’re 150 yards out, you have a relatively short club for this shot. So first figure out if your 150-yard club will get over the tree. If you think it can and it will land, at worst, near the front of the green, go for it. Short of the green is usually safe, so if it gets over the tree but comes up a little short, that’s fine.
To hit the ball high over the tree, play it slightly forward in your stance. Make a normal backswing and downswing, but make your finish reflect the shot—in this case, high so your hands are high and you don’t fully release. I want my forearms separated and not touching. This does two things: First, a high finish helps the ball fly higher, since swinging into a high finish demands a speedy swing; second, I limit the amount of release that typically leads to a fade (fades go higher than draws). Also, make sure to swing with good speed, as more speed equals spin and gets the ball higher in the air.
UNDER/AROUND A TREE
If the tree is too high (or too close), you have to hit it under the tree. For this shot, you have to choose the right club. In this case, I’ve selected a 5-iron. Its low loft keeps the ball low, but high enough to get airborne out of the rough. One of the hardest things to judge is how big your swing needs to be. After all, it’s a low shot, and the ball will run a good amount when you hit it. For example, a 150-yard shot needs to fly only about 130 yards (so it rolls another 20).
Also, a smaller swing generates less speed, and less speed equals less spin, and less spin keeps the ball low and under the trees. Play the ball slightly back in your stance and place your hands ahead of the ball. From there, make a three-quarter backswing and hold off the finish, only about halfway through. Remember, a short finish keeps the ball below the trees.
Nick Kumpis, PGA, teaches golf in Southern California.
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