Four stellar shots to save par from tough greenside situations
The Butterfly Lob
The Situation: The ball lies on tight grass in the fairway. The green is elevated and the flagstick is cut close to the edge of the green. We’re trying to hit the highest, softest shot possible without skulling the ball over the green. Ideally, we want this shot to land as softly as a butterfly on the green and roll a very minimal distance.
Club Selection: Choose a 60- to 64-degree lob wedge. A lob wedge has more loft and a smaller degree of bounce, while a sand wedge has less loft and a larger degree of bounce. Having less bounce will help prevent the club from “bouncing” into the middle of the ball and sending it violently past the green.
The Setup: Since we want a very high shot, we need to create more loft. Start with the club in front of your eyes and your normal left-hand grip. Turn your left hand under the shaft a quarter-turn and re-grip the club. This should place the club more in the palm of the hand. Now, turn your left hand back to its original position, thus opening the clubface. This weaker grip helps to add more loft to the clubface while preventing excessive hand/wrist motion during the swing. Adjust for the open clubface by aligning your body to the left of the target. Widen your stance a touch and position the ball forward of center.
The Motion: A good motion must be made for the club to work with these adjustments. The first goal is to let the club slide behind and under the ball. Visualize the ball sitting on the center of a dollar bill. You should swing so that the club enters the grass before the dollar and exits after the dollar, thus splashing Mr. Washington onto the putting surface with the ball. Remember to take a shallow divot, not a full stack of dollar bills. As long as you slide the clubhead under the ball and keep the clubhead accelerating, the design of the club and your setup changes will produce a high, soft shot.
The second goal is to swing with an even rhythm and even-length strokes. Imagine yourself standing like Mickey Mouse in a watch face. If you swing your arms back to 9:00, make sure that you allow them to swing through to at least 3:00, or 10:00 to 2:00, etc.
Trust your club to do the work, give it a good chance with the proper changes at address, and splash the dollar bill onto the green with a smooth, even rhythm. When you do, you’ll see those shots float up like a butterfly without stinging like a bee.
The Explosion Pitch
The Situation: The ball rests in medium to heavy rough, a bunker lies between the ball and the green, and the hole is cut on the opposite side of the putting surface. Our main concern is getting the club to move through the heavy grass. Since there’s plenty of green with which to work, extreme loft isn’t a concern. However, we must get the ball up in the air fast enough to avoid getting stuck in the rough.
Club Selection: The best club for this shot is a sand wedge. We need the lofted clubface to give the ball lift and we need the bounce to help the club move smoothly through the thick grass.
The Setup: Keep the clubface square and align your body parallel to the target line. To create a descending blow into the back of the ball, create a steeper swing plane. The easiest way to do this is to stand a bit closer to the ball, thus raising your hands slightly from normal. This creates a feeling that the toe of the club is lower than the heel of the club at address, which should lead to a more vertical swing path.
The last setup adjustment is to turn your grip a bit more on top of the club to allow for a better wrist cock. Also, firm up your grip pressure to prevent the club from twisting in the long grass. Be careful: When you tighten your grip, don’t allow tension to creep into your shoulders.
The Motion: Since the rough offers more resistance to the better lie of the Standard Pitch, you need to generate more clubhead speed to make the ball travel the same distance. The easiest way to increase speed without changing your entire motion is to adjust the length of the backswing while striving to keep the same tempo and a full finish. Out of the heavy rough, it’s acceptable to cock your wrists on the backswing to gain length in the swing and utilize another lever in your hands and arms.
Be aggressive through impact, as the grass will work to slow down the club. Swinging to the target and a full finish are your priorities.
PGA professional Steve Mitchell is the Director of Instruction at famed Kiawah Island Resort, located on Kiawah Island, S.C.
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