Most of us can recall a particularly dicey situation during a recent round of golf. Probably plenty of them over the years. After all, getting in and out of trouble is one of the chief charms of golf. How boring would it be to be right down the middle, home in regulation and in the hole in two putts every time?
OK, perhaps “boring” is the wrong word, but let’s face it, finding an unconventional way out of hazards — natural or designed by an architect — holds its own special allure among avid golfers. We pride ourselves on the well-planned and well-executed recovery shot, which sometimes takes a combination of laser focus, patience and luck. If we pull it off we’re often rewarded with applause from our playing partners and maybe, must maybe, a hard-won par save.
The following two tips from Southern California-based PGA and LPGA teacher Alison Curdt have to do with situations we’ve all run into on the green battlefield. Take her advice and you’ll be out of dutch in no time — and ready for the next roadblock.
1 PUNCH OUT WITH PURPOSE
We’ve all been there. It’s a windy day and your tee shot is being pushed all over the yard, or worse, you just made an (uncharacteristic) poor swing and sprayed the ball into the trees. From there the options get limited depending on line of sight, distance to safety and how much risk you want to take to try to save par, or at least bogey. Never an appetizing position to be in, but if you study the situation and keep your head, you’ll be out of jail with minimum damage.
In this tip I’ll show you the proper technique for hitting a low trajectory shot for just such situations — using a low punch shot to get out of trouble and back into play, or shaping low shots to get around obstacles.
Sometimes when you find yourself in trouble, the safest and lowest risk shot is a punch out to the middle of the fairway. Overhanging branches, wind in your face, or trees and bushes in your way might warrant such a punch shot, and it’s especially true if you have a small opening, as I do in Photo 1 top of this page.
Here’s what you do:
Select a low lofted club such as a 5 iron or 6 iron. Position the ball in the middle of your stance upwards of 1-2 inches back from center, and forward press the hands so that the grip of the club is pointing at the left hip (Photo 2). Take one or two looks at your window of escape and visualize the ball breaking through that window (Photo 3). Take a half swing to punch to ball back into the fairway (Photos 4 & 5). Make sure the hands feel low on the follow through to keep the trajectory low (Photo 6).
To curve the ball right around an obstacle, keep the face slightly open during impact. To curve the ball left around an obstacle keep the face slightly closed through impact.
Again, this is a shot that allows you to get out of trouble and back into play without giving up too much distance. It’s always a good tool to have in toolbox for those off-line drives or approaches, it’s easy to learn and implement, and it can even be fun.
2 SAVE YOUR SCORE … BACKWARDS
OK, perhaps we’re not all recovery shot wizards on the level of, say, Phil Mickelson, but that doesn’t mean we can’t come up with creative ways to escape the kind of bad breaks that used to trip us up every time. In this case I’m talking about that occasional ugly lie that leaves you no way to address the ball normally, even to take a restricted whack at it. Nope, this calls for drastic but effective measures.
When a ball is lying next to a tree or bush in such a position where you are unable to address the ball (Photos 1 & 2), be creative with stance and approach in order to save yourself from an otherwise unplayable lie. The following tip demonstrates an alternative for hitting the ball if an immovable obstruction prohibits setting up in a standard position.
Stand with your back to the target and hold the club (for a right handed golfer) in the right hand only with the club face pointing the target (Photo 3). Your right arm will be out to the side allowing enough motion and space to swing and hinge the club (Photo 4). Utilize the wrists to hinge the club up and down to pop the ball out into the fairway (Photos 5 & 6). This will create enough speed to advance the ball back into a position to take a standard approach.
The benefits of this risky but worthwhile shot are obvious. Instead of incurring a penalty shot for an unplayable lie, or running the risk of not advancing the ball because of the placement of the tree, this gambit allows you to get full contact with the ball and pitch it out into the clear, with an open shot to the green to follow. It definitely shows how a golfer can be creative in his or her stance (within USGA guidelines) and use the club in a unique way to keep an acceptable score in range.