Ain’t Bad, Just Is

Catch a bad break? Don't let it get you down. Escape!

CASE #1: Your ball comes to rest on the wrong side of a tree/bush.

I can’t go at this shot right-handed because the cactus impedes my stance. But I can get the ball back in play by playing a left-handed shot. Here’s how to do it:

First, take one of your lofted clubs and flip it over so you expose the toe of the club as your contact area. Take a left-handed grip and lean the shaft forward. This gets the clubface aimed squarely.

Next, make a few practice swings to get a feel for the swing and your club control. (When you do this, it’s vital to make sure you consistently hit the ground.)

Then, simply try to stay in balance, make a controlled swing and commit to swinging down into the impact zone. In this situation, I advanced the ball about 40 yards back into the fairway.

CASE #2: You stripe your ball down the middle, but your ball ends up in a divot.

To play this shot, make sure you catch the ball first, then the dirt.

To do this, set up with your weight leaning toward the target, much as you would for a punch or chip shot. As you take the club back, try to keep it going back on plane or even slightly outside. (If your club shaft is slightly steep, you may hit down too much, and the club will bottom out in front of the ball.)

As you swing into and through impact, it’s imperative that you keep your body and club moving forward. You should hit the ball first, then the ground in front of the ball. Because of the adjustments you’ve made, it’ll come out with a little lower-than-normal ballflight.

CASE #3: Your ball plugs in a bunker’s lip and it compromises your stance.

The trick here is to get into a setup position that allows you to successfully escape a tough lie from the kitty litter.

If both of my feet were in the bunker, it’d be hard to stay balanced when I swing, so I place my left foot outside, on the grass. Now, my left foot is higher than my right, so I need to make sure my shoulders are in a similar position (left shoulder high, right shoulder low). This puts me in a severe uphill lie stance that’ll help me get the ball over the bunker’s lip.

As you can see, I’ve chosen to set up with my clubface square because the ball is slightly buried, and this will allow the club to dig the ball out. I need to make an aggressive swing through impact and not worry about hitting the lip on my followthrough. If executed well, the ball will come out high, hit the green and roll slightly.

CASE #4: Your ball is on the fringe, but a sprinkler head is on the target line.

I would love to just putt this ball to the hole, but unfortunately the sprinkler head has gotten in the way.

If you find yourself in this situation, you need to get the ball airborne, but instead of hitting a chip or pitch that might spin, try the so-called off-green putt instead. What’s an off-green putt you ask? It’s a shot where you use a lofted club with a putting technique. The ball will have just enough airtime to get over the sprinkler but will then roll like a putt.

I’ve chosen a pitching wedge in this case, and set up with my putting grip and stance (notice how I shorten the club to putter length so my eyes are right over the ball at setup). Then it’s just a matter of making a normal putting stroke. Do that and the ball will pop up over the trouble and roll to the target.


CASE #5: Your ball rolls off the edge of the green and goes 10 yards down a hill.

you think you’ve hit a perfect shot, only to find out that it doesn’t stay on the green. In this photo, you can see the ball careened down a hill. I can play it two ways: I can go low and play a bump-and-run, or I can go high with a flop shot.

To play a bump-and-run, set up with your weight leaning toward the target. Lean the shaft forward and make a chipping motion. Notice how I finish with the clubhead low? That’s a good thing. The ball should come out low, bounce along the ground and run up the hill.


To play a high flop shot, set up with your weight more balanced and the ball forward in your stance. Make a bigger swing and let the clubhead pass your hands through impact. You still need to clip the grass underneath the ball, but keep in mind that this swing uses the wrists much more than any shot.

Notice how the clubface looks at the sky in my finish and I’ve exposed all the loft of the club through impact to elevate the ball.
Steve Dahlby, PGA, is the director of instruction at The Golf Club Scottsdale and Forest Highlands Golf Club. He has taught numerous Tour players.

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