These are a few examples of trouble shots that test your game and can lead to those frustrating blow-up holes which lead to higher scores. Everyone has blow-up holes, but it’s the ability to minimize the mistakes that can keep your total score from getting too high. If you learn to deal with these types of shots you can greatly reduce the amount triple bogeys or worse you will score on some holes.
SIDE HILL LIES
It is important to understand how to set up and aim your shots from these side hill lies. Whether you are hitting with the ball above or below your feet, you must aim your shots toward the uphill side of the fairway or green. It is important to understand that the angle of the clubface is greatly affected by the angle of the slope of the ground. The ball has a tendency to curve towards the downhill side of the target and that is why it’s necessary to aim slightly up the hill.
- Ball below your feet: Sit back, bend over from your hips and bend more from your knees. The ball should be positioned in the middle or slightly forward in the stance. This adjustment should make it easier to swing the club more up and down, allowing you to reach the ball below your feet. Remember to aim up the hill.
- Ball above your feet: Stand up a little taller and grip down on the club to shorten the overall length of the club. The club should be middle to slightly back in the stance to account for the club’s natural tendency to hit the ground earlier. Standing taller will encourage your swing to become a little flatter and shortening the club will greatly reduce getting the club stuck into the ground and digging too much turf. Again, aim up the hill.
BURIED LIE OR "FRIED EGG" IN THE BUNKER
These are the shots when the ball is buried below the surface of the sand in the bunker. It’s important to understand when the ball comes out of the bunker from this type of lie that the ball will roll out a significant distance. You need to learn to plan for this roll out and fly the ball on to the green well short of the hole.
- Close your clubface and lead with the toe of the club into the sand. You should hit approximately 1-2 inches behind the ball at impact. If you lead the toe of the club into the sand, the toe will dig and the bounce will work under the shot.
- Make your swing steeper and swing down and through the sand. The club needs to get deeper into the sand than a normal bunker shot and that is why you must lead with the toe of the club. It is important to swing through the sand and not just down into the sand. Remember the sand gets the ball out of the bunker. The shot requires enough energy to move enough sand.
GREENSIDE CHIPS FROM TIGHT LIES
Whenever you can keep the ball closer to the ground and minimize the amount of swing necessary - do it! If there are no real obstacles in your way to your target, use less lofted clubs to hit low running shots. A putter or 7, 6, or 5 irons can be used to hit these shots. You could even use a 5 wood or a hybrid. The important point with these clubs is to hit them with minimal amount of stroke to get the most consistent results. Generally, your worst putt or chip will be better than your worst pitch. Especially from these tight greenside lies.
1) Grip down on the club to gain more control.
2) Narrow your stance with your weight more on your front foot.
3) Keep your shoulders more level at address and throughout the stroke, it should feel like your back shoulder is higher than it is for a normal shot.
4) The ball should be positioned middle to slightly back in the stance to allow for a slightly descending impact. Again, these shots need to stay close to the turf so there is no reason to try to lift these shots into the air.
5) Stroke these shots like a putt with very little wrist. As the shot gets longer you may use more wrists.
FLOP SHOT FROM THE ROUGH
Flops shots are required when you need very high flying, soft landing shots that will not roll much after they land. These shots generally have a bunker, deep rough or a bush in your path to the hole. You need to fly over the obstacle but you don’t have much green to work with.
- Buy a lob wedge between 58 and 64 degrees loft with about 4 – 10 degrees bounce. When choosing the amount of bounce for a wedge, consider what type of courses that you play. If you play courses that are soft and lush with soft powdery bunkers, get more bounce on your wedges. If you play very firm courses with tight lies and coarse bunkers, get a little less bounce on your wedges.
- Swing long and swing fast. This shot requires trust and speed. If you don’t trust it, don’t hit it. You need to swing fast enough to create the proper spin and launch of the ball. Most people make a big swing and then lose heart on the way down and tighten up, which causes them to decelerate into the shot. This slows the club down and makes you hit the shots short of target. Remember, when you have a club with more loft, it requires more swing.
- The ball should be positioned slightly forward in your stance. This will allow the club head and shaft to catch up and release through the shot. This will encourage hitting the shot with the proper loft for the shot. Remember not to lead with your hands and deloft the club on this shot. This shot does not require a leaning shaft like many low chips and pitches around the greens. A leaning shaft delofts the club and the ball will come out to low and roll too far once it lands on the green.
- Allow your swing to be a little more upright or vertical when in the rough. This will help reduce how much grass gets between the club and the ball at impact. If you swing normal or too flat, too much grass gets between the club and the ball.
HIGH LOFT PITCH SHOTS OFF TIGHT LIE
These shots, like flop shots, should be your last options when you can’t hit normal chips or pitches. High pitches require wedges with higher degree lofts and the proper amount of bounce for the texture and firmness of the turf. Pitches in Hawaii and Florida with more coarse Bermuda type grasses are different than pitches in the dessert or climates where the lies are softer and more lush. Each of these lies present their own challenges and must be practiced and learned.
- Play the ball in the middle to slightly forward in your stance. This ball position will encourage a neutral impact resulting in less shaft lean towards the target. When the shaft is more neutral at impact, there is more loft on the club which will enable the ball to take off higher faster. The key to these shots is that you must swing through the shot and not punch them. The shaft and club head must be released and allowed to catch up and not trail the hands into impact. Some of the greatest players with the best short games actually feel as though their hands are slightly behind the ball right at impact. This motion adds loft and emphasizes the bounce of the club.
- Allow the club to open up in the backswing with your pivot. Without excessive hand action, allow the club to rotate to a toe up, neutral position half way back in your backswing. This motion in your backswing will give you a chance to release the club more freely on the downswing. When you create enough speed on the downswing, you can create enough spin on the ball to get the ball high into the air.
- Make sure your shoulders are level; avoid having your back shoulder too low. Keeping your back shoulder up or more level throughout the swing will allow you to create enough width on the downswing to shallow the club through impact. If you come into the shot too steep or too narrow you will dig the club into the ground and be less consistent with your shots.
Don’t hit these shots on the course if you haven’t practiced it. Choose to play safe a different direction and then go practice the shot at the short game area of your course or club.