Smart rough recoveries

Published 01/12/2010 06:39:00

Hitting tee shots into the rough doesn't have to be disastrous. What you do once you're there determines whether you take a round-ruining big number or save par or bogey. Here's how to play it smart -- and safe -- out of rough.


Assess the Lie

Let's say you're in the rough and at least 180 yards from the green. Even from the fairway, you might need a fine wood shot to get home.


Occasionally, you'll catch a lie in the rough with the ball sitting up so you can go after it with a lofted wood. The mistake you often make, though, is to take the same club from a terrible lie as you do from a good one, thinking you might just pull off a miracle shot. That's when you leave the ball right there or hit it into worse trouble.


To get out of trouble and back in play, first determine which club will get you out safely. If your ball is really lying deep in the grass, accept the fact that you can't get to the green. Realize that your best move may be to go with a 7-, 8-, 9-iron or even a wedge.


Your goal is to get back in the fairway, leaving you a simple third shot. Don't think that by doing this you're playing "chicken." You're playing smart. When Tour pros are buried in U.S. Open rough, they do the same thing.


Choke Down, Swing Short

Pick the club you know will get you out. Address the ball with a square clubface, out of the center of your stance, putting more weight than usual on your left side. These adjustments help you hit down, which counters the muffling effect of the grass on club and ball.


Choke down on the club at least an inch: This gives you more control, and the narrower clubhead arc to dig the ball from the rough. Swing the club up mainly with your arms to no further than a three-quarter position. You'll stay centered to help ensure a solid hit.


Drive Down

Don't try to scoop the shot out. Pull down aggressively with your left arm to retain maximum leverage while the clubhead's downswing arc remains steep.


Keep your left hand and arm moving down and through the shot as long as possible. Your follow-through will be retarded a bit by the impact of the club with the ground, so don't worry about finishing high.


Aim a bit to the right of where you want the ball to finish; the grass will catch the hosel of the club somewhat, closing the clubface so the ball goes a little left. Also, the ball will come out slightly lower and with more roll than normal with a lofted iron.


With proper club selection and execution you can put the ball safely in the fairway. You'll be in a good position and in a good frame of mind for your pitch to the pin. From your earlier position, par or bogey is a good score.


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