Escaping Thick Rough Around the Green: Your Secret to Success

14 Professionals Contributed |
When you find your golf ball in thick rough close to the green, you might think the only way to escape is by being Phil Mickelson. But fear no more, here are some great ways to save strokes when in a difficult green-side situation.

Splash it Out!

There are many different ways to play shots around the green out of the rough. Variables include the lie, type of grass, pin position, and even firmness of the green. One option is to play a splash shot similar to a bunker shot. Having grown up playing out of Bermuda grass rough, I find this to often be an effective technique. Simply use the same style of shot as if playing out of a bunker. Make sure to staff firm with your wrists, but let the leading edge cut through some of the grass. The loft and bounce of the sand wedge will do a lot of the work. See the video link to my sand shot techniques and apply the same principles.

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Assess the Lie

How does the ball sit?

Buried? Perched? Nestled?

The lie determines what part of the wedge is integral to use during impact. It also dictates the hand action needed to pull off the shot.

Buried lies demand skillful use of the leading edge. It is important to get the club digging into the ground to best extract the golf ball from the buried lie. Similar to hitting an explosion shot from a hard packed bunker—use the leading edge to dig. Feel the handle hinging on the way back but unreleased as you get to the impact spot just short of the ball (hinge and hold or chunk and run kind of feeling). Feel the leading edge dig. A bit of shaft lean at address helps sharpen the leading edge for digging purposes when returned properly at impact.

Perched lies are tricky because the wedge can go right under the golf ball if the player fails to recognize this unique lie. Firm wrists and a chipping stroke often allow players to advance the perched lie with a descending blow. Ball first contact is key! Ball should roll up face and this will provide a less than flush feeling.
If club hits ground first it will go lower and the face may travel under the ball causing a whiff!

Nestled lies often allow the player to use the sole plate (bounce angle feature) of the wedge to move under the ball. Player will feel the head of the club sliding past the handle as it enters the rough and slides through the grass getting the ball up and out. this is similar to the feeling of a sand shot from a fluffy bunker. Player should feel a hinge on the backswing and an unhinge on the downswing to promote the release of the backswing angle. Really get the head of the club to feel like it passes the handle. A neutral (or even negative) handle position at set up will accentuate the amount of bounce on the club and promote this head sliding action.

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Treat Deep Rough Like a Bunker!

The next time you find yourself in deep rough around the green, don’t fear! Simply treat the situation like you are in a green-side bunker!

When playing from a green-side bunker, you should swing aggressively and hit sand first. The same can be said when playing from deep rough, you need to swing aggressively, hit ground first and essentially dig the ball out of the lie. Be sure to also use a lofted club, preferably 56 degrees or more. My primary club from these scenarios is a 60 degree.

What I see from my students both in deep rough and in bunkers is a fear of the aggressive swing. I watch over and over small backswings and low speed swings in a situation that calls for larger and faster swings. Small and slow swings are great from lower grass in traditional chipping situations. But if you are in taller grass or sand then the swing changes to pitching or even flopping with a more aggressive nature and ground first.

Both from deep rough and sand, as long as you hit ground first and use the loft, the ball will not go far. The fear of the aggressive swing comes from the worry of catching all ball and sending it flying over the green. If this is true for you, you just need to spend time practicing ground-first contact and build that trust. Once you know that you can control the bottom of your swing and hit ground first every time, the fear of the bigger and faster swing should go away.

Whether in deep rough or sand, if you do the smaller chipping motion the ball will simply go nowhere, especially if you properly hit ground first. So then many players will keep the small motion and make the ball go further by making ball-first contact. This is a dangerous route and should be avoided. Trust the tall grass will slow down the club and be aggressive!

The final point to make is not every lie in the rough is the same. You should begin analyzing different lies in the rough and associate it with a percentage of carry distance loss. For example, I associate sand with a 50% carry distance loss. Some lies in the rough may be even more than a 50% distance loss, others will be less. If you have a deep lie that will create a 50% distance loss, use a lofted club, and hit ground first, the ball will not go far and requires a higher club speed.

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Techniques for deep rough around the greens is much like a menu, lots of choices-

1. Use a SW rather than a PW or LW rather than a SW
2. Ball position could be left heel as opposed to middle of your stance
3. The face angle could be slightly open or a lot open depending on the pin location
4. Speed of the swing on way thru could be 35 mph from a thick lie as opposed to 20 mph from a good lie
All the best with your choices, and remember, if the lie is really thick, you could choose all four !

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Pop it!

The severity of your lie will obviously dictate what you are capable of doing. However, a couple of tips that might help from heavy rough around the green…

1. Use your highest lofted club to minimize the amount of release you get
2. Tighter than normal grip pressure to keep the club from moving in your hands as the clubhead travels through the deep grass
3. Use steeper than normal angle of attack in order to keep the hosel from getting caught up in the grass and also to ensure you will get the clubhead under the ball
4. Use more force to combat the heavy grass – “pop it” using a shorter more abrupt follow through
5. The “chunk and run” is also often a good technique from heavy grass

Use a Wedge From The Deep Stuff

So your ball is in the deep stuff?! Use a wedge to get out. Loft is your friend, in this shot. Keep your grip pressure soft and your muscles loose. Stay focused on the ball so that you will keep your head still. Take the club back on a steep angle and swing back down, on that same steep approach. Let the club do the work by “swinging” not “hitting.” The tendency is to tighten the grip and “chop” at the ball. Don’t do that! Swing the club and trust the loft of your wedge to get the ball out of the rough. Practice swings, prior to the shot, are helpful in building your confidence. Finish high as you swing your wedge through the heavy rough. Watch the ball pop out and get right back in play!

The Country Club of Virginia
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Play It Like A Bunker Shot

If you find yourself in the thick rough around the green, try hovering your club like a bunker shot. The goal is to get the club going thru the rough with some speed. However, it is so important to have a loose grip. This can help “lessen” the blow to the ball and allow it to come out soft. Here is the Setup: Wider stance, open the clubface, aim a little open to the target, soft hands, and accelerate.

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Get Steep not Shallow

For a finesse wedge shot out of high grass green side you must setup for a steep descending angle of attack into the ball. Put 80% of your weight on your lead foot…setup open or to the target and hinge your wrists up and outside the line on the takeaway. These are all steepening factors which you will need to come down on the ball and try to get as little interference as possible from a lot of grass between the club and ball at impact. The deep grass may well grab the hosel and try to shut the club face taking away loft which is bad. So set up for a vertical or upright backswing and thump down into the ball with a firm lead wrist. A little practice and you will be popping them right out of those bad lies.

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Steeper is Better

To get out of heavy rough you need to get your club down to the back of the ball at impact. Pick the club up steeply at take away and drop it down steeply through impact. This will limit the amount of interaction between your club and the grass before you impact the ball.

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Speed is key when playing from deep rough.

Most golfers are not comfortable taking a big swing when they are in deep grass around the green but it is the only way to get consistent results. Treat this shot just like a sand shot. From an open stance position the ball forward, open the clubface and make a bunker swing. You should hit slightly behind the ball and feel the bounce of the club hit the ground. Speed is the key ingredient, keep the clubhead moving through impact and splash the grass just like hitting a sand shot. It takes courage and commitment and of course a little (or lot) of practice.

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Chop shop

It is like a deep seeded bunker shot. Find the ground and hope that the wedge you are using does not bounce or turn. Some cut and mostly hands… When it is sitting down you can only hope for the best. As for Tiger, he had two looks at it. The ball may have been sitting up but the technique is the same.

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In deep around greens

Some grass is going to get caught on the way to the ball by the clubhead. Use a Sand wedge with lots of bounce. Don’t try to hit the ball, hit one ball width behind it, slide the club underneath the ball, keeping the clubface facing skyward after impact.

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Use the bounce and splash it out

This will depend on the lie and where the pin is located. Generally the use higher lofted clubs while opening the face a little to create “bounce” is a great option. The swing will need to bigger and have some acceleration to get through the thicker grass. Like a bunker shot the club will not touch the ball first. The club should enter the grass a couple of inches behind the ball while gliding it under the ball. Doing it this way allows you to keep the speed of the club going through the ball to get it out without it releasing as much

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Make sure to use a pitching technique so the wrists are involved in the swing.

The Sandwedge is the heaviest club. Make sure to use a pitching technique so the wrists are involved in the swing. Practice hitting different shots and feel how much the ball runs out.

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