There are common situations that golfers at every level face after they have driven from the tee. Below are some of those common situations along with some hints, tips, swing keys and strategies for each to help you incorporate to your play and shoot lower scores.
IN THE FAIRWAY
Some golfers don't hit many fairways and when they do, they feel anxious about the outcome of their next shot whether it’s hitting the green or where their shot will land if they don’t. If this sounds like you, the first thing to do is to simplify your thought process and only have thoughts of the process that will produce a positive result. Once the mind and body and more relaxed, to avoid rushing your shot complete your backswing a follow through as nerves usually speed things up. A smooth tempo and a full motion will help you hit the ball solidly follow up that piped drive.
FROM THE ROUGH
Shots in the rough require good judgement and the skill to execute the shot successfully. Sometimes we can get lucky and are able to play virtually any shot we choose, on others occasions, a certain amount of caution is required and then there are the times when it would be a major achievement just to get the ball back into play. Shots from a good lie when you it’s possible to get a clean strike on the ball require little or no adjustment and shots from a fluffy lie need to be swept away with a shallower angle of approach. The more troublesome lies are when the ball is buried deeper in the grass. This is when a steeper angle of approach is required and the simplest way of doing this is to play the ball further back in your stance. This will reduce the loft on the clubface so remember to take more loft to help you get the ball up and out. Longer rough will also have the effect of closing the clubface so you can open it depending on the situation and hold a little firmer with you left hand.
The first thing to do when you end up in a fairway bunker is to select a club with enough loft so a well struck shot will clear the lip. If you have a clean lie and your attempts to pick the ball cleanly have resulted in thinning shots into the face of the bunker, try striking the ball with more of a descending blow. To strike the ball before the sand, position the ball slightly back in your stance from normal, take more loft, secure stance by wriggling your feet into the sand and hold down the grip for control. As with any other shot with an awkward stance, swing within yourself, stay balanced and focus on your strike. Because you're taking power out of the swing, you can club up but only if you can clear the lip so don’t risk it if you are unsure as it’s always better to be a little short than play again from the same bunker.
When you find yourself in trouble off the tee you must first determine what type of shot is possible from your lie and what are the odds of striking a successful shot. A good way to help you decide what shot to play is to think of traffic lights. A green light means you can go for the green because your lie is good, you have no obstacles to avoid, the distance is good, you can visualise a successful shot and the odds of pulling off a successful shot are very much in your favour. Red is a simple no go situation as everything that was in your favour with the green light. Sometimes all you can do with a red light is to get your ball back on the fairway and at best, where you think a good drive would have finished. Recovery shots that fall into an amber light are a judgement call and most likely when we can make a poor decision. Sometimes, when it’s late on in a round and we need get a few birdies or win some holes, we may feel the need to play aggressively but be aware, red recovery shots should never turn green.
These can be tough because there is a concern of getting the ball in the air especially if there is a hazard to go over. The first thing to do is to take a club with more loft as the downslope will reduce the loft of your shot. Next, we need to get the base of our arc downward following the direction of the slope rather than level or upward which is what happens when golfers try to help the ball in the air with the result of topping the shot or hitting the ground behind. The key is to adjust your body, so your spine is perpendicular to the slope effectively making it into a level lie. To do this, position the ball toward your higher foot to strike the shot with a descending arc, keep your body weight on your lower foot and lower your left side nearer the ground. When you swing, keep your body weight on your lower foot to help angle your arc down. Keep your left shoulder low on the through swing slope and I prefer to see a golfer walking down the slope after their shot rather than falling back up it.