Golf Tips: Behind bars

By: Shawn Kelly
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In a perfect world you’d consistently hit great drives down the middle of the fairway and your approach shots would never miss a green. Yeah right, tour pros can’t even do that! So maybe you’ll need to be able to get out of trouble from time to time to save par.
Let’s say that you have driven the ball into the trees and you are feeling like you’re sitting in the Placer County Jail looking out from behind the bars. You need to get the ball back in play to save your score. I see a lot of players in the rough or hazards that have no plan and just swing as hard as they can and hope the ball comes out. Usually it doesn’t. The ball ricochets off of a tree and now they’re looking at making a really big number. Forget about heroics, the cardinal rule when in trouble is to simply get out of trouble.
In the trees you must first, stand behind the ball and visualize where you want the shot to finish. Determine your safest route to get the ball back in play. If any doubt creeps into your decision then look again and choose another path. Your best option might even be going backwards. Make certain to choose the proper club that will get you out safely. The loft of the club is what will control the trajectory in order to get the ball out of a difficult lie or escape under branches. If your brain tells you might hit a branch, then you’ll want to formulate a new plan. Change your escape route and see if this gives you a calmer feeling or more positive attitude for the shot.
Out of deep rough it is very hard to control the ball because grass compresses between the clubface and ball and solid contact becomes dicey. Getting the ball out is your first concern. Using a lofted club like a wedge or sand wedge will successfully extract the ball from a heavy lie. Remember that a ball out of rough will normally have less backspin and will tend to release when it hits the ground so you must compensate and allow for the ball to roll upon landing.
Awkward lies are common on foothill courses. We see uphill, downhill and side hill lies. You never know what kind of lie you might find. The best way to handle the awkward lies is to take some practice swings as you address the ball. When you take practice swings at the side of the ball, you can feel the position that will give you the best balance and will allow you to feel the club working through the turf. Try to remember, don’t panic! All you really want to do is get the ball back in play. 
Practice your wedge game. Typically trouble shots will not let you get the ball onto the green but by having a good wedge game you will be able to get the next shot closer to the hole and save a decent score. If you’ll practice shots from 25 to 100 yards, you can anticipate lower scores. 
If you could drive the ball into the fairway every time or land on all the greens for birdie putts it would be great, but then that’s not a game I’m familiar with. Effective trouble shots are your bail bond in golf and being able to handle them is a key to lowering your score. Try these tips and keep those big numbers off your scorecard.