Sunday, October 20, 2013

Slopes, Rough and Flyers

There have been a lot of blogs about the mental game lately so it's time to shift gears and get back to hitting shots.  We recently played in Austin and faced a lot of uneven lies and Bermuda rough.  We also saw a lot of flyer lies.  We came home and worked on what we had seen after the event.  While it would have been better to reverse the order of those two events, travel and competition are both crucial to learning what you need as a player.  Addressing problems after an event will help you improve and grow as a player.

Here are some things to try when you face an uneven lie:
  • Ball Below Your Feet - 

    • Your inclination will be to hang on to the end of your club to make it easier to reach the ball which is further away from you than normal.  However, one goal for this shot is to be steep so the heel of the club doesn't hit the ground first.  Gripping down a bit on your club will help you get the posture needed to have a steep approach and hit down on the ball.  
    • Keep your head still and make a turn around your center.  Picture a Ferris Wheel and create that with your swing.  

    •  Because your club is approaching from a steeper angle, it is easier to have an open club face at impact.  That means the ball will tend to go right.  However, if your ball is in the rough, the heel may catch and shut the face.  I witnessed this a few times from my players, so we worked on this shot by controlling the face better through impact.  If you allow the heel to pass the toe with the ball below your feet in the rough, you will likely face the same shot again. 
    • A ball below your feet will usually travel a shorter distance due to the loft created by steepening the shaft at impact.  It will also come out without a lot of spin.
  • Ball Above Your Feet
    • Once again, your inclination is to grip down on the club, because the ball is closer to you.  But, once again, fight your inclination and stay on the end of your club so your posture matches the shot.  Your shot will more closely match that of a baseball player's stance than a golf stance and a longer club will allow your posture to match that.  
    • Stay centered and turn around yourself.  You can pretend you are a Merry Go Round as your club swings around center.  

    •  With the ball above your feet, the club face will close easily and earlier, causing the ball to go left.  It's best not to fight it, but if you have to protect from the left side, lay the club open to start with and keep your right hand under the shaft as you swing it.  Spend time practicing this shot to learn how much the ball will go left with no manipulation and how to keep it from going left if needed. This is also important to learn if you face the ball above your feet in the rough.  First of all, loft is your friend in this situation.  Secondly, if you allow the toe to pass the heel, you won't get much distance from the shot.  A ball above your feet in tough rough will go low, left and short. 
    • Hitting the ball above your feet usually causes a lower ball flight and a bit of extra distance.
  • Ball On a Downhill Slope
    • As with both uphill and downhill, it is important to keep your head still on this shot.  This will help you keep you centered and balanced throughout your swing.
    • Set up with your hips and shoulders matching the hill.   This will put more weight on your front foot.  Don't fight it.
    • Set your wrists quickly and sharply in your backswing and don't make a big turn away from the ball.  Keep that weight solidly over your front foot and use an armsy swing back.  Quiet legs are key.
    • You can make a big turn through the ball.  A tip for remembering which way you turn on slopes is, allow your turn to follow the slope.  If water runs downhill, your turn can run downhill, too.  Exaggerate your finish by keeping your chest low and if needed, take a step toward the target.
    • Your club will have less loft at impact, so your shot will go lower.  Your shot will also come from a steep angle, which will take spin off the shot.  You can probably take less club due to those two factors.
  • Ball On an Upslople
    • Once again, stay centered on this shot.  
    • Set up with your hips and shoulders matching the hill.  This will put more weight on your back foot.  Don't fight it.
    • Make a good turn away from the ball, but feel as though you finish your swing with only your arms.  Again, keep your legs quiet and your head still.
    • Your club will have more loft on it at impact causing the ball to fly higher.  You might need more club due to this.  
    • You will finish on your back foot, but it's ok in this situation.
Graeme McDowell from Today'

  • Ball in the rough
    • You can take what you learned from sloped lies to use in this situation.  If your ball is down in deep rough, grip down and create a posture that allows for a steeper swing.  If your ball is sitting up in the rough as though on a tee, hang on to the end of the club and stand an inch further from the ball to assure a shallow, round swing.  Set your hands and wrists early to also create steepness.
    • Learn to control the shaft and face of the club.  Don't allow the shaft to tip back in the rough, but make sure that it drives forward through the shot.  That might mean that you don't worry about making a full finish and you will need a firm grip.  You can control the face by setting up with the face a bit more open and holding it open through impact.  This requires grip and forearm strength.  I often witness players trying to "muscle" shots out of the rough with a strong shoulder move.  This will often cause the hands to lose tension and the face will shut when the rough grabs it.  Keep the tension in your hands, not your shoulders.
    • Loft is your friend.  Out is the first goal and you might need to take less club to make that happen.  Pay attention to angles and landing areas and practice from the rough so you can more easily predict the shots out. 

  • Flyer Lies
    • We played our last event in wetness from beginning to end.  The players had a tough time predicting the distance of their shots.  The culprit was the water and grass getting in between the club face and the ball at impact, even from the middle of the fairway.  Flyers generally happen in the rough, but these were happening everywhere, but not consistently.  The water caused the club to lose grip with the ball, which in turn causes the ball to flight higher with less spin.  Think of the smoothness of the driver face and you will understand that your iron is now mirroring that face and its goal of maximum distance.  There isn't much you can do about this situation, but you can be aware if you face this lie with trouble over the green.  Sometimes it might be better to putt from the front edge than tempt fate to that back hole location from a flyer lie.
    • I also heard a lot of questioning about clubbing in cool and/or humid weather.  Air density will have a bit of an effect on your distance.  However, you probably don't understand what makes the air more dense, because it is a bit counter-intuitive.  Here are conditions that lessen air density and increase distance:  high altitude, high temperatures, high humidity.  Players often think that high humidity slows the ball, but in fact, dry air is more dense. 
I hope these ideas help you handle the shots you face on the golf course.   Golf is a very individual game, so you need to see if these approaches work for you.  The only way to know is through experimentation and practice.  Put your ball in tough places and figure out how you can hit shots you can predict from those lies.  Figure out what works for you.

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