Getting Out of the Rough

During the 1972 British Open at Muirfield, Scotland, Tony Jacklin and Lee Trevino attacked the 9th hole from the tee. Jacklin went for the carry over the left-hand fairway bunker, while Trevino played more conservatively down the right side. Both finished in the rough, but within iron distance of the green. Two amazing shots followed, both landing about 20 yards (18 m) short of but running onto the green. Both players then holed their putts for eagles.

Hitting into the rough is the most common problem a golfer faces. Even golfing legends like handicap permit Trevino and Jacklin find themselves in the rough more often than they’d like. But by making a few adjustments you can get yourself out of trouble and back onto the fairway without costing yourself strokes.

When a recreational golfer finds himself in the rough, he often lets the situation intimidate him. Instead of assessing the lie, like many golf instruction manuals suggest, he grabs a club and slashes away, hitting into the rough again or into more trouble. By the time he finishes, he’s hacked out an 8 on the scorecard.

Hitting from the rough–whether heavy and thick or light and fluffy–trips up many golfers–even those who’ve taken golf lessons. But learning how to can get out of the rough doesn’t take a lot of instruction. It just takes a bit of discretion and knowing what adjustments to make.

Thick Rough

Hitting into the thick rough is the more common scenario. The problem is the thickness of the grass. It grabs the hosel of your club and closes the clubface at impact, causing you to pull the ball left (for right handers). The grass also reduces club head speed and takes backspin off the ball. Heavy clumps of grass require almost brute force to get out of.

Choosing the right club is crucial, as most golf tips point out. You need a club with a sharp leading edge, like the shorter irons. The edge cuts through the thick grass, giving the best chance of catching the ball squarely. Try a lofted wood (5,7,9) or lofted iron (9 iron, pitching wedge). The loft gets you airborne quicker. If the ball is buried, try the 6 iron. And don’t try to hit a big hook or big slice. The deeper, thicker grass makes the ball go straight.

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