In the past few weeks, I (Tim) have been trying to get on the course more and more to start to get my game ready for the season. As always with this time of year, it is a much different game than that in the summer or even spring. The main difference is the lies you get. Yes, some of you might play winter lies (moving the ball to a “favorable” lie when the grass is dormant) – and to be honest, I am not totally opposed to that….. I would rather you enjoy the game in the winter, than struggle with lies that you would never see professionals play or even big “amateur” events being played on.
But… there are times you will need to know how to hit shots off these “tight” lies. Whether you are playing the ball down on the dormant grass that is “beat down” or as at a lot of Florida courses in the winter, the fairways are green (overseeded) – but mowed extremely tight. The fairways, the first cut around the greens, etc.. can have extremely short grass this time of year. If you don’t understand how to play shots off these type of lies, it can become very frustrating.
A golfer who finds his ball on such a lie can be helped by knowing some of the “tricks” in playing these shots.
First: If the distance to the green is within chipping or pitching range, it is wise to take a less-lofted club than normal and play a chip-and-run type shot. This is the safest choice for two reasons:
- The flange on the club will be narrower and tend not to “bounce” into the ball.
- More importantly, the club head speed for the less lofted iron will be slower than for the deep-faced, wider-flanged pitching club, so that if the ball is miss hit the error will be less severe.
Chipping, or even putting, from areas with “tight grass” from off the green is generally good advice.
If the ground is “rock hard”, and the player must use a sand wedge, be sure the minimum bounce from the sole is presented. This is accomplished by squaring the face up at address. Play the ball back in the stance so the contact point for the clubface will be at the very base of the ball where it meets the ground. Make no attempt to lift the ball. Instead, maintain the shaft angle that was established at address. It takes considerable trust to execute this shot because the margin for error is close to zero.
For full shots off of hard ground or ground with very little grass or even fairways with very “tight” lies, follow these tips:
1. Play the ball back a little further in the stance than normal. Maybe a ball or two (length) further back.
Playing the ball back a little bit will take a little of the “effective” bounce off the club and will help you hit the ball on a slightly more descending blow. You will need the “increased descending” angle to catch the ball clean as it is very easy to “bounce” the club off the ground and into the ball off the tight lie. Adding a little more “downward angle” on the shot will help.
2. Take a club or two more than you need and choke down slightly. Swing “smooth” rather than “hard” at the shot. Swinging hard will cause excess movement in the body and with minimal room for error – it is much more important to swing “smooth” and steady rather than “hard”.
3. Work on hitting the shot. It will feel like you are trying to drive the club through the ball as the club will enter into the ground ahead of the ball.
Many times on very tight fairways, or “hardpan” type shots, it is easier and more “reliable” to hit a “punch” type shot or even a hard “chip” type shot. The reason is you are more likely to keep your lead wrist firm through the shot in a punch or hard chip type shot – which will make is easier to hit through the shot. If you are swinging a full swing type shot off of a “tight” lie and cup the wrist (or breakdown) prior to impact, you are very likely to either miss the ground altogether or hit the ball and the club will bounce off the ground into the ball. Either one of these misses will lead to a “bladed” or “thin” type shot.
4. A good drill to work on hitting the shot:
Place a tee in the ground just ahead of the ball (like the golf ball feels backward off the tee). You should hit the ball and the divot should take the tee out of the ground. The divot should start where the tee is on the ground. The divot (at worst) should start at the lead side of the golf ball – the back end of the divot should be ahead of the golf ball. Or as seen in our Total Game Overview – paint a line on the ground perpendicular to your target. Place golf balls on the line. Hit the golf balls. The club should enter the ground on the leading edge of the line or ahead of the line and the divot will be in front of the line. At worse, the back end of the divot will be on the front edge of the line painted on the ground.
Ultimately, being able to hit shots off of “tight” lies comes down to how well you can hold your proper angles through impact. In other words, those that keep a “firm lead wrist” through impact will have a much easier time than those that cup or break down their lead wrist prior to impact. Working on leverage angles, leverage bag, etc.. will help master the correct positions and angles at impact.
Remember – ALWAYS PRACTICE WITH A PURPOSE!