Sooner or later you’ll hit a bad shot. Everybody does, even players with low golf handicaps. But you can’t let hitting a bad shot upset you. It throws your game off. Instead, be smart. Gather yourself and play damage control. Playing good damage control, we tell students in golf instruction sessions, is a key to breaking 80. The better you are at limiting damage from bad shots, the less the impact they have. Play smart after hitting bad shots and you’ll shave strokes off your golf handicap.
Below are golf tips on playing damage control from common trouble spots on the course:
In The Woods
You need to ask yourself two questions when hitting from the woods. “Can I make hit it from here with my lie. Can I go for the green?” The first question is usually easy to answer. The second requires some thought and a careful assessment of the surrounding environment. Just because you can see the green from there doesn’t mean you can reach it. How do you decide? Ask yourself this question: Will hitting the green save two strokes? If not, then play it safe and go sideways.
In The Water
Usually, you can’t hit from water, but sometimes you can. How can you tell? We tell students in our golf lessons to first check the lie. If more than half the ball is under water, take a drop. Next, take your stance. You’ll need to swing aggressively from a balanced stance, so if you can’t assume a balanced stance, take a drop. Assuming you can take a balanced stance, use your pitching wedge. Open your stance, play the ball in the middle, close the clubface a bit, and use a steep wristy backswing and downswing. Hit directly behind the ball and accelerate into the ball. Don’t let the club touch the water at address. You’re in a hazard.
The most common error when hitting from a fairway bunker is overswinging. Your main goal is getting back on the fairway in good position. Follow the golf tips in this paragraph and you’ll succeed. Choke down on the club slightly, play the ball back in your setup, and take a wider stance than normal, which creates stability. Keep your feet still and your body quiet when swinging, which helps you stay level through the shot and make solid contact. Swing about 75 percent of normal. Ideally, you want to pick the ball clean. Also, take an extra club. If you usually hit a 7-iron, use a 6-iron instead.
Going Up And Over
Going up and over is tricky. You must make the right adjustments to do it. Take your normal stance, and then look skyward, which lowers your back shoulder and puts slightly more weight on your back foot, where it should be. Position the ball forward, make sure there’s a cushion beneath the ball so you can get under it, and take a big swing with plenty of speed. A big swing creates an upward hit through the ball and a higher launch. You should end up in a “reverse C” position. Some golfers leave the pinkie fingers of their left hand (right hand for left-handers) off the club. Doing so helps the clubhead zip past the hands at impact for even higher launches.
In A Divot
Sooner or later you will end up in a divot or a small crater. When you do, you need to be careful. Digging out forces you to adopt a steeper swing path, which often results in poor contact. Many golfers use an iron here. That’s a harder shot than you think. Try a hybrid instead. Its sole keeps the clubhead from getting stuck in the hole. To hit the ball solidly from a divot or crater with a hybrid, you must feel as if your shoulders are level as the club swings through impact. That feeling keeps the bottom of your swing as level as possible. That’s the key.
No matter what your golf handicap, sooner or later you’ll hit a bad shot. When that happens, we tell students in our golf instruction sessions, don’t get upset. Instead, gather yourself. Take a deep breath, analyze the situation, and focus on the job at hand. You want to limit the damage from the bad shot and set yourself up for the next one. Playing good damage control helps you break 80.