How well do you play bad lies? If you’re like many golfers, they bother you. Lies are important. They dictate what you can do with a shot. You can spin a pitch shot from the fairway but not from the mud. How well you play bad lies during any given round often decides how well you play that day. If you’re going to break 80—and shave strokes from your golf handicap—you must learn to play bad lies.
But playing some bad lies is a lot harder than playing others. Playing a ball plugged in the mud or perched on a root is trickier than playing a ball buried in the rough. Mud balls and root balls require a little more know-how than the other bad lies. Below are some golf tips we cover in our golf instruction sessions on playing mud balls and root balls.
Lies In The Mud
How you play a mud lie depends on whether or not the ball is plugged. If you have a clean lie stand a little taller and position the ball a little further back in your stance than normal. These adjustments ensure you make ball first contact. In addition, hover the club behind the ball at address. This prevents you from getting stuck in the mud on your backswing. Take a normal swing for short irons. For long irons, middle irons, and fairway woods, take a low backswing.
If you have a plugged lie, make an explosion shot—just like you’d do if you were buried in a bunker. Make sure you open your stance and take a firm grip. Mud is a lot harder to go through than sand. You also want to close the clubface a bit and swing down at the ball to dig it out. Play the ball slightly back of center. If the ball is really buried, use no more than a 9-iron. Avoid your sand wedge! The flange at the bottom of the clubface (the bounce) can get stuck in the mud.
Lies and Roots
We tell students in our golf lessons to avoid playing balls that lie against a root, especially if it’s big and thick. You can break a club or injure yourself playing a ball against the root. But if you must play this lie, keep the following golf tips in mind:
Root behind the ball—It’s hard to get at a ball where the root is behind the ball. An option is to consider using your putter to top the ball intentionally. The putter’s short shaft provides good control. The straight clubface gives you enough topspin to get you out and back on to the fairway. Don’t try to do too much with this shot. You just want to get it out from trouble.
- Root in front of the ball—This is a dangerous lie. The ball could hit the root and comeback and seriously injure you. Plus, you’d incur a two stroke penalty for getting hit with your own ball. You can try using a wedge and punch the ball out with an easy swing. But the option we favor in golf instructions sessions is to bail out latterly, if you can. It’s safer and smarter.
- Root outside the ball—You have to make clean contact with this lie. Otherwise, you’ll mis-hit it. Use the toe of your club for best results. Also, stand about an inch closer than normal and hold the club a little tighter than usually. This will keep it from twisting in your hands upon impact.
- Root between your feet and the ball—The best option is probably to take an unplayable lie. But if you must hit this lie, be careful. The way the ball is sitting makes hitting the ball on the hosel a good possibility, causing a shank. You can try a putter here or turn around and hit the ball left-handed, but these are still not easy shots. Sometimes it’s better to take your medicine.
Mud balls and root balls are two of the game’s tougher lies. They can be frustrating at times, as we tell students in our golf lessons, but you can’t let them affect your play. The golf tips above can help. But sometimes the smarter play is to avoid playing them. Experience will tell you which to play. If you have to declare an unplayable lie, it shouldn’t hurt your score too badly and it certainly won’t hurt your golf handicap.