Let’s face it. Lower scores come from hitting solid shots. That’s not easy to do if you’re stuck with a bad lie. Bad lies can occur in the fairway, but you’ll usually find them in the rough, in a sandy bunker, or on uneven ground or hardpan. Mishit them and they can cost you strokes. If you’re serious about breaking 80, you’ll need to learn to hit solid shots from the most common bad lies you’ll face on a golf course.
How much of an impact does a lousy lie have on a shot? If you’re an average golfer and you hit a 5 iron 170 yards given a great fairway lie, you might find it a challenge hitting the ball 60 yards from the rough using the same swing. That’s a big difference. So, you need to assess your lie carefully before deciding on what to do. Unfortunately, you’ll probably have to hit from bad lies several times per round.
Below are four common bad lies you’ll face on course, plus golf tips on how to make clean contact and rive the ball forward:
Digging Out of Deep Rough
This bad lie is among the most common going. The danger here is that the grass grabs the clubhead and twists it in your hands, causing a mishit. If the grass is deep and thick, it may even cover the ball. So, you can forget about trying to put spin on the ball. It’s virtually impossible. Here are eight golf tips to keep in mind when hitting from this bad lie:
- Stand closer to the ball
- Choke up a few inches
- Aim slightly right of the target
- Play the ball back of center
- Increase your grip pressure
- Forward press your hands
- Hinge the club quickly
- Swing down sharply
The key here is to prevent the clubhead from twisting in your hands when cutting through the grass. Choking up an inch or two boosts club control and provides the leverage you need to hit the shot. But be careful. Playing aggressively with this bad lie boosts the chances you’ll dump the ball back in the rough. You may be better off grabbing a wedge and punching it back to safety. That will save you strokes.
Beating a Buried Lie
When you have a buried lie in heavy wet sand, escaping a bunker can seem impossible. Unfortunately, you can’t use your normal bunker swing with this shot. It just won’t work. The problem is you can’t get under the ball when you swing. That means you can’t get the spin or the lift you need to escape the bunker. Instead, try a “cock and pop” shot.
Here are the keys to this shot:
- Toe-in club slightly
- Aim the clubface at your target
- Position the ball in the middle
- Cock your wrists quickly
- Stop your backswing at three quarters
- Swing firmly into the ball
The trick to hitting this shot well is to cock your wrists quickly and stop three-quarters of the way back. Then, swing the club down firmly into the back of the ball as cleanly as you can. The club will dig into the sand and drive the ball up and out.
Defeating Downhill Lies
These lies can fool you. They’re much harder than they look. In fact, they’re among the toughest lies possible. They can cost you par if you take them lightly. The six swing keys below will help you beat these types of lies and lower scores:
- Angle your shoulders
- Choke down on the club
- Play the ball back a few inches
- Shift your weight back slightly
- Use a three-quarter swing
- Extend your arms down the slope
The key to this shot is making sure you angle your shoulders to match the slope. Also, choke down on the club, so you don’t stub the ground before making contact, and maintain your center of gravity during the downswing. Keep your swing as smooth as possible.
Stripe One from a Divot
Even a great drive right down the middle can end up in a bad lie. Often, it’s a fairway divot. Hitting from a divot is a challenge, as with most bad lies. That’s because the ball sits below the bottom of your swing arc, which can lead to a skulled shot.
Below are the five keys to conquering a divot:
- Play the ball off your back heel
- Set your hands even with your zipper
- Hinge your wrists quickly
- Pull your arms down
- Let the clubhead lag behind your hands
If the divot is steep, consider using a club with more loft. Also, use a steep downswing to conquer this lie. Swing down and through almost as if you were chopping wood. And don’t try to swing too hard. You move your head when you do and mishit it. The ball will come out lower than usual and run.
Lower scores are a product of good ballstriking. But that’s hard to make solid contact when you have a bad lie. Since bad lies are a part of the game, you’ll have to learn to hit from them to go low. Learning to hit the most common bad lies you’ll face, like those discussed above, is a good start. It will boost your chances of breaking 80 consistently.
Rack Up Lower Scores by Learning to Hit from Water
Do you take a drop automatically when you find water? Most golfers do. Often, it’s the right call. But depending on the situation, you may not have any option but to hit from water, which can save you a stroke if you know how to do it. The key to escaping the water is hitting the ball solidly without getting out of sync. In other words, don’t try to do too much.
Here are five questions to ask before hitting out of water:
- Can I afford to take a stroke?
- How far is the ball submerged?
- Can you play the ball to a safe place?
- Can I take a balanced stance?
- What club should I use?
First, you need to decide if you want to take a penalty stroke. If you can afford to take a stroke, taking a drop often makes more sense than hitting from water. If you can’t take a stroke, you may have to hit from the water. Consult Rule 26-1a in your golf rules book for more information about taking a drop.
Second, you need to check your lie. If you can’t see at least half the ball above the water, then the shot becomes much, much harder. Also, check to see if there is a safe landing spot. If you don’t have a safe place to land the ball, it’s not worth the risk. Instead, take a drop. It’s an easier and safe shot.
Third, you need to check your stance. You’ll have to take an aggressive swing to get out of the water, so take a wide but balanced stance. A wide stance gives you the leverage you need to blast the ball out of the water. Also, keep your shoes on for stability, which is crucial when hitting from water.
Use a PW or GW for this shot. An LW has too much loft to penetrate the water. Also, take an aggressive swing like you were blasting out of a bunker. Ideally, you want to pick up the club on your backswing, then take a hard, steep swing. Drive the club down into the water and make a nice follow through. Execute this shot correctly and your ball will fly to safety.
Hitting out of the water is challenging. No doubt about it. But doing it successfully when you need to generate lower scores is a challenge. Just make sure you ask yourself the five questions discussed above before hitting from the water. Remember, there’s no shame in taking a drop if it’s the right decision.
Chipping It Close from Bad Lies Lowers Scores
There’s nothing more annoying to have a good shot run off the green and find a bad lie. It could be a divot, on hardpan, or between two tree roots. Whatever the case, mishitting the shot can cost you strokes—especially if the shot’s just off the green.
If you want to shoot lower scores consistently, maybe even break 80, you’ll need to learn to chip it close from a bad lie. The golf drill below teaches you that skill. Johnny Miller calls it the Brush-Brush golf drill. He invented it.
On the range, use the toe of your club to make a line in the grass. Then set up centered over the line. Make a half swing and try to brush the grass on the target side of the line—not a huge divot, just a slight brush—then repeat.
Do it twice in a row, because it instills a good rhythm. It sounds simple, but you actually have to do so many things right to brush the grass in the right place that, when you do, you’re grooving good mechanics.
The secret to hitting this shot well is to get the butt of the grip even or ahead of the line before unhinging your wrists and brushing the grass with the clubhead. Executing this drill correctly prevents you from catching the ground behind the ball, which is the fastest way to hit a bad shot from a bad lie.