You’ve short-sided yourself, and to make matters worse, there’s a deep-faced bunker separating you from the putting surface, and the green is sloping away from you. About the only chance you have of stopping this ball within 15-20 feet of the flag is to loft the ball practically straight up in the air, so it lands perpendicular to the ground. You’re not going to get the ball to spin much from the grass, so the more vertical the landing angle, the sooner the ball will come to a stop.
The high lob is essentially a controlled fat shot, because you want to strike the ground about an inch to an inch-and-a-half behind the ball. This will allow the clubface to slide underneath the ball, very similar to a greenside bunker shot, launching it very high off the face. You don’t want to hit the ball low off the face, close to the leading edge, because that implies that the clubhead is ascending at impact and contact is liable to be too thin. The higher the contact point on the face, the more vertical the ball will climb and the softer it will land.
Here are a few keys to help you master the lob and also boost your scrambling percentage (i.e., the ability to get the ball up-and-down when you miss a green in regulation), one of the many stats you can track on your TOURCaddie app (http://www.pgatourcaddie.com).
Setup: Preset more loft
When hitting a high lob shot, use your most lofted wedge (preferably 58 or 60 degrees) and dial the clubface open slightly by turning the clubhead clockwise (counterclockwise for left-handed golfers). The higher you want to hit the shot, the more you open the face. Use your full-swing grip (to allow for more wrist hinge and clubhead speed) and make sure to grip the club with the face already open; don’t grip it square and then turn your hands to the right, as that will promote more face rotation through the hitting area and a lower flying shot. Position the ball an inch or two left of center in your stance, so that the club shaft is leaning slightly away from the target and your hands are behind the ball. This will expose more of the bounce, or trailing edge of the clubhead, so that the head will be able to accelerate through the grass, dirt and soil without digging.
With any short-game finesse shot, you want to grip down on the handle an inch or two for added control and feel. As a result, you’ll need to stand a little closer to the ball than normal. Place more weight on your left leg so that you’re less apt to move off the ball during the shot, and flex both knees more than normal to provide additional stability throughout the swing. Your stance and body should be fairly open, which promotes a steeper angle of attack and more of a cutting action across the ball through impact.
Swing: Deliver maximum loft
Your setup will dictate how the ball is going to come off the clubface, but you still have to swing aggressively through impact if you want to get the results you’re seeking. Because there’s so much upward elevation to the lob shot, you need additional clubhead speed to move the ball forward; otherwise, it won’t have enough momentum to reach your target. Most amateurs either hit the ball thin or come up well short of their target because they release their hands and wrists too soon (from the top of the swing), and scoop underneath the ball. Therefore, the clubhead is actually in an ascending position at impact and slowing down.
To ensure there’s a maximum amount of loft and clubhead speed at impact, assume your address position and then, as you swing down from the top, make sure to transfer your weight forward, onto your left side. Stay home on your left leg as you drive the clubhead down aggressively through the turf, from out to in (i.e., across the ball). As the clubhead approaches impact, feel as if you’re rotating the face underneath the ball, rather than rotating it left, in a closed position, as you normally would. At impact, your hands should be slightly behind the ball and the shaft angled back, away from the target, which delivers maximum loft to the ball.
Essentially, you’re taking that 60-degree wedge of yours, opening the face at address to about 70 degrees, and then adding even more loft through impact so that it’s playing more like 80 or 85 degrees. Combined with a fair amount of hand speed through impact, you should loft the ball plenty high and soft with enough forward momentum to reach your target.
Richie Coughlan is Head Instructor at TOURAcademy TPC San Antonio. For more game-improvement tips, on-the-spot club recommendations and 3D previews of each hole, not to mention real-time distances to all key hazards and targets on each hole, download the TOURCaddie PRO app at www.pgatourcaddie.com.