June 18, 2014
By J.P. Guarneri, Senior Certified Instructor, TOURAcademy TPC Sawgrass , PGATOUR.COM
- Martin Kaymer chipping a shot from the rough on the second hole during the THE PLAYERS Championship in May. Kaymer went on to win the tournament by one stroke. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
Last week’s U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 was an anomaly in that it had no rough on the course. Anywhere! The championship’s traditional graduated rough which so often looked like a neighbor's unkept lawn was replaced by native wiregrass and waste bunkers, a way of paying homage to Donald Ross' original course design. Regardless, now is as good a time as any for a primer on how to get out of the thick stuff, especially with so many of you preparing to play in major tournaments (club championship, member guest, etc.) of your own in the near future. Here are several tips to help you make your trip into the long grass a short stay.
After you’ve examined the lie, take a few practice swings in similar-length rough to gauge the resistance of the grass (photo, above). If you have a hard time moving the clubhead through the grass then the smart play is to take a shorter club and pitch the ball back into the fairway. You don’t want to compound one mistake with another—get the ball back in play and see if you can't scratch out a par or, at the very worst, a bogey.
Grip down one or two inches on the handle. This will shorten the club and give you more control; more importantly, it will force you stand closer to the ball (photo, above), which steepens the clubhead's angle of attack. The sharper the angle of descent, the less grass (i.e., resistance) you'll encounter between the clubface and the ball. Play the ball slightly back of center in your stance with your weight forward and shoulders mirroring the slope of the fairway.
Grasp the club firmly with the last three fingers of your left hand (photo, above). This will help you hold off the rotation of the clubface longer through impact, so that you can maximize the club's loft and launch the ball higher and farther out of the rough. The tall grass has a tendency to latch onto the hosel of the clubhead and twist it shut, which delofts the face and sends the ball virtually nowhere. Gripping the club firmer with these three fingers will help counteract this costly twisting action.
Feel as if your left shoulder is rotating under your chin as the left wrist cocks and levers the clubhead up on the backswing (photo, above). If you're lifting the club up with your hands and arms only, and not generating any coil with the upper body, then you're not going to produce enough clubhead speed to advance the ball very far. Too many amateurs try to create power out of the rough with their hands and arms, rather than with their body, which is a recipe for disaster. Make a controlled, three-quarter length backswing and feel like your upper body is turning against the resistance of your lower body.
Hit down on the ball sharply, maintaining the bend in your right wrist through impact (photo, above). What this does is prevent the left forearm from rolling over and shutting the clubface, which spells doom from the rough. If you can get the back of your left hand and forearm to face the target at impact, and get your weight to your left side, you should be able to advance the ball pretty far down the fairway, and maybe even get home in two shots.
J.P. Guarneri is a Senior Certified Instructor with TOURAcademy TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. To learn more about J.P. and to book a lesson, click here .