Are you intimidated when you walk up to a tee box and see a narrow fairway, a fairway lined with bunkers, or water that’s in play? When you are intimidated, you get tense and try to hit the perfect shot aiming for that perfect place.
The problem here is that as amateurs, that’s never going to happen. We’re not Jordan Spieth. We don’t have the accuracy of Rory McIlroy. If we get rattled and blow up, we don’t recover like the professionals. It’s in our head. With those high risk, high reward shots, there’s always a play that provides a favorable solution that won’t blow up a round.
Off the tee, your drive can leave you in bad shape if you have a slice or a draw. There are unfriendly lies on every course, especially on tougher courses or any of the top public golf courses in Philadelphia. We all have differing opinions regarding the most difficult shots in the game, but there’s always a way to attack the shot to minimize the damage.
Long Fairway Bunker Shot
You crushed the tee shot straight into the fairway, except there was a bunker over 100 yards from the green. For an accurate shot, open up your clubface and play the ball back an inch. Dig your toes into the sand to avoid over hitting your iron, and if you swing normally watch the ball the whole way to ensure a solid strike.
Depending on your lie, you may be standing on the fairway with your ball in the sand. If your feet are out of the sand, don’t be the hero. With the ball just inside your left foot, bend your knees so you can get your club down to the ball. Maintain balance through your swing, and keep your body quiet with a quick hinge of your wrists.
On the reverse, if your ball is outside the bunker, but the lie forces you to step into the sand, keep your focus on advancing the ball. Often, your feet will be below the ball and result in a baseball swing. Best practice is to take a club like the 7-iron and keep the face straight through the swing. Worry about saving par with your next shot, don’t try to get to the green in regulation while hitting with a poor stance.
Buried Bunker Shot
If there’s anything more frustrating than finding the trap, it’s walking up to your ball and seeing it plugged into the sand. You can’t get under the ball to elevate or loft it the way you want to. Come down hard on the ball and create a kind of sand explosion to escape the trap and find the green. Make sure to keep your hands low to the ground to strike the sand at the right angle.
Approach over Water
An island green, or just seeing water in front of the green on our approach causes us to overthink. It could be the most terrifying shot of our round. If you look at the water and don’t shift your focus to the green, chances are you’ll hear a splash. Focus on your target and turn your body through the shot. This makes it easier to hit your target. Grip down on the club and hit down on the ball to get the loft you need.
Restricted Backswing through the Trees
There are plenty of obstructions on the course. When your ball comes to rest under a tree or shrub that prevents you from making a full, smooth backswing, you’ll be tempted to lunge at the ball. Use an abbreviated punch type of swing to get the ball out of trouble and set yourself up for a nice approach.
With the goal to get out of the woods with one swing, even hitting away from the hole to find the closest out can save your score. Figure out a shot that gives you the best path to a safe shot in one swing. Punching the ball out and clean contact can leave you in the fairway and just one shot off your scorecard.
When you walk around the green and squat behind the ball, you see two breaks. A bend to your left, and then back to your right as the ball reaches the pin. Which break is bigger? Where do you start the putt? If you want to be like the pros, walk to the first slope and do a practice putting stroke to visualize how the ball will travel from that point. Focus on getting to that first turning point at the right speed to hit the slope and get the ball rolling to the cup. It’s easier said than done, but determining the starting point makes the aim and the speed determination easier.
Don’t take the bold play every time. When you hit a bad shot, look for the easiest way to recover without blowing up your round. One bad shot can spiral out of control if you take the bold play. The best way to overcome an obstacle is to stay focused on your goal and don’t let a negative mental game affect your play.