Golf isn’t a game of perfect. We all make mistakes from time-to-time and are forced to get creative to escape a bad situation.
Recovery Shots are an important part of the game. The ability to recover well can save a great round by eliminating those big numbers.
Not to get negative, but there are a lot of different ways to get into trouble on a golf course. You know that.
You’ve probably experienced all of them before. So, in this article, we’re going to talk through some of the big recovery shots you might run into and how you can save par. If you haven’t already, make sure to read our article on how to evaluate a lie in golf.
How to Play out of the Rough
First, and probably the most mild of all recovery shots, is the shot out of the rough.
Now, you might say this isn’t a recovery shot, but unless you intentionally hit your drive into the rough, you’ll need to make some sort of recovery from the last swing you made.
Finding your ball in deep rough absolutely changes how you play a shot as well. It makes it more difficult to hit a green and two putt for par.
In order to execute this shot, you need to know that a ball coming out of the rough won’t have a lot of spin to hold the green, but it also won’t fly as far.
You have a club selection choice to make right away:
- How much shorter do you need to land the ball, so that it rolls up close to the pin?
- Also, how far will your lie allow you to hit the ball?
One question lends itself to a shorter club, the other to a longer club. When making this decision, consider how much grass is between you and the ball:
- The more grass, the shorter it’ll fly and the more it’ll roll.
- Unfortunately, there’s really no universal rule for this, it’s just something you have to make an educated guess with.
Once you’ve chosen your club, you need to hit the shot. The goal with a ball in the rough is to make sure you hit the ball with as little interference as possible. To do that, you want to make sure your angle of attack is steeper than normal.
When in the fairway, you can take a shallower angle of attack because you don’t have any grass between your ball and club.
To create a steeper angle of attack:
- Make sure that you hold on to your wrist hinge a little longer than normal and transfer your weight to your front foot earlier in the swing.
- You might also consider moving your ball position back in your stance to make sure your club hits the ball before the grass.
How to Play from the Woods
The next shot we’ll cover is the shot out of the woods.
Before hitting this shot, you’ve got a decision to make as well;
Do you go over, under, or through the trees? Do you need to hit a shot from your non-dominant side?
In every situation, there are pros and cons to each choice and there’s no universal answer. That being said, in my experience, most amateur golfers take too much risk.
I find it helpful to rank the three choices from easiest to hardest. Some things to consider in making your decision is the score you want to make on the hole and in your round. Think about what you need to do to accomplish those goals.
Typically, the more risk you take, the greater the reward ought to be as well. Never take the more difficult shot if you’re probably going to make bogey either way.
A lot of times, it’s best to just “take your medicine” by playing the easiest shot and move on. This play typically eliminates the chance of making a big number.
Similar to the previous section, when hitting a shot out of the woods, you’ll need to focus on your angle of attack:
- A steeper angle of attack will create a higher shot and a shallower attack angle will create a lower trajectory.
Also, a harder swing will go higher than a soft swing. Taking more club with a softer swing is a good way of keeping the ball down under the branches.
- Try opening or closing your club face just a bit.
- Then, to hook a ball, rotate both your hands towards your back shoulder, and swing inside-out.
- To slice the ball, do the exact opposite.
Playing off Hardpan
When you find your golf ball and it comes to rest on hardpan, a lot of people get a little frustrated. In most situations, we expect to find our golf ball in some sort of grass, but a hardpan is basically just dried dirt or hard grass.
Many amateurs don’t like the hardpan lie because it’s hard and can hurt when you hit it.
In this situation, one thing you have to keep in mind, is that you cannot hit the ground first. Because the ground is so firm, there’s very little forgiveness in it. If you hit the ground first, your club will likely stop quickly or bounce off in a strange way.
To hit a solid shot off the hardpan, move the ball back in your stance. This will help you make contact with the golf ball first.
Since your club will be making contact with the ball sooner, it’ll have less time to square up to your target. So, you might also want to close down your club face a bit, so that you make sure it closes down at impact, especially if you struggle with slicing or fading the golf ball.
Finally, take a little more loft on your golf club and focus on good tempo. A hardpan lie makes it more difficult to hit a solid golf shot, so don’t take too much club because longer clubs are harder to hit anyway.
A good, balanced, slower tempo will also help you make solid contact with the golf ball. Quick movements that cause swaying back and forth will only make it more difficult to make crisp contact in these situations.
Playing off the Cart path
It’s rare, but every-so-often your golf ball will come to rest on a cart path. In this situation, it is legal to take a free drop off of the cart path, but there are some situations where you might not want to do that.
For example, you might find that the only clear angle you have is from the cart path where the ball lies. This isn’t a shot that a lot of golfers practice regularly, if at all, though.
One big reason is that it’ll probably scuff up your club and that makes it not worth it. But, maybe you find yourself in a tournament or an important match where you think it’s worth the cosmetic damage to hit this shot. It can be worth a shot in those situations.
At setup, put the ball a little bit back in your stance. This will make sure that you hit the ball first. Hitting the ground first will lead to disaster; your club would end up bouncing into the ball.
A cart path is even harder than a hardpan, so there’s even less “give” to the ground. When hitting a ball off the cart path,
- You’ll want to make your swing as shallow as possible.
- As you take the club back slowly, keep the head as close to the ground as possible.
- Through impact, you want to keep about 50% of your weight on each foot at impact. This will level out your swing arc, so that you don’t dig too much into the ground.
Finally, with this shot, it’s important to commit to the shot. You cannot afford to have any doubt creep into your mind. Any bit of doubt will make you timid and can easily cause you to bail on the shot, hitting the ground first.
If you’re going to hit the shot, make sure you do it knowing that you’ll hit the ball first and clip a little bit of the cement. Don’t be surprised that your club will walk away with a little bit of damage.
Also, being timid can also get you injured. You don’t want to hurt a wrist, or worse, because you got scared and hit the ground first.
The other thing to keep in mind is your footing. Your shoes probably won’t grip as well on the cement, so that makes it important to swing in balance, with good tempo, and not too fast.
How to Hit a shot with a Golf Ball partially Submerged in Water
Have you ever hit a shot that went a little bit off-line, only to walk up and see it under water just a couple inches into the pond or creek?
It’s frustrating. You were so close to being safe, but now you have to take a penalty shot and drop a couple feet away.
Or do you?
If the ball is just barely under the surface of the water, you might be able to save a shot or two by hitting it out.
First, you have to know if it’s possible.
- If half of the golf ball is under the water line and half is above, then you can probably hit a good shot and advance it a little ways.
- If the ball is fully submerged, but the top of the ball is right at the water line, then you can probably still blast it out of the water a short distance.
- If the ball is farther under the water than that, you probably ought to take the penalty stroke and move on.
To hit this shot, think of it a lot like a bunker shot.
- You’re going to want to take a more lofted club, probably a sand wedge, and open up the face.
- Then, put the ball back in your stance a little bit and swing really steep into the back of the golf ball.
- You want the club to enter the water as close to the back of the golf ball as possible.
- Also, you’re going to want to swing pretty hard. The water is going to provide some resistance, slowing your club head down quite a bit. So, to make sure you don’t lose too much power, swing hard.
- As you swing, make sure to get your weight moving forward. The tendency in this situation is to fall backwards, but don’t let that happen.
Something to keep in mind when doing this shot is that you’re going to get wet. Sound obvious, but I’ve seen guys do it who thought the water would only fly forward due to the direction of the swing. That’s not how it works, the water will go everywhere all over you.
To master the the water shot, make sure to check out our full article on how to hit a golf shot out of water.
Bonus: Bad Luck in the Fairway
Lastly, you may occasionally run into some bad luck and find that great drive of yours landed in a divot or that your ball now has mud on it. Go here to read our full article on how to hit from a divot and here on how to play a mud ball.
The Bottom Line
You might’ve noticed a theme in a lot of these shots; swing with a steep angle of attack and get your weight moving forward. That’s because those two things will make sure your club comes into contact with the most ball and less impediments.
Also, it’ll help you get power by transferring your weight to the front side. If you’re able to do that, in most situations, you should be able to make solid contact and escape from a bad situation. Go here for more advice on bouncing back in golf.