Picking the right club is an essential skill on the golf course. Even if you make a perfect swing, your shot will not be a success unless you are holding the right club.
While this task might be relatively easy when you have a good lie in the fairway, it becomes much more difficult when your ball strays into the rough.
From the longer grass, you are going to need to take a number of variables into account before you select a club and make a swing.
It All Starts in the Fairway
Your ability to pick the right club from the rough actually starts in the fairway. In other words, you need to know how far your clubs will travel when played from a good lie before you start to think about yardages from the rough.
Without an accurate, reliable starting point, any adjustments you make from the rough will be off track.
Unfortunately, many amateur golfers have a tendency to overestimate their own abilities when it comes to the distance they can hit their clubs. Remember, you aren’t basing your distances on the longest you have ever hit a given club – you should be thinking about a typical, average swing.
For instance, just because you once hit your seven iron 170 yards in the air does not mean that 170 is your standard distance. The majority of your swings may send the ball 155 or 160 yards, and that is the yardage you should be using.
Many golfers have no trouble remembering their yardages for each club in the bag. If you do have trouble with this important detail, however, don’t hesitate to create a little chart for yourself. Write down your average yardages and consult the list you have created when trying to making club selection decisions.
Making the Right Adjustment
For the sake of this article, let’s say that you have determined your seven iron will travel 160 yards in the air on an average swing made from the fairway. So, does that mean you should be automatically grabbing your seven iron when you have 160 yards in out of the rough?
Of course not.
Playing from the rough is significantly different than playing from the fairway, and you will have to adjust in order to wind up using the proper club.
The following points highlight some of the key changes you will experience when you move out of the fairway and into the rough.
The big difference you will find when the ball comes out of the rough as opposed to the fairway is the reduced spin rate. This is both a good and a bad thing.
On the positive side, it is easier to keep your shots on line from the rough because they will not have much side spin. On the other hand, those same shots are going to have limited backspin, meaning it will be hard to bring the ball to a stop.
Anytime you play from the rough, remember that the shot will likely have far less spin that it does when played from the tee or the fairway.
As a result of the lowered spin rate, your shots are usually going to fly lower overall when played out of the rough.
This type of shot is commonly referred to as a ‘flyer’ in golf circles – a flyer is simply a shot which has little spin and comes out flat and hot.
These kinds of shots often wind up flying over the target before finding trouble beyond the green.
Club Head Twisting
In particularly thick rough, you may find that your club head will twist as you approach impact. This is a result of the grass grabbing on to the hosel of your club.
For a right-handed golfer, this twisting is going to cause the shot to miss to the left of the target. When you know the rough is thick, adjust for this factor by aiming your stance slightly to the right of your actual target for the shot.
As you can see, playing from the rough is quite a bit different than playing from the fairway. The ball will come out low, it will have little spin, and it might be pulled to the left.
Only the players who can adjust for these factors successfully will be able to hit quality shots out of the longer grass.
Club Selection from the Rough
Getting back to the topic at hand, how do you settle on the right club to use from the rough? Well, it’s tricky.
In some cases, the ball will travel farther than usual, while other shots will come up short of their traditional distance. As a good rule of thumb, you can use the following thought to guide your decisions – the ball is likely to carry a shorter distance, but travel a longer overall distance, when played from the rough.
The flatter trajectory is going to cost you some carry distance, but you will likely get those yards back due to the bounce and roll that is tacked on to the end of the shot.
Unless you are playing from extremely heavy (and/or wet) rough – which is uncommon on today’s golf courses – you should be able to get by pretty well just by planning on reduced carry distance and longer overall yardage.
Keep the path to your target in mind while planning out your shot. If there is a bunker short of the green, you may not be able to carry it while playing from the rough. Modern golf is played largely through the air, but you may need to play a ground-based game out of the long grass.
In the end, you want to be conservative from the rough, as you don’t have enough control over the ball to take aggressive lines toward the target. Be smart, pick the club that you believe will keep you out of trouble, and get through the hole in as few strokes as possible.