Ideally every shot you hit would land in the fairway or on the green, but this just isn’t the case, and on occasion you’ll find yourself hitting from the rough.
The key to hitting out of the rough is assessing how deep your ball is, selecting the correct club, and making a few necessary adjustments during the address, backswing, and downswing.
Unfortunately, grabbing a club and swinging harder is not the solution when your ball is buried in the rough. This is a good way to achieve some big numbers in golf. Golf requires as much mental mastery as it does skill, and taking your aggressions out on an errant shot, could likely run up your score.
In this post I’ll discuss the kinds of rough you’ll encounter, what club to use in the different kinds of rough, and the swing technique needed for each shot.
Basics of The Rough in Golf
When a golf course superintendent wants to make the course a bit more challenging, one way to achieve this is growing the rough. Golf balls like Pro V1 and Callaway’s Chrome Soft, and clubs have become so advanced the courses might sometimes make the courses a bit harder.
One of the most affordable and quickest ways to increase the difficulty is to grow the rough. The rough can be grown in a couple of different ways. First, they can mow less of the fairway, making the fairway narrower, which then will increase the amount of rough on the sides.
A second way of growing the rough is to simply let the grass grow longer along the fairway. For example, they could let the first yard or two along the fairway grow an inch or two taller than the fairway. This is known as the first cut.
Then after a couple of yards, they can let the grass grow a few inches. This is referred to as the second cut. After that, my friends and I refer to that as “no man’s land.” I’m sure there’s plenty of names for this area, but you’re in the rough, deep at this point.
The rough is part of the game on a golf course, and to be a successful golfer you must learn how to hit out of the rough.
Here are the basics of hitting from the rough.
Tips on Hitting From the Rough
As you address the ball there are three key concepts to take into account:
- Use a firm grip
- Open the clubface
- Play the ball back in your stance
The rough has a tendency of catching the club around the hosel, twisting the clubface shut, and sending the ball left (for right-handed players). Opening the face will help compensate for this.
During the takeaway, here are the key takeaways:
- Early in the takeaway, break the wrists and bring the club up at a steeper angle than normal.
- Your arms, hands, and club should flow with the shoulders.
- The hips and legs should turn naturally.
The tall grass will slow the clubhead down before it reaches the ball, so you have to try and get as much clubhead on the ball, while catching as little grass as possible.
During the downswing, here are the key takeaways:
- Your weight should shift from the back to the front foot.
- Bring the club down at a sharp angle to maintain a steep angle into the ball.
- Attempt to minimize contact with the grass by striking down on the ball and using the loft of the club to pop it up.
If you find yourself catching a bunch of grass, you aren’t’ using a steep enough angle. On the downswing pull down on the handle to keep a more up and down descent into the ball. Also, make sure your weight is forward on the target side when you make contact.
If you find the ball is being pulled, you need to maintain an open clubface. The tall grass grabs the hosel and closes the clubface, so you need to exaggerate the open clubface.
Rough Play Strategy
The aforementioned tips and pointes are great general tips, but not all rough is created the same, and not all balls sit in the rough the same. You’ll have to make some adjustments based on these factors.
First, you’ll need to evaluate what kind of grass you’re in. Consider how thick or sparse it is, along with how high it is. Once you made this determination you need to figure out what shot you want to hit.
Second, figure how far away you are from the green. Consider if you just need to be conservative and get the ball back on the fairway, or if you have a chance of hitting on. This needs to be considered in conjunction with the first assessment. If you’re a ways out and have a good chance of making contact with the ball, a full-swing is probably warranted. If you’re much closer, a half or three-quarter swing may be your best bet.
Third, you need to select a club that gives you the highest probability of executing your intended shot. Again, you will need to account for how buried in the rough your ball is, combined with your distance, and any other influences the rough may have on your shot.
Which Club is Best Out of the Rough?
The first thing you need to check is how deep is the rough and how deep is your ball buried. If the ball is buried deep in the rough, you need to put your ego aside and just get the ball back into the fairway. The best bet is a wedge and just advance the ball 30+ yards back on the fairway (assuming your not chipping onto the green).
If the ball is sitting in light or moderate rough and with most of the ball showing, you can make better contact with the ball. The ball is likely to come out faster, fly lower, bounce, and run longer. For a shot like this, you will want to take one less club. For example, if you normally hit a 7-iron 130 yards, take out an 8-iron for the same distance.
For average golfers, a 5-iron is the club with the least amount of loft that they can manage from any rough (I would exclude deeply buried balls). If you’re still a ways out, and in rough where your ball is at least half-visible and the grass won’t restrict your contact too much, it might be your best bet.
Tips on Practicing Shots From the Rough
Practicing shots from the rough can be difficult. Typically practice greens don’t have a lot of rough you can practice out of. If there is a spot, it’s best to practice three kinds of shots. First, put the ball in the rough and slightly step on them. This will help recreate buried balls.
Also, drop some balls from waist height, as this will recreate balls at a medium level of rough.
Finally, lightly place balls on top of the rough so you can practice the easier shots from the rough. Ideally, you would do this from different distances from the green.
If you don’t have access to this real kind of rough, you can use a standard practice green and use the following drill.
On a practice green place a board or an object about a yard behind your ball. Using a 9-iron or wedge, address the ball as you normally would, with the ball in the middle of your stance. Work on breaking your wrist and lifting the club so that you can practice coming down at a steeper angle. Obviously, try to avoid hitting the board with your club to help you practice the steeper angle. Be sure to pull the handle down and use the loft of the club to pop the ball up.
Wrapping up Hitting Shots From the Rough
Being able to hit out of the rough can give you a significant advantage over your opponents. Players that practice shots from the rough, will feel less frustration and anger when they find themselves playing in these hazards. Knowing how to evaluate the rough and how to get out of it, will help keep those scores to a minimum.