Golf Tips - Thoughts on Some Common Trouble Shots

By The Original Golf School

Trouble Shots

There are many types of trouble shots.
Here are a few suggestions to cover the most common ones.

Deep Rough

Long grass has the effect of closing the face of the club and decreasing the loft of the club. For this reason, the player should use a more lofted club than if the ball were in the fairway. If a player has a long distance left, the first consideration should be getting the ball out of the rough. Use of lofted fairway woods #5, #6, #7 is advisable in this situation. The long grass will decrease the loft of these clubs and the ball will actually go the distance of the less lofted fairway woods. Around the green, the player must again use a more lofted club. These types of shots are custom made for a wedge or a 9-iron. The effect of the long green will once again decrease the loft of the club. The ball will therefore fly lower and run more than if it were in the fairway. Remember, allow the loft of the club to lift the ball out of the rough!

Sidehill, Downhill & Uphill Lies

Of course, few golf courses are flat. Here are some suggestions for playing hilly lies.

Take a practice swing and note where the club is striking the ground. If the club is striking the ground nearer the back foot, move the ball back in your stance; if the club is striking the ground nearer the front foot, move the ball forward in your stance. This system is the most accurate system to determine where the ball should be placed in the stance. Seldom does a player have a purely sidehill or uphill lie. This system takes all the factors into account as the practice swing is the forerunner to the actual shot.

The general of thumb is to position the ball in the stance nearer the higher foot on the downhill lies, and about center on the uphill lies. On sidehill lies, position the ball left center (as you normally would). If the ball is above your feet on the sidehill lie, you will normally hit the ball straight or pull it to the left. If the ball is below your feet, most players will actually pull the ball to the left because their leg action will slow down as they try to maintain their balance.

The best system for determining which way the ball will travel for you on sidehill lies is to try ten practice balls from each sidehill position and see what really happens.

How to Get Out of Trouble

So often we get into trouble and compound our difficulties by trying to play a miracle shot to get out. The best approach is to play the shot you know you can play, not the shot Arnold Palmer would be dubious about. When hitting over a tree, take one club extra. If you think you can clear the tree with a 7-iron, take an 8 or 9 iron. If you think a 5-iron will just stay under those branches, hit a 4 or 3 iron. This approach simply gives the player the benefit of the doubt and will take pressure off your shot. It also puts the percentages on your side. This is the chess side of golf that is as important to master as hitting the ball well.

Some Thoughts on Putting

Putting is a matter of combining the distance of the putt and the direction of the putt. For the most part, the direction will be fairly automatic. Rolling the ball approximately on line is fairly automatic for even the newest golfers, bur hitting the ball the right distance is an acquired talent that takes time and practice. When making a practice stroke, the player should concentrate on how hard the putt must be hit and then duplicate that stroke when making the actual putt. "Concentration" on distance rather than direction will result in rolling those long ones up for a "gimme".

When you have a short putt of a few feet that you certainly expect to make, roll the ball firmly enough to reach the back of the cup. Nothing is more frustrating than leaving a 3 or 4-foot putt short. Making the putt to the back of the hole will do three things:

  • Eliminate or lessen the amount of "break".
  • Putting greens are not perfect. If the putt has speed, little imperfection such as pebbles or sand will have less influence on the roll of the putt.
  • Reduce the chances of leaving the putt short.


For practice to be productive we must first analyze what aspects of our game need the most work. This can be done best by counting how many drives hit the fairway, how many fairway wood shots reach their target, how many iron shots hit the green, how many putts we use per round, etc... After realistically determining what should be worked on, seek a Golf Professional to make necessary corrections. The watchful eye of a trained Pro can save time, and more importantly, strokes.

All practice should have a goal, weather it is trying to make a larger percentage of 10-foot putt or straightening out an erratic diver. Chart your progress on a notepad. This type of organization will prevent you from following the wrong path.

A good practice drill is the "Toe-up Toe-up Drill". Using a lofted short iron, make half swings with the hands swinging about waist high. On this length back swing, the toe of the club should also point up, and on the forward swing the toe of the club should also point up. A normal weight transfer will allow you to release your back foot so the heel is off the ground and you're balancing on your toe. If the toe of the club is not "up" on the back swing and follow through, look for corrections starting with the grip and then alignment.

We practice to improve both our score and our enjoyment. This acquires the ability to change, and most importantly, "to think". Limit the time of your practice sessions to the time you can be strong mentally and physically. Many good practice sessions do not produce the result they should because the player hit too many practice balls, got tired, and fell back into old bad habits.

Instruction and information combined with intelligent practice are the ingredients to a better golf game!

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