When trying to hit a shot below the branches of a tree, preparation is 80 percent of the effort. You need to determine which option will provide a better result: playing the ball out of trouble or trying to hit an aggressive approach shot nearer the pin. You must consider the requirements of the optimal shot and whether you have the skill to pull it off. Attempting to play a shot under tree branches could result in disaster if you miscalculate either the requirements of the shot or your ability to execute.
Difficulty: Moderately Challenging
Should the height of a tree branch not allow for you to hit your normal shot and distance, you must improvise with a lower trajectory shot. While it is easier to hit a lower lofted club under tree branches, you won't be able to hit a full shot since it would travel beyond your target. The first decision you must make it to either use a lower lofted club or to de-loft a shorter club which is closer to the one that you would normally select.
Practice hitting lower lofted clubs with less than a full swing to achieve a shot that travels a shorter distance. Select a target at a specific distance and practice hitting lower lofted clubs to, but not beyond the target. Make mental or written notes such as "half swing with four iron travels150 yards."
Practice de-lofting your shorter clubs to reduce the ball flight trajectory while still maintaining the same distance. You can de-loft a club by placing the ball further back in your stance. Select a target at a distance you normally hit a club but de-loft the shot to keep the trajectory lower. Practice the shot until you can keep the ball flight lower but maintain the same distance control.
Determine the risk/reward of aiming directly at your target compared to alternate target lines. Decide whether you have the skill to play the optimal shot such as a 150-yard cut shot that cannot exceed 10 feet in height. Do not attempt any shot that you don't believe you have an 80 percent or better chance of success. The alternative is to hit a shot having the required trajectory but possibly played straight toward a green-side bunker rather than attempting to "work the ball" toward the pin.
Hit the shot with confidence, accelerating through the ball. You must focus on hitting the shot which you have already predetermined will achieve your desired result. Put the thought of hitting the tree out of your mind or you might alter your swing and create the same result you are trying to avoid.