How to Recover After Hitting the Ball in the Woods

By Steve Silverman

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Narrow fairways can cause big problems for golfers. When hitting off the tee, golfers find trouble if they can't keep the ball in the short grass. In addition to bunkers, water hazards and rough terrain, golfers can hit the ball into the woods and trees. Played incorrectly, a tough hole can turn out to be the ruination of a round.


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging
  1. Keep a cool head after hitting the ball into the woods. You're not the first player to have done it. Yes, you are in a bit of a situation and it can be quite messy. But you can get out of it. No need to smash your clubs or start cursing like a longshoreman.
  2. Walk into the woods and assess your situation. Not only are you likely to have trees, branches and bushes in your way if you go for the green, you are not going to be hitting from a lush green surface. Your primary job is to get the ball out of trouble.
  3. Take your 5-iron when you walk into the woods. The 5-iron is a versatile club that will allow you to make solid contact under less than ideal circumstances. You might find you have a better lie than you thought along with a clear line out of the woods in the direction of the green. In that case, walk back out and retrieve a 3-iron and hit your shot. Otherwise, take your 5-iron and punch the ball from the woods to the fairway.
  4. Take a wide stance when you are in the woods. You are not trying to drive the ball in the air. Instead, you are trying to punch the ball and keep it low. Find your path back to the fairway. Even if you are not advancing the ball toward the green, you are better off getting it back to the fairway than trying to hit it through the woods.
  5. Have patience when you hit the ball in the woods. Realize you will get an opportunity later in the round to hit the ball with power from the fairway. Don't try to do the impossible. Put the ball back in play and don't just "go for it" because a well-meaning playing partner gives you that advice. Use your discretion when you are in trouble.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use a short punching motion to get the ball out of trouble. Don't try to attempt the impossible by going for the green from an impossible lie.