Pick Up Sticks
If this shot seems really familiar to you then you need to come see me for a golf lesson because one of your goals in golf is to not spend your day under the shade of the trees. It is to stay out in the sunshine where it is a little more beautiful, but you do not run into shots and lies like this. Let's look at this lie. The ball is now in the rough where there are a lot of pine needles, a couple of tree branches and hard pan. Hard pan is kind of scary to most people, let's do this, let's clean this up. As a kid I used to play Pick Up Sticks for this very reason, that is true. The ball is oscillating but it is not moving, that is fine, I think I can get all of these at one time. Look how nice the lie is beginning to look. Even though it is on hard pan there are not a lot of other things interfering now, that is perfectly legal. So now I actually have a good lie. My definition of a good lie is when you can see the entire back of the ball. I would like to move this little pine needle but if I do the ball will move so I will leave it there. It is not going to win the battle between a steel head and a pine needle.
Assess Your Options
So now let's look at the shot, we are on hard pan, we are going to hit it out here on to the fairway so that I can then go to my right and then on to the green. To fly it on to the fairway is 30 yards and to fly it beyond the fairway is 75 yards. I have a pretty liberal landing area and because it is hardpan the ball will always come off the face a little bit lower than what you are planning, especially if you hit the ball correctly, so I am going to hit a pitching wedge and anticipate flying the ball 50 yards. Why, because that puts the ball right in the center of the fairway which then allows me to hit the simplest next shot up to the green.
Test the Ground and Choke Down
One of the keys here is to get a feel, listen, of this ground. Now this is not legal, I am not allowed to bang the club on the ground, but I am allowed to take a practice swing and get a feel. Notice that even though I am hitting down that club is barely breaking the surface because that ground is hard, we are on limestone. So now to prepare myself to hit a club off of hardpan I am going to choke down on the club with my weight on my front foot, visualizing a nice steep angle of approach as though I were to take a pinecone and put it behind the ball and miss it both ways. Both going back and coming down. In fact because it is there let's play it that way.
Striking the Ball
Here we go. The ball is right in the center of the fairway, right at the 50-55 yards I wanted to go. I took a nice little divot here and as you can see I did not come close to the pinecone either way because I choked down, I leaned myself to the left, my forward foot, which then changed the arc of my swing to one that is traveling more on a vertical plane colliding with the ground, there is my dust being thrown up. When you have a hardpan lie the key is to hit the ball and then the ground, so you set yourself up to do that. good luck with this shot. It is a fun shot to play.