How to play out of the rough?

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No matter how well you are playing on the day you will, on occasion find yourself in the rough. Even the professionals play out of the longer grass a few times per round. So if it is inevitable that you will stray off the fairways. Then how best is it for you to deal with this situation? In this post we will give you a simple traffic light system that should help you make the right decision out on the golf course and keep those big numbers off your scorecard.

“Never follow a bad shot with a bad decision”golf ball

First things first. When you see that your ball is going off-line keep your eye on the ball and try to see where it lands. Try using a tree or other landmark to give you a reference point for your search. If you have a positive line on where you think the ball has landed you will find your playing partners much more motivated to help you look for your ball. Many golfers get so disappointed when they play a bad shot that they forget to look at the ball and usually have a difficult time finding it.

Now you have found your ball there are a few questions we want you to ask yourself to help you make the decision of whether you should play safe and get the ball back on the fairway or go for it!. What is the lie like? Playing out of the rough is more difficult than the fairway because of the lie. The ball can settle down into the grass which means that you cannot get a clean strike on the ball. On a score of 1-10, 1 being very poor and 10 being great. Asses your lie and if is less than 5 then you should really be looking to just chop the ball back out onto the fairway.

Next we want you to consider the position. Can you get on the green in regulation? Again assuming the 1-10 score. If you feel that the line or distance will prevent you from getting on the green you will need to seriously consider the safer play. However if you are striking the ball well and you think a fairly average shot could get you back in contention for a par then going for the green may worth it.

Finally we want you to consider your score. We have all seen good scorecards ruined by bad decisions. So if you are protecting a good score then the safer play might be the correct one to choose. After all, if you are protecting a good score then you must be playing pretty well up to now, so the chances of you dropping a shot and not being able to pick it back up somewhere else is low.

All in all, when you approach your ball in the rough ask yourself these three questions with an image of a traffic light signal. Red means that you will take the safer option and play the ball back onto the fairway. Amber is a 50/50 and you will need to consider the lie, position and your score. And green is go for it!

Now you have made your decision, what next?

Playing the ball back onto the fairway is considered the safer option, however we often see golfers get this wrong. The number one mistake we see is the golfer lifting their head to look for the ball. You want to see where the ball has gone and that you are back in play. This often leads to a poor shot and the ball remaining in the rough. Next time you are faced with this situation ask your playing partner to look out for the ball so you can keep you head down and play through the ball.

Also you will need to consider he strike you get on the ball when it is in the longer grass. It is not as clean. The ball does not have as much backspin because longer grass will get in between the ball and the clubface so the ball cannot compress against its grooves. This means that the ball will come out of the rough ‘hot’ and will roll more than usual. It is often advisable to play a lesser club to allow for this.

One last point to consider. Do you ever practice out of the rough? We have said that it is inevitable, so why do we not practice for this situation. The next time you are on the practice tee head over to the longer grass and play a few shot from there. You will soon start to develop a feel for playing out of the rough and increase your confidence for when this happens out on the course.

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The Golf Talk team