When the going gets rough, golfers get smart

KEVIN HAIME

, Last Updated: 7:12 AM ET

Golf is a great game, but it's a lot more fun if you stay out of the rough.

Watching the world's best golfers hack, slash and mash their golf balls in the spinach-like rough at the U.S. Open at Oakmont can make for a really good lesson. I figure it's as good a week as any to talk about how to deal with the rough.

The best advice, of course, is to stay out of the it.

Most average golfers are poor course managers. Higher handicappers hit their drivers off the tee too often. Most players who shoot over 90 have lousy swings, so the odds are more than a few drives will end up in the rough.

When those players get to a narrow driving hole or a tougher par 4 or 5, they'd be better off using a tee club that gave them a better chance of hitting the fairway. No matter your level of play, you need to think more before pulling the driver out of the bag on every hole. Avoidance is always the best strategy when it comes to long rough.

Next, every golfer needs to have at least one go-to club to escape the rough. Average players should either have a 7-wood or a lofted rescue club. Lofted woods and hybrids have the best design to slide through long grass and making clean contact with the ball.

RIGHT EQUIPMENT

It's difficult to advance the ball a long way unless you have the right piece of equipment. Three- and 5-woods lack the necessary loft to get the ball airborne and the leading edge of a long iron will almost always get caught up in the grass.

The most common mistake golfers make in the rough is to try to hit too much club. It takes a lot of experience to be able to assess every situation properly.

It's a good idea to hit one less club than you think you can manage. If the longest possible club you think you can hit with success is a 5-iron, hit a 6-iron instead. That way you'll be assured of always getting out cleanly.

Of course, if the rough is relatively short, then go ahead and hit the club you need to reach the green, but if the rough is long it is better to choose a club that guarantees a reasonable result.

Extra risk will lead to extra strokes every time. In pro-ams, I see players take countless extra strokes because they try to do too much with a difficult shot.

Don't try to be a hero when you're in trouble. Hit your ball safely toward the green and minimize the damage.

There are a few other adjustments to make when in the rough. At address, make sure you have a little more weight on your forward leg and that your hands are well in front of the golf ball.

AGGRESSIVE SET-UP

It's also a good idea in really long rough to play the ball back in your stance about two inches more than normal. This aggressive set-up will lead to a more up-and-down swing path so your club is less likely to get caught up in the grass behind the ball. It will also de-loft your club artificially so make sure you're using a club with enough loft. Getting the ball out is your priority, not reaching the green.

Lastly, you should grip down on the club a bit and with a little more authority. The long grass will try to twist your clubhead so you need to use hand and grip strength to keep the clubface square at impact.

Keep your backswing a little shorter than usual and be aggressive with your tempo. You need a bit of brute force when it comes to long rough.

Whatever you do, keep your focus on staying down through impact. If you try to lift the ball out of the rough, you'll be in there all day.


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