The Great Escapes – Scoring Better From the Trees
Believe or not, during a round of golf, you may find yourself in a predicament where your ball is amongst some trees and you have to find your way out. Some of you may not comprehend how you could possibly miss a fairway, but trust me, sometimes it happens. All kidding aside, learning how to hit better shots from the trees is important if you want to improve your scores.
Today, I’m going to help you with some tips on how to hit better shots when faced with tree trouble. And, just in case you’re wondering, I am qualified to teach this subject. From April of 2002 – August of 2004, I didn’t hit a single fairway which allowed me to thoroughly research this subject. In fact, the Greater Golf Bureau of Mid-Western America (GGBMWA) granted me a Masters Degree in Tree Escapagery in 2005 becoming only the 7th golfer ever to achieve this honor. Without further ado, with the extensive data I have gathered over the years, I am now ready to share my wisdom.
First and Foremost: The #1 Goal is to get the ball out of trees
The #1 goal is to get the ball out of the trees.
Just kidding! In all seriousness, the #1 goal of any shot from the trees IS to get the ball out of the trees. So, before attempting a shot from the trees, you have the weigh the risk vs. reward factor. Is it worth the risk to try to hit the ball between two trees 5 feet apart? What would happen if you clipped the top of the tree you’re trying to hit it over? When facing a shot with trees in the way, you really need to be confident in the shot before attempting it. I’d recommend taking a more conservative route if you don’t feel you can pull the shot off at least 75% of the time, if not more. Pitching out isn’t much fun, but bogies are much better than double bogies and higher.
Curving the Ball Around Trees
This is the part where you learn how to curve it like Bubba. After reading the next paragraphs, there’s a better than a highly impossible chance you’ll be able to curve your shots up to 90 degrees on command. Remember, the first goal is to get the ball out of the trees without hitting them. Curving the ball on command isn’t easy, but understanding a few important aspects will help you out tremendously.
In a nutshell, you want to aim your club face approximately where you want the ball to end up and you aim your body where your want the ball to start. For more information on this, read the article below I previously wrote on shaping the ball:
How much you can curve the ball depends on your club head speed. The farther you hit the ball, or how fast you swing, the more you can curve it. Also, you can curve the ball more when hooking the ball when slicing the ball. For example, if a right-handed version of Bubba was in Bubba’s shoes on #10 in the Masters playoff, he wouldn’t have been able to curve the ball as much as the real Bubba did. Why, you may ask? The answer is loft. A higher loft club doesn’t have the potential to curve as much as a lower-lofted club. More loft equals more lift and less curve.
Controlling your distance from the trees is the one of the most underrated parts to this game. It’s very important. In fact, I wouldn’t be shocked if we hear the saying, “Drive for show, escapagery control dough” in the future as the go-to saying to describe the most important parts of the game.
Controlling the distance of your shots from the trees isn’t all that difficult, yet most don’t understand how to do it. All it takes is a little planning and a little math. First, determine how far you are from the hole. Second, determine where you want the ball to land. Consider whether your ball will be landing in the rough or fairway before choosing this spot. Obviously, if it lands in the fairway it’ll roll a lot more than if it landed in the rough. Third, choose a club that will comfortably avoid the trees. And finally, use a little math to help you with the amount of effort you’ll need for the shot.
For example: your ball is 120 from the flag. You determine you need to hit a 5 iron to keep it below the limbs in front of you. You normally hit your 5 iron 180 yards. You see that your ball will land in the fairway. You believe that if you land the ball at 90 yards it’ll roll onto the green. You need to hit your 5 iron 90 yards which is 50% of 180. Make a half swing, 50% effort, and you’ll be in good shape.
2nd example: your ball is 100 yards from the flag. It’s rough all the way to the green so you determine you need to carry the ball about 85 yards in order to bounce it on. Looking at the trees in front of you, you’re confident a 7 iron will be able to go below the limbs comfortably. Your 7 iron normally goes 120. 85 into 120 is approximately 70%. Try to rehearse and “feel” a 70% swing before hitting your shot. Then, go ahead and execute.
This is not an exact science, but it does work very well. I will say this, the better you are at hitting half and three-quarter shots with your wedges the better you’ll be at these shots. I personally try to feel like I’m hitting punch wedge shots for a lot of these shots. It’s just a wedge swing with whatever club you chose to escape the trees.
With a little confidence, creativity, and practice, you’ll hit some great escape shots from the trees. I wish you the best of luck on these shots and hope you don’t have to use them as much as I used to.
Thank you for reading!
When It’s Breezy, Swing Easy – How to Play in the Wind
“When its breezy, swing easy.” Have you ever that quote? When it comes to playing in the wind, that statement bodes well. Playing in the wind can certainly be challenging, but it’s something every golfer will have to deal with from time to time, especially in the spring. The best thought you can have when playing in the wind is don’t fight the wind. Here are some tips to play better into the wind.
Grip if softer and swing easier
The simplest way to play into the wind is grab an extra club or two, grip it a little softer and swing easier. The harder you grip the club and swing at the ball, the more spin the ball will have. More spin in the wind equals a higher ball flight. Your shots will come up short or veer off-line easier. Swinging easier will take some spin of the ball which lowers the ball flight.
- Practice drill: Practice using a 6 iron when you think it’s a 7 iron and you’ll quickly see how your ball will stay below the wind much easier.
If you want to hit it low, think low and finish low. The lower you can keep the club post-impact the lower the ball will fly. This isn’t easy to do at first, but with some practice you can get pretty good with it quickly. In order to this correctly, you do have to turn your body with the club. This will keep it low. It’s nearly impossible to finish low if your body stops turning.
- Practice drill: A nice thought is to imagine a low-hanging branch that’s a couple of feet off the ground 5-10′ ahead of your ball. Practice trying to drive the ball under the limb. You can actually use a driveway marker for this too. Stick a marker in the ground on a 45-degree angle 5-10′ ahead of your practice area and try hitting balls under the marker with a middle iron.
Play The Ball Further Back In Your Stance
Moving the ball back in your stance an inch or two will effectively de-loft the club a few degrees. This will lower your ball flight as well. I don’t recommend over-doing this because it can lead to poor shots. If you play the ball too far back, you’ll tilt backwards at impact causing your body to stop turning for a split-second.
Playing in cross winds can certainly be challenging. For most players, I recommend using the wind as your friend. If the wind is blowing left to right, aim more left and hit your normal shot allowing the ball to ride the wind.
Some players like to try to hold the ball against the wind in these situations. This can be difficult. It’s not that difficult if you normally play a draw and the wind is left to right, but it is very difficult if you’re trying to play a draw and you typically play a fade. I recommend using the wind as your friend most of the time by riding it and only holding it against the wind only if it’s your normal shot. Also, an important note, when trying to hold the ball into the wind, you may have to take an extra club because the wind will tend to knock your ball down.
Downwind shots are the easiest out of all these shots, but they do bring some challenges as well. Your ball will tend to fly much straighter downwind, but choosing the right club can be tricky. The ball will fly farther downwind, but it’s not exactly opposite of the into the wind shots. For example, let’s say you normally hit an 8-iron 130. Into a 20 mph wind, you may have to drop down 2 clubs and hit a 6 iron from 130, but downwind at 20 mph you may only go up one club with a 9 iron. This takes some practice and a feel for the conditions that day to choose the right club.
Once again, choosing the right club in the wind is very tricky, even for professionals. It requires practice and controlled swings. Just remember, if you’re ever in doubt, grab a club that will allow you to make an easy controlled swing.
Thanks for reading and good luck!