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Success from the Rough Starts with a Plan

By Keith Stewart, PGA
Published on

Tommy Fleetwood of England plays his second shot from the deep rough on the par 4, 10th hole during the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard at Arnold Palmer Bay Hill Golf CourseGetty Images

The 4” Rough at the Arnold Palmer Invitational is causing fits for some of the finest players in the world. This Invitational is sizing up to play more like a PGA Championship after 36 holes. With incredibly firm and fast greens and fairways surrounded by lush grass making pars requires some great ball striking. Even the best, find themselves in the rough like the rest of us. When they do have to tackle a brutal lie, how do they do it?
The first thing that stands out when you watch Tommy Fleetwood successfully navigate the Bay Hill rough is how much his body moves. Watch as his trail foot leaves the ground to ensure he can follow through that thick lie in the rough. If there’s one lesson, we all need to learn when hitting from the rough – make sure to give yourself every opportunity to swing through the lie.
You can successfully hit shots from the rough as well, just follow a couple basic PGA Coaching guidelines and you won’t believe the results.
  • Start by choosing a realistic club. Fairway woods don’t work from the rough. Unless the ball is sitting up on the first cut, let’s put those clubs back in the bag.
  • When we do choose the correct club, make sure it has enough loft. If the lie is thick and deep, that may be some kind of a wedge. Even if it won’t go far enough to reach the green, this is still the best choice. If you don’t use enough loft, you’re guaranteed the next shot will be from the rough as well.
  • Shots from the rough cause us to pull the ball. Once the clubhead enters the grass, the hosel gets snagged by the long blades and shuts the face down. When aiming your shot from the rough, make sure you take the pull into account.
  • Place the ball further back in your stance than usual. This is very important. It will create a steeper angle of attack on the ball. Since it is sitting below the top of the grass, we need to strike down more. By moving it back, we accomplish that goal without changing the dynamics of our swing.
  • Follow through! You can pretty much apply this to all golf shots, but from the fairway we can sometimes get away with a halfhearted attempt. From the rough, you must commit to completely turning through the shot with your entire body (watch Fleetwood Tweet again).
The largest penalty area on any golf course is the rough. You will face it more than the sand and we don’t play from underwater. Write these keys down and practice them. Keep a copy in your golf bag and continue to remind yourself until they become a successful habit. They will lower your score and increase the enjoyment of your round!
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