By Josh Zander
They call it rough for a reason. It's not easy! You really have to put your thinking cap on when you find your ball in the rough. From a nice lie in the fairway, most golfers think about yardage to the green, the correct shot shape to approach the flag, wind conditions as well as numerous other variables. When you are in the rough, the lie dictates what you can do. Just because you are 150 yards from the green doesn't necessarily mean you can reach the green if the lie is down too much.
Think of this as a chess move. You want to assess the situation and plan what you can do to improve your position for the next shot. As my coach said in college, don't try to be a hero. If you try to pull off a miracle shot, the most you can ever save is one stroke. If you don't succeed, it often costs you two or more shots.
Most golfers have experienced the US Open lie where you just have to hack the ball out into the fairway. They have also experienced the lie when the ball is down a little bit limiting the distance they can advance the ball. The least understood of these shots is the flier lie. This is the one that looks like the ball is up on a tee. This ball will come out of the rough like a rocket. It flies farther, has less spin, and does not curve. This occurs because the moisture and grass promotes a slippery surface on the clubface that lessens the friction on the clubface. You will see even more flier lies on tour this year because of the new grooves. Again, there is less friction which means less spin. Flier lies can be great when you are trying to advance the ball as far as you can up the fairway but they become dangerous when you try to approach a green. Missing the green long tends to lead to high scores. My suggestion is to err towards the shorter club and if you miss the green short, you tend to have an uphill chip or pitch which is not that bad.
Every golfer will hit it in the rough many times during a round. The one that is armed with he knowledge of what can be accomplished with each lie has a significant advantage. Unfortunately, driving ranges are not set up to allow golfers to practice these lies, hence golfers tend to really struggle out of the rough. Next time you get a chance to play golf by yourself, throw some balls into the rough and experiment what you can do. With good decision making and experience the rough will become less...rough!