My Golf Instructor

Damage Control
Play it Safe. Don't Gamble.

Save strokes by playing smart golfPlay Smart Golf to Save Strokes

Everyone wants to be a hero. There is nothing like a heroic moment. We all remember and reminisce about the great things that happen in our lives, but even more so if we were the catalyst that made it happen. This could not be more true than in the game of golf. 19th holes are filled with the smell of beer and the tales of greatness that have taken place out on the links. We've all shared our "Ken Venturi" shot of the day with a sense of accomplishment that somehow overshadows the fact while we did pull off something great, we may have pulled off something very foolish.

A lot of trouble shots are pure gambles. You've got the good angel on one shoulder advocating damage control. In other words, take your medicine (basically a lost stroke) get the ball back in to play and move on. Then there's the naughty angel on the other shoulder toying with your ego telling you to go for it! Hey, if Phil Mickelson can do it then you can to, right? The thing is, you never really know if you've made the right call until you get the result. Depending on the level of the player and the stakes at hand, in most cases though, damage control is the intelligent way to go. It definitely has the best odds. For those of us with a healthy sense of adventure, it's such a bummer to have to give in to logic!

Understanding When to Play it Safe is Key

Being able to pull off amazing trouble shots when it makes sense to do so is as important as learning damage control and good course management. I want you to be able to hit the shot that the situation calls for, but I also want you to be able to determine what the smart play is for the shot at hand. I don't think any good instructor would tell you to be a chicken and always take the safest route. The safest route is not always the smartest. Sometimes you really need to "go for it". One thing that I have definitely NOT observed at the driving range is players practicing trouble shots. How often have you thrown your ball down in a divot and tried to hit a solid shot out? Or, have you ever taken a bucket of balls to the sand trap and hit the whole bucket from a buried lie under the lip? How about going out to the front nine and finding a low hanging tree to practice short backswing and follow through punch shots? Until you put the time into practicing trouble shots, you really won't have the confidence to pull them off successfully.

Increased Focus

In many cases, a golfer will find that they actually hit some trouble shots more solid than if they had a perfect lie in the fairway. I believe this has to do with mental focus. When we are given a perfect lie with a straight shot ahead, it's easy to let our focus go wide and not apply the energy that a more difficult shot requires. After all, when we are at the driving range we have a perfect lie with an easy target almost 100% of the time. When we find ourselves in a tight spot, we tend to narrow our focus, become more reactive to the target and more creative. This is why working the ball is also good for your mental game. It gets you out of a non-reactive rut and allows your creativity to shine. For this reason, practicing trouble shots can be very good for your mental game as well as your physical.

Learn to Hit Trouble Shots with Confidence

The amount of trouble you can get into on the golf course is endless as I'm sure you well know! This section of is designed to help you out of trouble spots by offering advice on the best way to play a tough lie. You will find a variety of shots in this section from tough lies in a bunker to hitting out of hazards. Just like in life, when it comes to getting out of trouble, remember, there is always a solution, it just may not be the one you wanted to hear!

Maria Palozola

Maria Palozola is a member of the LPGA and has participated in multiple LPGA Tour events. She has provided instruction to thousands of students in the past 20+ years and has won multiple teaching awards from the LPGA, Golf Digest, and Golf Magazine including being ranked as one of the top 50 female instructors in the world.

Who is Maria Palozola?
- Top 50 LPGA Instructors in the World
- A Golf Digest Top 10 Teacher in Illinois
- A Golf Magazine Top Teacher in the Midwest
- More about Maria
- Golf Questions
Golf instruction made simple
Golf Overview
Overall Game
- Getting Started
- Equipment
- Golf Fitness
- Junior Golf
- Mental Game
- Practice
- Rules of Golf
Short Game
- Bunkers
- Chipping
- Pitching
- Putting
Full Swing
- Pre-Swing Fundamentals
- Shot Making
- Diagnosing Problems
- Driving
- Hybrids and Woods
- Irons
Playing Golf
Ball Striking
- Fitness (78)
- Course Management (82)
- Getting Started in Golf (75)
- Practice (66)
Course Management
- Club Selection (66)
- Equipment (107)
- Driving (68)
- Putting (127)
- Golf Rules (69)
Short Game
- Bump and Run (72)
- Chipping (82)
Ball Striking
- Chunking (79)
- Distance Control (86)
- Fat Shots (92)
- Flipping (48)
- Poor Accuracy (118)
- Slicing (48)
- Thin Shots (85)
- Topped Shots (52)
- Lack of Distance (108)
- Putting Accuracy (72)
Swing Plane
- Blocking (50)
- Inside Out (56)
- Outside In (59)
- Over the Top (49)
- Pulling (54)
- Pushing (66)
- Releasing Early (47)
The Swing
- Grip (65)
- Alignment (55)
- Balance (50)
- Ball Position (80)
- Posture (77)
- Setup (117)
Swing Plane
- Backswing (84)
- Controlling Trajectory (47)
- Divot (48)
- Downswing (67)
- Impact (103)
- On Plane (85)
- Path (84)
- Power (71)
- Shaft Plane (63)
- Swing Plane (112)
- Weight Shift (79)