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Hitting From Under a Tree
Avoid Trouble by Punching it Low

Know When to Fold Em
Learn how to hit out from under a tree. Damage Control

So you've smoked it off the tee, but you're in the furniture. Hearing a lot of lumber as your ball bounces around like it's in a pinball machine you now regret trying to kill it off the tee. Instead of looking back with regret though, it's important that you focus on the present and that's the shot that faces you now. At this point it's all about damage control. Now it's simple really. You have only 2 choices. 1) Go for it and try to be a hero or 2) play it safe and stop the bleeding. The obvious answer is #2; play it safe right? Well not always. Like anything else in golf you have to make a calculated decision after you've weighed all the facts. 9 times out of 10, yes, the answer is play it safe, but there is that one time that you may be leading a tournament and the risk is worth the reward. For the purpose of this article though we are going to assume, you, like the rest of us mortals aren't in a sudden death playoff to win the Masters.

Have a Plan

Most of the time when you get caught in the woods you will still have a reasonable shot at par or bogey. That's right I said par. That's because it is not really meant to penalize you an entire stroke, but maybe a half stroke in some cases. If you get it out into play again and sink a good one putt, you won't miss a beat. The decision you make can end in a par, bogey or a quad. It's up to you. Knowing your options and how to get the ball back out in play will help you to make an informed decision when the pressure is on. Taking the following steps will eliminate any doubt and help you execute the shot smoothly:

  • Have a game plan - This means you that you have a strategy and hopefully it's damage control. This doesn't only mean punching the ball back out into play though, it involves picking the perfect target and distance so that you leave yourself the most ideal shot to the green that's possible. The last thing you want to do is punch it too far and end up in trouble on the other side of the fairway or hit a great shot out and end up with another tree in your way.
  • Don't be a hero - Again, 9 times out of 10 you should just focus on getting the ball out and avoid unnecessary risks. You've got to "know when to fold em".
  • Pick a much lower lofted club - Unfortunately some players do go down in loft, but not enough. Then they pull off the perfect shot, but the ball jumps up and hits the tree because they didn't go down in club enough. Better safe than sorry.
  • Choke up on the club - Choking up does wonders for keeping your hands in front of the club head and helping you deloft the face at impact. The shaft naturally becomes a bit stiffer and the ball will shoot out low. It's a simple way to make a big difference in your loft.
  • Play the ball back - To catch the ball with a more hooded face early in the downswing play the ball back of the center of your stance. How much is a judgement call, but the lower you want to go, the more you should probably move it back. Be careful however if you are in the rough as going back too far can make it hard to loft the ball at all.
  • Set your weight forward - The more in front of the ball you get your head and sternum, the lower you will hit the ball. Be carefull not to back up because if your head and upper spine move behind the ball you will add loft on the clubface and balloon the ball upwards.
  • Finish low - When you finish low you typically stay over or in front of the ball and keep your hands further ahead through impact. Both of these help you to deloft the face and start the ball out low.
  • Make a shorter swing - With only a 1/2 to 3/4 length swing it is definitely easier for most players to release later through impact and avoid backing up. With a longer swing things can get kind of wild and it's easier to lose control.
  • Swing smooth - It's easy to want to get more distance on this shot as you really feel you have to make up for your first mistake that got you in this situation to begin with. It's not smart, however, to swing hard because the more speed you generate, the more the ball is going to shoot up. It's also easy to fall back when you are trying to get more power. Swing smooth and the ball will stay down.

That's 9 points to consider. Seems like a lot doesn't it? Well it won't after you get in the habit of automatically running through each point when you have to punch out from under a tree. If you think about it, they are really simple steps to take too. Forgetting one though, can sabotage your entire plan. Even if you pick the right club, set up correctly, try to swing smooth and finish low, if you fall back through the shot the ball will shoot up and hit the tree branch anyway. It's a matter of taking your time and covering all the bases.

The Situation:

You want to know how to successfully hit a ball under a tree.

The Solution:

As illustrated above, there are several steps you can take to ensure that your trajectory will stay down and keep you out of getting in even more trouble. Follow these 9 steps to get the ball back into play:

1) Have a game plan.
2) Don't be a hero.
3) Choke up on your club.
4) Pick a much lower lofted club.
5) Play the ball back in your stance.
6) Set your weight forward.
7) Finish low.
8) Make a 1/2 - 3/4 length swing.
9) Swing smooth.

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.

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