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Hitting Off a Cart Path
When to Take a Drop, When to Go For It

Is Taking a Drop the Smart Play?
Learn how and when to hit off a cart path.A Perfect Lie

Think hitting off of a cart path is only for the pros? You might not want to answer that too fast. While many golfers think advising someone to hit a ball off of the path without taking a drop is loony tunes, others know it can actually be a very intelligent play. There is a reason why you have the "option" of taking a free drop or not. Taking a drop can sometimes put you in an even worse situation. If dropping is going to put you behind a tree, on a severe hill, near a hazard, or on hard pan, etc., it's sometimes wise to take the perfectly clean lie that a cart path gives you and go for it. The path is going to be flat 9 times out of 10 so you'll likely have a level stance. There isn't going to be any grass or dirt that will get in the way of your clubface and the ball will be sitting up. If you think about it these are all pretty good benefits. Why then do so many fear this shot? The only fear to have really is hitting the path before the ball and that can be overcome by taking the proper precautions. The other fear is damage to your club of course. Damage is a given so if you aren't in a tournament and you'd like to keep your equipment nice, I would not recommend this shot for you as you will definitely end up with a nice skuff mark on the bottom of your club. When all is said and done though, take a drop when you can. It's always better to hit off of a nice lie in the grass. You won't only protect your club, you will most likely also swing with more confidence and hit a better shot.

You Don't Have to be Phil Mickelson to Pull This Off

If you do want to go for it, don't get nervous it's a very simple shot. You just need the perfect tool and steps to pull it off. Selecting the right club and getting yourself in the correct set up puts you 90% of the way there. Then all you need for the other 10% is commitment. Follow these steps here (I'd suggest practicing with an old club) and hitting off the path will be as easy as hitting off a tight fairway:

  • Don't use a sand wedge - Sand wedges are designed with a significant amount of bounce. This means the back edge of the club sits higher than the leading edge (when you look at it upside down). This design makes it easy to get through sand or tough lies as the club will just "bounce" right through them and you won't dig. This is not ideal for a tight lie however. With tight lies you need the digging edge to hit the ground first. If the back edge or bounce contacts the ground first you are looking at a skulled shot. Choose a different wedge with less bounce like a lob wedge. If you are outside of wedge distance just use whatever club that yardage calls for as usual.
  • Set your clubface square - This is for the same reason as above when I say don't use a sand wedge. Opening the face of a club actually adds bounce and sets the leading edge up too high. Chances are you will bounce right off the path and blade the shot. It is important therefore to always set the clubface square to your target when hitting off of a tight lie or cart path.
  • Play the ball middle to back - The last thing you want to do is hit the ground first and bounce off the path so playing the ball at least in the middle of your stance. You may also want to play it a bit back to ensure you are going to catch it first. Just don't go too far back that as that will cause you to smother the shot.
  • Lean your weight on your front foot - When you are target side with your weight you will stay more over or in front of the ball. This is important for trapping the ball and catching it first. If you lean or fall back you'll drop kick it and blade the shot as you bottom out too soon.
  • Choke up a bit - This is for control, but also because it will help you keep your hands ahead of the clubhead and prevent an early release. It is important to hit down on this shot and if your hands are ahead of the clubhead you are still descending. It's when the clubhead catches up to your hands or passes them that you will swing up on the ball and top it or hit behind it.
  • Commit - Perhaps the most important key is to commit to the shot and trust it. Anyone can take the steps to choose the right club and set up appropriately, but it's easy to fold mentally and chicken out. You just need to tell yourself this is the same as any other shot. You must hit down, accelerate and follow through. Trust will take you all the way.

As you can see there really aren't any secret tricks that the pros know when it comes to hitting clean shots off of a cart path. Just follow these simple steps, take the time to practice it and have the confidence that you can pull it off.

The Situation:

You want to learn how to hit a successful shot off of a cart path.

The Solution:

Follow these 6 simple steps when you choose to hit your ball off of a path:

1) Don't use a sand wedge
2) Set your clubface square
3) Play the ball middle to back
4) Lean your weight on your front foot
5) Choke up a bit
6) commit

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
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