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Hitting Over a Tree
Clearning Obstacles by Launching it High

The Million Dollar Shot
Learn how to launch it high over trouble. Lofting the Ball

You love to see Phil Mickelson hit that million dollar flop shot don't you? While many of the shots Phil hits are heroic a lot of them are definitely too risky and not recommended for the average player. occasionally though you find yourself with little choice. Sometimes the only shot without incurring a few added strokes is flopping over a bunker and trying to stick it within a couple feet. Sometimes you find yourself stymied by a tree with absolutely no place else to go. While I would always tell you to go under a tree if you can, you may have low hanging branches with just no way to get through. Many great players have promoted going over trouble rather than around trouble. The great ball striker Moe Norman was a big fan of working the ball up and over trouble rather than trying to bend it around obstacles on the course. If it's possible though, going low and punching out is going to be a more reliable shot for the golfing majority.

Take Your Medicine

The first thing to accept when you have to go over a tall tree is that you must sacrifice distance. There's really no way around it. To loft the ball high enough to get over the tree you will need to go way up in loft and that means less overall distance. You are way better off here being extra safe than sorry. Your first concern should be getting enough if not too much loft so you won't hit the tree and end up back in jail. Your second concern should then be advancing it as far as you can. To figure out how much loft you need there's an old trick. Take your club and turn it backwards so that the shaft is closer to the target than the leading edge. Then step on the face so that the back of the head is flat with the ground. The angle the shaft points upwards is the angle you can expect your ball to launch in most cases.

To pull off this shot it's just a matter of selecting the perfect club and then making some small alterations to your set up and swing. If you go about these changes systematically and practice them you'll find getting extra loft is not all that difficult. Here are the changes you'll need to make:

  • Play the ball forward in your stance - To make sure the face has adequate loft play the ball forward of the center of your stance. By time you get to the ball the clubface will be caught up with your hands and the loft will return to where it was at address or even be a bit more.
  • Set your weight back - Make sure to set a little more weight on your back foot and keep your head and sternum behind the ball. This will help you to add loft and launch the ball up. If you get in front of it on the other hand you will knock it down.
  • Make a more vertical swing - To help the launch the ball a bit higher a more vertical or "V" shaped swing will help. To accomplish this feel a bit more armsy. Rather than making a big shoulder turn, try swinging your arms up more on the takeaway. A slightly open stance with your feet may assist this a bit.
  • Allow your hands to re-hinge on the follow through - You need to make sure you release your wrists and re-hinge them up on your vertical plane on the follow through. Holding off on the release can make you deloft your clubface through impact and knock the ball down.

The Situation:

You want to know how to successfully hit the ball over a high tree.

The Solution:

As I stated before, always go under the tree if you can. If you can't go under and punching out sideways is not ideal either, then make sure to accept the loss in distance and pick a club with enough loft. After you have selected your club play the ball forward in your stance and set your weight back keeping your head behind the ball. Be sure to make a more vertical golf sing and let your wrists re-hinge on the follow through allowing the club to catch up to your hands. Remember like any trouble shot stay committed and swing through to a full follow through.

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?
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