So you’ve hit a couple good shots a long par four and you’re just a few yards off the green. You’re thinking easy par until you get to the ball and realize there’s a problem: your ball is sitting at the bottom of five inches of lush bluegrass.
With your spirits diminished you proceed to hack the shot 30 feet and past the hole and in your upset mental state, three putt for a double bogey. Welcome to the wonderful world of golf! There is good news; it doesn’t have to be this hard. Shots from thick rough around the greens are difficult but if you use the correct technique they can be manageable. Here are four things you can do to have more success when chipping from thick rough:
Step #1: Judge the Lie
Not all thick lies are created equal. There are different types of grasses and levels of thicknesses. When judging a lie the things you are looking for are how thick is the grass, how far down in the grass is the ball sitting, and what’s behind the ball. The thicker the grass the more force will be required to extract the ball. A ball sitting at the bottom of the rough will require a steeper swing than a ball sitting up in the rough. If there is a thick clump of grass behind the ball, you’ll have to hit the ball harder than a cleaner lie. A great way to judge the lie is to place your club a few inches behind the ball (not close enough to move the ball). Feel how thick the grass behind the ball is, then take a few practice swings near the ball to feel the resistance of the grass. Once you have a good idea of the lie you can better judge the shot.
Step #2: Use More Loft
Hitting good chip shots out of thick grass requires clubhead speed and loft. Because of this, using a lower lofted club such as an seven iron doesn’t work very well. A lower lofted club usually results in shots that come out left, too fast, or even don’t come out of the grass at all. If the lie is decent (ie: sitting up in the grass) an eight or nine iron will work. Otherwise stick to a sand wedge or something similar. We will make a few adjustments in the setup and swing that will allow you to hit the ball lower with this club.
Step #3: Setup for Success
The goal of the swing when chipping from thick rough is to drive the clubhead down and through the grass. In order to do this successfully there a few changes we need to make with the setup. The first change is to open the face. The reason is that the thick rough will slow down the momentum of the clubhead. When that happens the clubface closes making it easy to hit easy to hit the ball low and left. Slightly opening the face accounts for the clubface closing at impact.
After opening the clubface make your grip pressure firmer than normal. This will also help prevent the clubface from closing through impact. The last two setup adjustments are to position the golf ball 2-3 inches back of the center of your stance and to put more weight than normal on your front foot (ie: 70%). Both of these things aid in steepening the swing, which helps to drive to golf club down and through the thick grass.
Step #4: Steepen the Swing
So you’ve judged the lie, picked the correct club, and adjusted your setup. Now it’s time to hit the shot. The thing to remember when chipping from thick rough is that the swing needs to be steep. It has has to come in at an angle so that it hits the least amount of grass possible before hitting the ball. If you “pick” or “scoop” your shots around the green, playing from long grass will be next to impossible without making adjustments.
As you start the backswing feel your wrists hinging upwards so the golf club works up and away from you. If your club goes inside or behind you on the backswing, you’re going to catch too much grass on the downswing. Take a few practice swings and get the feel for the wrist hinge and the club working up. Once you’ve got a feel for the backswing you can start to work on the bottom of the swing. At impact you want to feel the clubhead get down in the grass. It’s like a chopping motion with the clubhead working up and then abruptly down. You should feel the bottom of the golf club contacting the ground. If you try to “scoop” this shot you won’t have much success.
Lastly there is not much follow through with this shot. Between the golf club hitting the thick grass and the golf club contacting the ground, a lot of the club’s momentum will be lost. You should not try to slow the swing down to shorten the follow through. Just let it happen naturally. The motion of leading with the hands, the grass, and the ground will do this for you. To summarize, when chipping from thick rough you need to: judge the lie, use a club with more loft, setup for a steeper swing, and play the shot with a steep motion down into the grass. If you do this you will have more success and get more shots up and down.