When Rough Gets Tough
Hit down on a steeper angle to force the ball out
Getting out of rough has become a bigger challenge in recent years. Modern agronomy has brought a finer-leafed, denser grass to some rough (resulting in more blades in less space). It's thicker to get through and requires a specific technique.
I'm not just talking about deep rough. For example, the grass right off the fairway at Augusta National for the Masters Tournament is short--only about an inch and a half long--but it's very dense. Trust me, it's hard to get out of that rough.
What you need to do is swing down on a steeper angle. Otherwise the club will have to fight through too much grass, and you'll hit a weak shot. Remember, your goal is to minimize the amount of grass that gets between the clubface and the ball.
When the ball is sitting up (above, left), you can set up normally--ball just forward of center, weight 50-50--and make your regular swing. The grass won't interfere much. But if the ball is sitting down (above, right), address it slightly back of center, and put more weight on your front foot. This will help you swing on a steeper angle and catch the ball as cleanly as possible.
MORE THOUGHTS FROM TOMWhen you're chipping from the rough, check how the grass blades are predominantly lying. If the grain is against you, hit the shot 50 percent harder than normal, because the grass will slow the club down.
TOM WATSON, on Twitter @TomWatsonPGAPro, is a Golf Digest Playing Editor and the captain of the 2014 United States Ryder Cup team.