June 11, 2014

5 Pinehurst-centric shots you'll see players hit this week, and how you can play them

With its roughless, sandy framing, sea of pine straw and shaved green complexes, Pinehurst No. 2 has a radically different look than any other recent U.S. Open venue. That means you'll see tour players hitting a variety of less-common shots during championship. As the Pinehurst Golf Academy's director of instruction, top-50 teacher Eric Alpenfels has lots of experience both on No. 2 and hitting the shots Donald Ross' historical showpiece requires. Below, he'll talk about five of them -- playing from waste areas, putting from the fairway, the low-running chip, clearing high bunker lips and hitting from pine straw -- and show you how to pull them off yourself.

__Escaping waste areas__By far the most pre-tournament chatter has been about the striking sand-and-scrub transition areas lining the fairways. Miss a fairway and you won't find yourself in traditional six-inch U.S. Open rough, but a patchwork of sand and wispy native grass. You might have a decent lie, or you might be punching out. On a playable shot from the sandy surface, catching the ball first is the key.

__ Bump and run__If a short-game shot does have to leave the ground, you'll see a lot more European-style low chips into the face of the greenside slopes. The goal there is to pick a less-lofted club like a 6- or 7-iron and use the hill to deflect the speed. The ball will bounce up, then trickle toward the target.

__ Playing from pine straw__Getting into the tree lines at No. 2 means playing from pine straw and finding a path through the obstacles. Players will be using straighter-faced long irons to have a better chance to curve low shots out of trouble and follow the contour of the hole.