Approach Shots

How To Hit A Great Recovery Off A Sketchy Surface

June 08, 2016

At my home club, Medalist in Hobe Sound, Fla., miss a fairway, and there's a good chance your ball will end up on pine straw. The maintenance crew rakes the straw to define the edges of sandy areas, so it's a very present and integral part of the golf course that you have to learn to play from.

The biggest mistake I see visitors make is losing their footing. The stuff is super-slippery, so you have to kick it away so your cleats can get in direct contact with the ground. If you just twist side to side like you're settling into a bunker, your feet will stay on top of the needles, and you'll have a tough time making a balanced swing.

The other big key is to grip down an inch or so. With a flat stance you might not realize it, but the straw makes the ball sit up like it's on a tee. Choking down makes the club shorter so you're less likely to slide under the ball. Ball-first contact might be more critical here than off any other surface.

If the ball is sitting precariously, you'll probably have to hover the clubhead at address to avoid inadvertently moving the ball.

Finally, resist the urge to try to pick it clean. Play the ball back in your stance and go down and get it, as if you were ripping a big divot in the fairway. The lack of resistance from the straw is a cool sensation.

When you're on pine straw, it probably means you've got something blocking your shot. Whether it's a pine tree or palmetto bushes like here, my escape method never varies. Biggest thing is avoiding whatever's in front of me, so I aim wider to the side and force myself to curve the shot more.

To hit a big draw, I shut the face at address, aim right and swing normal. To fade, I open the face, aim left and swing. It might feel like you're in trouble, but the straw can help you catch the ball clean, so it's a perfect lie to bend one.