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The Open 2021: Hitting out of fescue, explained

July 17, 2021

Rory McIlroy plays out of the thick stuff on the 13th hole on Day 3 at Royal St George's.

GLYN KIRK

If you’re keeping up with The Open Championship, you’ve seen competitors hitting impressive shots from the thick rough and fescue off the fairways at Royal St. George’s. How do the pros make hitting great recoveries look so easy?

Though the long wispy grass might seem daunting, it doesn’t have to be a death sentence for your round. Golf Digest Best Young Teacher Adam Kolloff of Pure Drive Golf in Woburn, Mass., gave us a quick breakdown of how to navigate the thick stuff.

Your strategy: Lie dependent.

“It all depends on the lie,” Kolloff says, “Obviously if the ball is sitting up, you can be aggressive.” His first suggestion is to get into the habit of examining your lie from every angle. Consider how much grass is in front and behind the ball, as both will affect your clubface. You should also be aware how much grass is under your ball—it’s easier than you’d think to go right under it.

Various grass types are thicker than others, too. At your local course, you might have thick fescue-like grass, but sometimes it's playable. Other times, that's not the case, and your ball will settle down in the thick stuff. Unless you have tour-pro swing speed and clubface patrol, opt to pitch it out.

No need to be a hero

Additionally if there’s trouble near the green, Kolloff suggests taking your medicine and hitting a short iron to safety. Open the face before you take your grip, and tighten your grip in the last three fingers of your lead hand to stabilize the clubface through impact.

Set up to your shot with the ball back in your stance and imagine making a steeper, V-shaped swing. “Think about hinging the club up earlier so you feel like you’re sending your wrists right away,” Kolloff says.

Sometimes you can attack

If your ball happens to be sitting up nicely and the green is unprotected, here's how to play a proper fescue shot: Kolloff says to open the face slightly, play the ball no more than two inches back in your stance and take a normal swing.

This will help you come down on it a little more than you would if you were in the fairway and give you your best shot at getting it out.