PGA Championship

Valhalla Golf Club

Approach Shots

Stop Ripping Your Knockdowns Into Branches

February 08, 2018

Photo by J.D. Cuban

We've all been there: off the fairway, wanting to get the ball back in play. Problem is, there's a tree directly between you and your great escape. The tree is too tall to go over and too thick to curve a shot around it. You're only option is to hit a low runner under the branches. How do you do it?

Take a lower-lofted club and make an easier, less-than-full swing. This is guaranteed to lower the trajectory of the ball—that's the easy part. The tricky part is knowing what club is going to keep the ball under the branches, but get it airborne enough to reach safety in the short grass.

The only way to truly know that is practice. You're going to have to work on this shot, and if you can, do it from the rough as well as cleaner lies. Keep in mind that rough normally lowers the trajectory of the ball because it reduces backspin. I suggest practicing this shot with your long and middle irons and your hybrids. Hit a few balls with each club to a 100-yard target. Imprint in your mind how far the ball carried and how high it flew with each club to get it to stop near the 100-yard target. Then go through the same exercise with 75- and 125-yard targets.

You'll soon build feel for what club and what swing is the smartest choice for the trajectory of the recovery shot you're facing. —With Ron Kaspriske

An alternative tried- and-true swing technique I use to keep the ball down is to lower my left shoulder at address, and play the ball farther back in my stance. Again, experiment with ball position to see how it changes the trajectory, but when you need to hit it low, this works.