Approach Shots

Practice In The Rough

Why practicing out of rough will boost your ball-striking
By Josh Zander Photos by J.D. Cuban
September 15, 2015

With all due respect to the late Sam Snead and his well-intended advice, if you grip your club like you're holding a baby bird and try to maintain that light pressure, you won't like the result. Ever see tour players hit shots in slow motion? Do they look like they're out for a Sunday stroll? No, they're taking a serious rip at the ball, and the strained expressions on their faces prove it.

One of the biggest mistakes I see is golfers trying to make loosey-goosey, tension-free swings. Things easily get out of sync that way, plus there's no real power behind the shot. The arms and body should be working together, especially through the impact zone. One of the best ways to improve that partnership is to hit iron shots out of thick grass. It might sound like a strange practice drill, but believe me, you don't see people trying to get out of the rough with floppy swings. They might start relaxed, but the pressure between the arms and body builds as the swing progresses. They instinctively brace for impact to stabilize the club as it moves through the heavy grass.

That stable feeling is what you want on your shots from the fairway, too. So go find a spot in some rough where you can practice. I'll give you a couple of keys to help your technique. With Ron Kaspriske



You'll hit better shots out of the rough if you pre-set the connection between your arms and body. At address, feel pressure in both armpits, the biceps pressed against the chest. As a drill, tuck the sleeves of your shirt under your arms and practice making half swings, keeping that pinch (above). Strive for that feeling in your normal swing. If the arms get separated from the torso, you'll struggle to hit the ball out of the heavy grass.



You can see as I swing back, my chest and arms are moving in unison, which keeps the club in front of my torso. Think of this as your first move off the ball. You'll know everything is moving together if the bottom edge of the clubface is roughly parallel to your spine angle at this point in the backswing (above). This is also where I want to be when I swing down: the club in front of my upper body. Get it right, and you'll start puring your iron shots.

Josh Zander, a Golf Digest Teaching Professional, is based at the Stanford (Calif.) University Golf Course and the Presidio Golf Course in San Francisco.