June 25, 2007

Match your swing to the lie

It matters whether the ball is sitting up or down

FLYER LIE? If there's grass directly behind your ball in the rough, expect it to fly farther and roll more when it lands.

FLYER LIE? If there's grass directly behind your ball in the rough, expect it to fly farther and roll more when it lands.

Your lie influences your club selection, how you set up to the ball and the kind of shot you play. Many golfers underestimate its importance. Pictured above are two lies in the rough--one fairly clean and one half-buried. How would you handle these two lies?

The cleaner lie on the left should be similar to a fairway shot, because grass will not get caught between the clubface and ball at impact. I would play it normally.

But with the partially buried lie, grass will get between the clubface and the ball at impact. The ball will come out with less backspin, causing a "flyer" A flyer generally will carry and roll farther than a shot from a clean lie.

There are two ways to play the shot from a flyer lie. The easiest way is to use one less club--say, a wedge instead of a 9-iron. The other way is to aim slightly left, open the clubface a bit, and stand a little closer to the ball. The open face allows the club to cut through the grass. Standing closer leads to a more upright swing and a more descending blow. The ball should fly higher and shorter because of the added loft on the clubface, but roll more thanks to less spin. Figuring the distance from any flyer lie is always guesswork.

Moral to this story: Keep your ball in the fairway and you'll be able to avoid the guesswork.

THOUGHTS FROM TOM

Before teeing off on a course you haven't played, ask the pro about the greens. Do they tend to break in a certain direction? It will help your score.

Golf Digest Playing Editor Tom Watson is the golf professional emeritus at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. .