DIY Golf Fixes

Terrified of tight lies around the green? You're using the wrong club


Andy Mead/ISI Photos

Pinehurst No. 2, site of this week's U.S. Open, is a classic example of a course that makes you sweat around the greens. If you miss one of the putting surfaces on No. 2, and even the best players do quite often because of the speed and undulations, you'll likely find your ball on a tight lie in a collection area (below).

Pinehurst No. 2 Hole #5

Stephen Denton

Most pros and elite-level amateurs, like B.J. Rogillio of Wake Forest University pictured at the top of this article, won't hesitate to grab a wedge and chip one onto the green from this kind of touchy lie. (Although Martin Kaymer won a U.S. Open on Pinehurst No. 2 in 2014 by almost exclusively putting from the collection areas.) Average golfers, however, might think twice about trying to loft the ball onto the green—as they should.

If this lie terrifies you, time to stow your ego in your golf bag and go with an easier shot. When you find yourself on tightly mowed grass, and there's no obstacle like a sprinkler head between you and the green, grab your hybrid and use it like a putter. In a moment, I'll show you how.

But first, let's take a minute to identify the issue with trying to chip or pitch from a tight lie. With no cushion under the ball to help save a shot when contact is less than perfect, most amateurs end up hitting behind the ball or skulling the shot over the green. Sometimes they'll even try to "scoop" the ball off the turf with a flick of the wrists at impact. You know who you are if you take one look at this lie and start to shake.

OK, so let's give you a better option. Using a hybrid, think of the shot as more of a long lag putt. Stand a little taller than your normal putting posture, and open your stance slightly. These adjustments will help free up your stroke. Also, grip down on the handle a little for more control, and play the ball an inch or so behind your sternum (below). To ensure a solid strike, set the shaft more upright than usual, so the heel of the club is just off the ground at address.


With these setup adjustments, all you need to do is make a good lag putting stroke. Keep your lower body still as you swing your arms and rotate your body a little toward the hole. The club will "collect" the ball and send it tumbling through the short grass before the green with enough momentum to keep it moving once it’s on the putting surface. Note how far the flag is from me in this image, and I'm not making a very big stroke to get the ball to the hole (below).


You might wonder why you shouldn't just use your putter. You certainly can, but the hybrid is better from these tight lies for a couple of reasons. The loft on the club tends to get the ball up for just a split-second before it starts to roll. This helps get it through the slower fringe grass without having to give the ball a real whack, like you might have to with a putter. It also allows you to stand taller, which tends to free up your stroke. Give it a try next time you're facing a scary tight lie, and I bet you'll find it gives you a much better result than if you tried to chip.