Short Game

Finish High To Hit It High

June 10, 2013

What do you do if you have to hit over a tree—or execute any high shot, for that matter? What you shouldn't do is try to scoop the ball in the air with a wristy swing. If you do, you'll probably hit it fat or thin.

In the situation below, it doesn't make sense to try to scoot the ball under the tree because of the narrow run-up to the green. I have to go high and try to fly it there.

To execute this shot, I use one club longer than normal, because I'll lose some distance with the higher-trajectory flight. To counter the lower loft of the longer club, I weaken my grip, setting my left thumb straight down the handle, but I keep the clubface square to the target. I set up with the ball slightly forward in my stance, with my hands a little behind it. Then I raise my left shoulder and lower my right shoulder, and kick in my right knee for stability. As I swing down and through this shot, I want to keep my head behind the ball and finish with my hands really high. A high finish helps produce a high shot.


Most golfers stand behind the ball to figure out how high to hit it to get over a tree, but this perspective often leads to picking a club with not enough loft. I crouch just ahead of the ball to get a better look at the required trajectory.

TOM WATSON, on Twitter @TomWatsonPGA, is a Golf Digest Playing Editor and the captain of the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup team.