lesson teeAugust 24, 2014

A Striking Difference

How to make crisp contact from tight lies

Rickie Fowler demonstrates a crisp wedge strike, with a small divot after impact.

Fairways are cut shorter these days with modern agronomy. The ball doesn't sit up as much, so the challenge is to make solid contact on a firm, tight lie. Tour players, like Rickie Fowler (above), face these lies every week.

How do you adjust for a shot if there's no cushion under the ball? My method is to play it about an inch farther back than normal and make sure I'm descending a little more steeply on the downswing. That helps me strike the ball first, taking a divot just after. You still might catch it a little thin, making the ball fly lower and with less spin, but that's not so bad. I sometimes play for it to come out thin.

To get a feel for this shot, practice short pitches first and then graduate to longer clubs once you start to hit the ball solidly. Don't get discouraged. Even the pros would prefer to have the ball sitting up higher, especially in wet conditions. But maintenance practices are changing, so firm, tight lies are here to stay.

ELEMENTARY WATSON

The wind can alter pitch shots more than most golfers appreciate. In a cross-wind I work the ball into the breeze instead of with it. If you let the wind move the ball, it's much harder to control where it ends up. Remember, it's not only what the wind does to the ball in the air, but also how it affects the rollout on the green.