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iacas

The Importance of a Trouble Shot

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Good golfers don't always hit good shots.

But good golfers often have a knack for getting out of trouble.

The other day I faced a shot that could have resulted in bogey or worse for many players, yet I was able to save a relatively easy par. I didn't do this by pulling off some impossible shot, but I did have the knowledge, ability, and foresight to pull off a shot that many would tell you "pitch out to the fairway and wedge on to try to save your par."

Here's the shot on GAME GOLF: http://www.gamegolf.com/player/iacas/round/1883025?shot_id=114887180&hole_id=35139599.

As you can see, I came to the ninth at one under par, and pulled my tee shot just a hair, where it caught a slope and rolled to the bottom. It looks like this:

9th_hole_overhead.jpg

What did it look like from where I was standing?

9th_hole_shot.jpg

The yellow line marks the approximate location of the flag (which was pretty far back-right on the green), and the red - the center of the biggest window - is marked on the overhead map. It's near the parking lot (which is OB), the cart path, a bunker, a big slope to the right of the green… just bad stuff in general.

I had roughly 120 yards to the flag, or 114 to the center of the green.

The tree on the right edge of the photo is the first tree in that direction. Many "game planners" would tell you to hit a shot in that direction, leaving a 120-yard wedge or something to a green for a potential par putt. After all, the window is too small, and you can't guarantee you'll pull it off, right?

Bah.

What did I do? I hooded a 9I. aiming it at the left-center of the opening (clubface is the majority of the ball's start line, but it isn't 100%), with my feet out to the right. I played the ball back in my stance, took a 2/3-ish swing, and played a fairly big draw for a 115-yard shot that landed on the front of the green and bounced and rolled up to the middle of the green, from where I had a relatively straightforward two-putt.

It was the best option available to me. I figured, best case, I do what I did: hit the green and have a putt. I actually clipped a low leaf on the  tree in pulling off my shot, but even if I had clipped a little more, I'd have been fine. Worst case, my ball gets to the top of the hill. Average case: I'm in an nGIR situation, pitching or chipping for birdie.

I'd never practiced this particular shot before. I'm sure I've goofed around on the range hitting big hooks, or hitting low shots, or some combination, but I've never set up this scenario specifically and tried to do it. I just figured that getting near or on the green was WAY better than pitching back to the fairway, and that I had the skills to pull it off.

What about you? What would you do?

Let's say you're not comfortable hitting a 30-yard draw with a 2/3 9I from a not great lie. Maybe you think you should just wedge out to the right?

You should almost never wedge out to the right.

There are other options, still utilizing that window. Could you grip well down on a 5-iron and punch something up the hill? So long as you get past the trees 15-20 yards in front of you, and stop short of the bunker, the resulting shot is going to be easier than wedging out to the right. No hook required - just punch something through the window.

If you can turn it over a little, great. Do that.

But don't just wedge back to the fairway. Don't give up the 50-100 yard advantage. Even advancing the ball 30 yards makes your next shot easier.


The lesson here?

Trouble shots are an SV② skill mainly because they're rare. They have a high "S-Value," for LSW owners, but a low "O-Value." The high "S-Value" means that when you're in a trouble shot situation, you can save a stroke or two, right then and there.

Now, I'm not going to give you some formula to figure out what shot you should attempt. I can't generalize that, and I understand that there are sometimes shots you try in a fun round that you wouldn't try in a tournament (FWIW, this is one I'd absolutely have tried in a tournament). It's on you to weight the risks (minimal, IMO for me, here) versus the rewards (quite big here). If the risks outweigh the rewards, and you've weighted both properly, go for it. Otherwise, evaluate the next most risky shot (maybe that punched 5I back to the fairway but though the same window).

And, now and then, with your last five balls on the range, hit some trouble shots. Punch a hybrid and see what it does. Hook an 8I. Chip a 5I 80 yards just to see if you can do it. SV② doesn't mean never practice it… it just means don't spend much time on it.

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8 minutes ago, iacas said:

What about you? What would you do?

I would have tried the same shot only I would have pulled something with less loft and probably not executed it as well. I'm definitely trying to punch it through that window, though.

Plus, it's a hook. Hooks I can do. If the shot called for a cut, I'd try it, but most likely settle for a straight shot through that opening.

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I saw this on your GameGolf post yesterday and wondered how you made the shot. It looked impossible from satellite photo. From the ground level, it just looks really, really difficult.

1 hour ago, iacas said:

What about you? What would you do?

Hard to tell without being there... I'd have tried the hook and hoped for it to run up close to the green, but used a club and swing that would have left me short of trouble right in case it didn't turn. (A slice is an easier shot if I have that option, but I have pulled both types off.)

Not to sound too preachy in someone else's post, but for high handicappers, don't be afraid to try these shots. I can't pull them off every time, but if I can be successful with these trouble shots a lot of the time, anyone can. It's really easy to practice at home if you have room in your yard or even a net.

Obviously, getting it to run to the green is a best-case scenario with my skill, but the idea (for me) is to get closer to the green by curving the shot than I would by just punching out sideways.

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1 hour ago, iacas said:

What about you? What would you do?

I would probably try to hit something low and a bit of a draw to it. Not necessarily something that turns hard left. Something that would get me near the front opening of the green for an easy pitch. I would definitely pick that same opening in the trees. 

Kinda of the middle ground. Not taking the 120 yard shot, but something that would leave me with on the front edge to 10 yards short. Maybe if I am lucky on the green. 

 

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I'm relatively good at these kinds of punch draw/fades.  I'd have tried the same shot, though not with a 9i.  Probably more like a 5i, trying to hit a hook runner.

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So...I'm probably the worst golfer possible at this kind of shot.  Not only am I a 19-hcp, but my clubface control gets noticeably worse when I try to control trajectory (ie, a punch shot).

But...I'm still not wedging out to the right.  No way I'm trying to hook the ball; that would only exacerbate my lack of clubface control.  I'd hit a punch shot straight through the middle of that window, trying to make sure I got it past the trees and short of the bunker.

2 hours ago, iacas said:

And, now and then, with your last five balls on the range, hit some trouble shots. Punch a hybrid and see what it does. Hook an 8I. Chip a 5I 80 yards just to see if you can do it. SV② doesn't mean never practice it… it just means don't spend much time on it.

Because of the problem I have (italicized above), I do this ^.  Usually three or so times each session.  Just play a ball way back in my stance, almost always with my 5i (just feels comfortable), and try to hit a 100-, 75-, and 50-yard punch shot in succession.

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2 hours ago, iacas said:

And, now and then, with your last five balls on the range, hit some trouble shots. Punch a hybrid and see what it does. Hook an 8I. Chip a 5I 80 yards just to see if you can do it. SV② doesn't mean never practice it… it just means don't spend much time on it.

I forgot to comment on this earlier, but I do this type of stuff every range session (not that I often go to the range). It's probably my favorite part of the session. Not only do I get to learn a thing or two about what I kind of shots I can hit, but it reinforces my golf swing theory knowledge in a practical application. 

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I know low hooks, so I would be inclined to attempt something bold here like @iacasdid. Having said that I guess by getting in this position from a good lie (ball teed up and all) have just demonstrated a recent affinity to brain farts so honestly I would be happy to be within 50 yards of the green and just punch it straight up in the direction of the red line with a 5 iron. 

The opening does not look all that tight.

Edited by GolfLug

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I'd probably try much the same, but with a lower numbered club. Had somewhat the same situation a couple of rounds ago. Tee shot drifted to the right so I had a low hanging oak bough in front of me. I took my 2 hybrid, choked down to the graphite, played it back in my stance with an abbreviated backswing and held off the finish.

I ticked a couple of leaves, but the shot faded just enough, hit the upslope in front of the green and hopped on. Two putts and I had my par.

The thing about these shots is to make absolutely sure you at least get out of trouble. I can't tell you how many times I've seen guys leave it trouble or put it in worse!

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My 3 iron is a SGI that doesn't match the rest of my irons, but that's because it's my low-get-outta-trouble-club. I have great trouble keeping a high lofted club low, and just as much difficulty turning it over.

My go-to escape shot is a low screaming cut from the right trees.

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Reminds me a bit of Bubba’s shot from the woods in Augusta- but mirror image. 

This thread is a good reminder for me to work on start lines. I need to get familiar with the typical variances to expect. As of now, my decision here would’ve been total guesswork. 

Sadly I might’ve thought punching sideways was the play. Without knowledge of my own start lines, the risk-reward analysis is tough, tending to push me go the conservative route.

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I think my choice would have been a low running shot through the larger (red line) gap.  I'm not sure, but I probably would have used a less lofted club, something like a 5 or 7-iron, to be sure I was under all the limbs.  I know that when I play the ball back in my stance, it tends to hook a bit more, so that would fit.  The goal would be between the two traps right in front, perfect would be like yours, on the green, and poor would probably be too firm and straight, ending up in the bunker, which makes bogey still probable.  

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15 hours ago, billchao said:

I would have tried the same shot only I would have pulled something with less loft and probably not executed it as well. I'm definitely trying to punch it through that window, though.

Plus, it's a hook. Hooks I can do. If the shot called for a cut, I'd try it, but most likely settle for a straight shot through that opening.

Same here with maybe a 6 iron. I know I can curve a six iron on a half shot about 100 - 120 yards, almost like a long chip. It can hook too. With a more lofted club, I don't have the skill to keep it low without a fat shot. Plus with a shorter back swing, my accuracy at impact is better. If I didn't have to hook it, I may even use a 3H and just chip it 100+ yards and let it roll out.

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46 minutes ago, DaveP043 said:

I think my choice would have been a low running shot through the larger (red line) gap.  I'm not sure, but I probably would have used a less lofted club, something like a 5 or 7-iron, to be sure I was under all the limbs.  I know that when I play the ball back in my stance, it tends to hook a bit more, so that would fit.  The goal would be between the two traps right in front, perfect would be like yours, on the green, and poor would probably be too firm and straight, ending up in the bunker, which makes bogey still probable.  

If you go with anything straight, you'd be best off leaving it short of the bunker for sure.

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Great shot, and a great point as well.  

I probably would've hit a little skanker through the same gap, but with a 5 or 6 iron, without attempting the draw.  Attempting to draw through that small window would increase the likelihood that I'd pull the shot and catch a tree.  The reward just isn't worth the risk of a really big number for me, at my skill level.  I like my chances of saving par from 40 yards short of the green though.  

 

 

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I'm punching out towards that gap, trying to hook the ball onto the green. I was thinking if I should maybe just play a straight shot, because I'm not 100% confident I could pull off a low hook like that. But in thinking about it more, I think I have roughly an equal chance of saving par from short of the bunker in the fairway and from the bunker. So I would try the hook but if it doesn't work, I'm not too bothered by it because I'm in the bunker.

Really, though, if I'm in situation, I'm going to be okay with any result that gets me a par putt. For me, that means getting it out of the trees is the most important thing. I'm not going to beat myself up if I make a bogey from here.

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My 5-iron is usually my get out of trouble club, so I probably would have used that with a little draw. From the other side of the fairway needing to hit a cut would have been more difficult, but I'm pretty good at hitting a low running draw with a 5-iron. I'd be pretty happy with anything that gets out of the trees and isn't in a bunker.

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As a high handicapper i know when to take my medicine and play the safe shot. For me its just a case of get it back on the fairway and hopfully end up with a bogey at worst.

I play with some high handicap golfers and its amazing how many times they go for the high tariff shot and end up with a triple. At the end of the day you need to know what you can pull off at your skill level. If you can low hook through the trees then go for it if you cant then dont.

I always say to myself "If in doubt, easy way out"

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