Golf Extras
Golf Travel
A Rough Going

by Donald Crawley

Contributing Golf Writer and Director of Instruction for The Boulders Club Voted as a TOP 100 Teacher in Golf Magazine, and Director of Instruction at the Boulders Golf Academy, Carefree, AZ.

Donald Crawley (Sports Network) - If you live in the desert this article won't appeal to you as much as the rest of the golf world, the folks who have to contend with rough they discover there. We will talk about the three levels of rough that I typically experience when I am playing anywhere but the Sonoran desert. Our "rough" is hardpan desert scrubby lies.

The first cut of rough, or semi-rough, is when your crushing drive has just wobbled off of the fairway. The grass is longer and only partially covers your ball. No problem. When you have this kind of lie, you will catch some grass between the ball and the clubface at impact. Therefore, you will need a steeper angle of approach into the ball. There are two ways to achieve this: if you want maximum distance and there are no obstacles between you and the green/fairway (water, trees etc) I would recommend the low running shot. Select one club more loft. 6 iron to go 5-iron distance. Play the ball back one inch of center, and 60% weight on your forward foot. De-loft the clubface but not close it. Keep the shaft leaning forward and hit down through the ball. The de-lofting, ball back and weight forward at address establishes a steeper swing angle through impact. The ball will come out low and run like a scared rabbit.

Vijay Singh
Vijay Singh of Fiji hits a shot out of the rough on the 15th hole during round one of The Barclays at Plainfield Country Club.
If you have obstacles in front of you and need to achieve a higher recovery shot, this is the way to tackle it: use more club and open the face...5-iron for 6-iron distance. Play the ball in the front of your stance, but inside your front foot. Set the face slightly open and aim to the left (for right-handed golfers). Imagine you are playing a long bunker shot. Swing along your bodyline, which is slightly across the ball, or outside-in relative to the target-line. As you are swinging across the ball continue to turn your hips and torso to the left. This action creates a slightly steeper angle of attack, allows solid contact and a higher ball flight.

If you are in the second cut of rough where the grass is deeper and the ball is totally emerged in grass...beware. Most macho golfers get too ambitious with this shot. Visualize the US Open course set-up. The rough is deep, 3" high. Think of Clint Eastwood's famous Dirty Harry quote... "A man has to know his limits." Take more loft than you think necessary. You can apply the same two techniques mentioned above, but you must calculate the risk and reward. Physical strength and natural swing tendencies play an important role here. If you are a naturally a ?steep swinger' then this shot won't bother you too much. Your club naturally approaches the ball at a steep angle of attack (you take deep divots, often pull your irons, and pop up your drives). But, if you have a natural shallow swing, (like to hit off a tee, drive the ball well, pick your irons clean off the fairway), this shot is challenging. Take more loft and swing the club consciously more upright or steeper than normal.

Then there is the third cut or no cut at all rough. Imagine the British Open and that long whispy fescue grass that is knee-deep or more. Take your sand wedge - period. Open the face, place more weight forward, hold on tighter with your left (top) hand, and chop steeper down and through the ball. LOFT and STEEP. Unwind your hips and torso as you make contact with the ball. This helps to stop closing the clubface, losing the loft and smothering the ball low and then left deeper into the grunge.

Play smart - don't let your expectations exceed your ability level. Take more rather than less loft. Set up and play with a steeper angle of attack. Get the ball back in play and allow your sharp short game to save the day.

Donald Crawley

Donald Crawley, Director of Instruction at the Boulders Golf Academy at the Boulders Resort & Golden Door Spa in Carefree, Ariz. Crawley, a veteran of 35 years of teaching experience, is the newest contributor to The Sports Network with regular features that range from tips on improving your game to etiquette at the course. He has established 40 golf school sites in the United States since 1980,previously as vice president and director of instruction at John Jacobs' Golf Schools.

Crawley is recognized among the "Top 100 Teachers in America" by Golf Magazine and one of the "Best Teachers in Arizona" by Golf Digest. As both a Class A U.S. PGA member and a British PGA member, Crawley has been recognized for his outstanding teaching abilities. In 2002 & 2005, he won the Southwest Section PGA's Teacher of the Year Award. He also received the Horton Smith Award for education in 2000. In addition to teaching over 60,000 students, Crawley has co-authored video instruction tapes with John Jacobs and BBC/ABC golf telecaster Peter Alliss.

Comments? Contact Donald Crawley at

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