Nobody enjoys getting caught in the rough when playing golf - it can be a difficult situation to escape, especially if you’re in deep rough or are unsure which is the right golf club for the job.
Because of the added loft they provide when compared to their fairway wood cousins, most golfers reach for an iron in the rough to get them out of trouble. But they’re not the easiest shots in the world to get right.
If you struggle to hit your irons out of the rough, here are 5 easy steps you can follow to make the most of your situation.
1 - Examine the ball position
No two golf balls land in the rough in the same way. The differing types and lengths of grass present numerous variables you’ll need to take note of before hitting your shot. Primarily, you should examine your ball’s lie.
If the ball is sitting neatly atop the grass, with little intrusion or coverage from longer blades of grass, it should be relatively easy to hit and you can treat it as you would treat any other iron shot.
However, if your ball is buried in thick rough, you’ll need to switch things up - club-wise and stance-wise - if you hope to dislodge the ball with a decent trajectory on your first attempt.
How can you switch things up? Keep reading…
2 - Evaluate the grass
You’ll have already checked out your grass if you followed step 1, but you need to consider more than just the length of the grass.
For example, the direction the grass is growing could affect your ball’s trajectory. If the thick grass is growing towards the green (or your chosen target) you’ll experience less resistance and have a good chance of the ball firing out of the grass with solid club head impact and precision.
But if the grass that’s covering your ball is growing in the opposite direction - away from where you want the ball to go - you may need to add some extra force to get a solid strike and fire your ball back onto the fairway or the green.
Be careful, though. This kind of grass is notorious for throwing your ball off-course. If your ball is buried too deep and you know there’s little chance of a smooth strike, consider chipping back onto the fairway so you don’t ruin your chances of a low score entirely.
Also, be sure to examine the area around your ball - are there any stray stones, clumps of grass or dirt you could catch with your iron? These will throw your club face out of alignment, so get rid of them before you swing, if you can.
3 - Consider using a more lofted club
Depending on the shots preceding landing in the rough, you still may have a long way to go to reach the hole. This could lead you to reach for one of your mid or long irons, in the hopes of reaching the green, but this could be a huge mistake.
For one, these irons are primarily made to be hit off the fairway, while the rough presents completely different circumstances for your ball and your swing.
That’s why, if your ball is caught in the rough, it’s often wise to “club up” and reach for a short iron or a higher iron than you normally would, based on the length left to the hole.
This is because higher-numbered irons and wedges - like the pitching wedge - offer more loft than longer irons, allowing them to cut through the grass easier, get underneath the ball and launch it out of the rough with greater effectiveness.
So if you would normally hit a 7-iron based on your remaining distance, consider using a 9-iron instead.
You may lose a few yards in length, but you’ll make up for it by having a far better lie to deal with once your ball is back on the fairway or the green.
4 - Focus on hitting a steeper swing
Getting up and under the ball when it’s buried in mounds of grass is a difficult task. But with the right club for the job and the right technique, you’ll give yourself the best shot at better ball flight.
One way to do this is by hitting a steeper swing. Generally, the angle your club takes during your backswing and follow-through is ideal for when you’re on the fairway. But when you’re in the rough and need to get as much of your clubface under the ball as possible, you need to take a steeper approach.
To do this, during your backswing try to raise your arms slightly higher, to above your shoulders and neck, instead of your back and shoulder blades. Try to imagine a pendulum travelling straight up and straight down - you need to get as close to this motion as possible.
By altering your swing in this way, the club face will be more inclined to “scoop” under the ball, helping lift it higher than usual and leap out of the rough, while still maintaining some accuracy and solid contact.
Take a couple of practice swings in the surrounding rough before taking your shot, and take note of how deep your clubhead has struck the rough.
5 - Open up your clubface
If you don’t think your chosen club has enough loft to get the ball back on the straight and narrow, you can always adjust your stance and grip to open the club face a little more.
Opening the clubface increases the surface area the ball can catch in this scenario, and makes sure the club hits the ball while still cutting through the grass effectively.
Just be sure to adjust your stance when you open your clubface, as tweaking your club face even slightly can result in a new trajectory path for your ball.
Grab some new golf irons at Clarkes Golf
If your irons have seen better days, or you don’t have irons with enough loft to deal with situations like the above, perhaps it’s time to invest in some new ones?
At Clarkes Golf, we’re home to an extensive collection of golf clubs, golf sets, golf accessories, and more - including plenty of golf irons. So we’ll have the right clubs to assist you when you wind up in the rough.
Take a look at our collection of golf iron sets here. Or, if you’d prefer to examine new clubs in person and try them out, why not stop by our impressive golf store? You can find us at Mill Lane, Rainford, St Helens, WA11 8LN.