I’m sure many of us golfers would love to be able to scroll past this article and think that playing golf in the rough doesn’t apply to us!
However, the game of golf is not an ideal world and even a golfer with the best game off the tee will likely find themselves in the rough at least a few times a round.
Playing out of the rough can be tricky to master, with thick grass and bad lies impacting the accuracy of the shot and the distance the ball will fly.
Then there are hazards like trees and bunkers to think about as well!
However, being in the rough does not need to be terminal for you to score well on a hole!
If you are someone who finds themselves struggling to get it right when your ball is in the rough, follow the five quick tips below.
Hopefully, you will find that on your next trip to the golf course you won’t feel a sense of dread if your ball strays off the fairway.
Let’s get started!
How to Play Golf in the rough
What if it’s very deep rough?
Before we get into the 5 quick tips it’s worth saying that this article will mostly focus on playing out of typical rough next to the fairway.
But sometimes when playing on links or heathland courses you may find yourself in long, shin-high rough. This rough is particularly difficult to play out of.
So what should you do if you find your ball in rough like this?
Identify the shortest route back to the fairway, and aim that way.
It is very unlikely that you’ll be able to generate much distance on a shot in rough this thick. So prioritize getting your ball back in play by taking a short route out of the rough.
Use a wedge when in shin-high rough.
Even attempting to use a more lofted iron is unlikely to generate enough loft and height on the shot to get it out of long rough.
So really the message for when your ball is stuck in thick, shin-high rough is to get out of there before worrying about the rest of the hole!
Hopefully, though you rarely find your ball in such a perilous position, so read on for five quick tips for playing in the more common rough you’ll find on a golf course.
1. Use a more lofted club
When playing out of the rough it is essential to get sufficient height and loft on the ball so that it gets out of the thick grass.
This is especially true when your ball has a bad lie and is partially buried in the grass.
So to achieve the necessary height on your shot, select a more lofted club than normal.
For example, if you were thinking of using a 6-iron, use a 7-iron or 8-iron instead.
Thick, long grass is grippier. This means when your clubhead is at the bottom of the downswing, the grass grips onto the bottom part of your clubhead.
This has the effect of delofting your clubface at impact, making it even harder to gain the necessary loft on your shot to escape the long grass. This is why choosing a more lofted club is helpful.
On the fairway, a delofted clubface may not be much of an issue. This is because it can cause a shot some in golf call a daisycutter; one that flies very low to the ground.
However, if you were to hit a daisycutter in the rough it’s unlikely your ball will make it very far!
So when you find your ball in the rough, remember loft is key, so choose a more lofted club.
2. Put more weight on your front foot
Usually, when addressing the ball, it is normal to have a near 50-50 weight distribution between your feet. But when your shot has rolled into the rough this may not be so helpful.
One of the problems when playing out of the rough is grass getting in between your clubface and the ball. This can make your strike less clean, affecting both distance and accuracy.
One way to rectify this is to steepen your angle of attack on the ball at the bottom of the downswing.
By steepening the angle at which your club approaches the ball at impact, it reduces the chances of grass getting in between the ball and the clubface.
But what is a simple way to achieve this?
One very simple way to achieve a steeper angle of attack is to place around 70% of your weight on your front foot when addressing the ball.
A steeper angle of attack will also help produce the higher ball flight that is key to getting the ball out of the rough.
So by placing more weight on your front foot at address, you can achieve a cleaner strike and a higher ball flight when playing out of the rough.
3. Put the ball slightly back in your stance
Another very simple but effective way of creating a steeper angle of attack is to have the ball slightly toward the back of your stance at address.
By doing this it means your clubface is making impact with the ball while the club is still on the downswing, rather than at the bottom of the swing.
This will once again help to create a steeper angle of attack on the ball and reduce the likelihood of thick grass affecting your ball striking when playing out of the rough.
So following steps 2 and 3 are key to producing a steeper angle of attack on impact, helping to bring about cleaner ball striking and more lofted shots, both of which are key to improving your game when playing out of the rough.
4. Consider using a hybrid club
So what should you do in this scenario? You’re playing a par 5 and your tee shot has flown into the long stuff.
Your ball is still more than 200 yards from the hole and you don’t think a more lofted iron has the distance to help get you back in play and on course for a par. Fortunately, a hybrid club is perfect for this scenario.
For those of you who have not heard of a hybrid club, it is a club that is somewhere in between an iron and a wood.
This means it combines the forgiveness and lofted ball flight of an iron, with the distance of a wood.
These characteristics make hybrids perfect for hitting longer shots out of the rough.
The chunkier club heads are able to cut through the thicker grass, stopping it from getting between the ball and the clubface.
The more lofted faces on a hybrid compared to a normal wood help to achieve the higher ball flight needed when playing out of the rough.
Put this all together and the hybrid club is ideally suited for playing longer shots from out of the rough!
5. Be prepared to ‘take your medicine’
While watching golf on TV, or playing a round you may have heard someone say they should ‘take their medicine’. What does this mean how does it refer to playing golf in the rough?
Sometimes when your ball has strayed off of the fairway, you may find that you have other obstacles, like trees, bunkers, and water hazards, to deal with as well as the thick grass.
When faced with obstacles such as these, taking the direct line and aiming for the green may not be the wisest course of action. This is especially true when playing in the rough is already hard enough!
Aiming at the green when there are other obstacles in the way could leave your ball in a worse position than it started in.
So in situations like these, it may be better for your score to take the safer option and play the ball out sideways and get it back onto the fairway i.e. taking your medicine!
When you next play a round and you find your ball in the rough, take a few moments before your shot to assess the situation.
Are there too many obstacles between you and the green? If so it might be a better course of action to take your medicine and get back to the fairway!
So those are 5 quick tips for playing golf in the rough but as all golfers know, nothing good ever comes for free, and the best way to improve every part of your game is always to practice.
No technique for playing golf in the rough is perfect, but practicing tricks that have worked for you will help improve your game.
Whether you feel you want to practice placing more weight on your front or you’ve just bought yourself a new hybrid, it may be worth doing a couple of sessions at the driving range to ensure you’re ready for when you’re next on the course.