Playing out of the rough…

Many many times I have attempted to get a 100% result hitting out of the rough with the wrong club choice, falling victim to my competitive spirit that encourages me to attempt to play the most incredible shot.  Shots that you see the tour players make are inspiring, but unfortunately for us the broadcasters only ever show the lucky shots and we never see the ones that didn’t work.  So, what do we do when we are potentially faced with the risk of attempting a nearly   “unmakeable shot”!

Before every round we mentally prepare for the execution of great shots but we never mentally prepare for the resurrection of our poor shots.  After a well played shot we get a natural kick of adrenaline which clearly helps with our positivity and happiness out on course but after a poor shot we have a release of cortisol leaving us with a feeling of negativity , frustration and anxiety.  If we can focus on making the best outcome from a poorly executed shot we will have a better chance of keeping our mental game intact for the rest of the round.   



The fairway rough is one place you definitely need to have control of your golf ball and your mind. Your decision on what to do can be low risk or high risk.  When playing a shot from the rough the long grass can get trapped between the ball and club face wraping around the hosel (lower shaft) which will twist the club face and invariably cause a bad shot due to reduced loft and a pull to the right (for a right handed player). No control.  Trapped grass will smother the grooves on your club face and you won’t have spin on the ball. This causes a ‘Flyer out of the rough” and your ball will run and run and run leaving you with no distance control. Your ball could run through the green over the back or you could end up in the rough again on the other side of the fairway. 

By being conservative with your club choice can work in your favour. Choose a higher angled club with plenty of loft to ensure you at least get out of the rough.  Playing this shot with a steeper swing ensures the club goes through less grass prior to engaging with the ball. Practise this. It is a safer more reliable shot.

Remember – if  there is grass over the ball and you have identified it as yours and the grass is alive you cannot move it off the ball (Rule 13-2) If it is not in a hazard you can remove dead organic matter overlying the ball.

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Let me give you one of my slip up holes in our stroke round yesterday.  Playing the 16th hole Par 4, I found myself in a fairway bunker for 2, I hit a wedge out and it caught the wind and went through to the back of the green.  When I got down there I found my ball buried in an inch of fluffy rough but I was only 40ft from the pin at the back of the green. My thought process was 1. Chip 2. Putt or 3. Use my rescue club.  

Putting was out of the question because the risk factor was to high as the ball wouldn’t roll well, Chipping with a 9 iron is the choice club and in hindsight would have been the best option BUT the rescue club (similar to a 5 wood played in a putting motion) in this situation, was the go to club to me, a club I have seen others use and had great results with.  I didn’t want to risk hitting my chip thin or fat and spoil the shot.

Big mistake, I have never practiced doing this with that club or experimented with the results.  I had no clear idea how far it would travel off the centre of the club.  With the longer shaft I got whip from the stroke and when I made connection the ball came out of the centre and went 50ft past the pin to the centre of the other shared green !!  Instead of scrambling for a bogey I walked off with a quadruple bogey.  Should have chipped and had 2 putts at worse or 1 putt if I was lucky.  

Hindsight tells us to practise punching /chipping /bunting out of the rough.  When doing so make sure you don’t risk being in a worse position. Never try to hit hard or smash the ball as this usually results in a skinny shot or a chunk.  With short game improvement hit it comfortably out of the rough then chip on to the green – 1 or 2 putts – be happy with that.  Success often is getting away with the loss of 1 shot not 2 or 3 shots.

Learn the rules  ie. taking a 2 club length drop or going back in line with the pin (unplayable lie) is a guaranteed way of getting out of a bad position without losing a handful of shots trying to make a risky and unmakeable shot a pro would struggle with.

Be aware of the negative emotion after hitting the ball into the rough it can play with your mind.  Try and not have it at all as it can effect other shots thereafter .

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Mark Walker from Mental Game Mastery – For Mental Game Coaching for Golfers

Meet Your Mental Game Coach Mark Walker

The Big 3 Side-Effects of Negative Emotions

  • Lower Confidence – When you emotionally abuse yourself after a bad shot, you are basically telling yourself that you do not have the ability to play well. Trusting your ability to play under a variety of circumstances is the thing that helps a golfer play at a higher level consistently.
  • Expectation of more bad shots – A negative emotional reaction creates an expectation of future bad shots. You are setting forth a negative self-prophecy when you say things such as “What is wrong with me today?” or “I can’t hit a shot to save my life?”
  • Increased anxiety and inability to focus – When your emotions run out of control, you initiate a stress response that takes time to return to your normal state of function. In other words, your negative reaction can leave you anxious and agitated for a long time, even through the rest of the round.

You may not have total control over your emotional reactions but you do have the ability to manage your emotions and therfore respond more advantageously to bad shots.


  1. Our aim is to get the ball back out on the short fairway grass, so be sure to be facing the fairway not the green.
  2. Grip down a couple of inches on your club and place the ball middle of your stance.
  3. Make sure your hands are ahead of the ball, with the shaft leaning toward your target.
  4. Take a short backswing with the hands reaching waist height and chop down on the back of the ball.
  5. It’s important to accelerate through the ball to prevent the grass from slowing the club too much.  In other words swing hard.
  6. The ball will pop up and out of the rough.


Below is a short video from Stuart Appleby on Getting out of the rough.




Happy Golfing

Nikki xx

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