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Hitting shots from the rough at TPC Scottsdale

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Before players arrived on site for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, I hit a few shots from the rough at TPC Scottsdale to see what the players have to deal with. With the help of Trackman, I recorded how different lies in the rough produce different numbers and ball flights. As you’ll see, certain lies in the rough greatly affect the outcome of the shot.

Let’s jump right in and have a look at the length of grass we’re going to be working with. As an instructor at TPC Scottsdale, I teach just off the right side of the No. 9 fairway, which will be in play for the tournament. The PGA Tour was targeting 3.5 inches of rough, and by the picture below, the grass was already at tournament height at the time of my experiment.

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Now that we’ve got some solid rough to work with, let’s talk about how the grain of the grass considerably affects the outcome of the shot.

FlierLie

Grass can be mown or brushed to cause grain, and it can also naturally grow in different directions. Shiny grass lays away from you, dark grass lays toward you.

With the help of Trackman, let’s take a look at what happens with the different lies pictured above. The idea for my experiment was to make very similar swings, specifically in club speed, using a 7 iron from the various lies to see how much the grass can affect ball flight characteristics.

Fairway Lie

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First, let’s look at a standard shot from the fairway. A good rule of thumb on spin with your irons is a 1000 rpm for each number. A seven iron should have roughly 7000 rpm, an 8 iron 8000 rpm, etc. In the photo above, you can see the numbers for my normal 7 iron.

Thick lie, slightly into the grain

Now that we know what a normal 7 iron looks like, let’s take a look at our first lie in the rough. This ball is down in some thick grass that is slightly into the grain. I added a pen to the photo for some scale.

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That’s surely some deep sticky grass, and as you can see from the Trackman numbers below, 87 mph of club speed produced a shot that carried only 87 yards and had just 1300 rpm of spin.

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This kind of lie is brutal to hit from. As the club gets into the grass, the hosel of the club has a tendency to contact the grass first and slow down the heel of the club down, causing the club face to close. The only thing you’ll be able to do is hit a low line drive with little spin that runs slightly more than a normal shot because of the greatly reduced spin.

Higher club head speed and strength make a huge difference here — more speed has almost a one-to-one ratio to carry. More carry doesn’t necessarily make the shot easier to stop on the green, but it gives you the ability to fly the ball a greater distance.

Catching a break, the down-grain lie

Let’s take a look at what happens when you get the ball to land in some down grain grass. You can see the lie below. A tire track matted the grass down in the direction I’m hitting the shot. This rye rough is so dense the ball doesn’t sink to the bottom of the grass. It rides high, giving the player a fighting chance. Check out how much difference a down-grain lie can make compared to the shot out of the thick stuff. It carried 80 yards farther!

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Digging into the numbers a little deeper, a couple things stick out to me.

First, even though the club speed is similar, the long, down-grain grass will take some speed off the ball. I got 115 mph of ball speed from the down-grain lie and 121 mph of ball speed from the fairway. My guess is that a couple of blades of grass got stuck between the face of the club and the ball. Like a baseball pitcher throwing a change up, shots hit from the rough move a little slower.

Even though the ball was traveling 6 mph hour slower, however, the low spin rate caused less friction in the air and, in turn, helped the ball fly the same distance as a shot from the fairway. With less than half the spin rate, however, it won’t stop nearly as quick as my stock 7 iron with 7200 rpm of spin. Plan accordingly.

When you’re watching the Waste Management Phoenix Open this week and you see someone play a shot out of the rough, you’ll have a much better idea of what is happening.

Things to remember when playing shots out of the rough

  • When you reduce spin on any shot, all things being equal, the ball will fly farther.
  • There is an art to reading how the ball is sitting in the grass. Take note of the grain of the grass and try to gauge how much grass is going to be caught between the face and ball at impact. More grass in between the ball and the club means less speed and less spin.
  • Don’t forget that a flier can be an advantage. A good example is trying to get the ball on a par 5 in two shots from some down-grain grass. Less spin can add carry and more roll once the ball hits the turf.
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Rob earned a business degree from the University of Washington. He turned professional in June of 1999 and played most mini tours, as well as the Australian Tour, Canadian Tour, Asian Tour, European Tour and the PGA Tour. He writes for GolfWRX to share what he's learned and continues to learn about a game that's given him so much. www.robrashell.com Google Plus Director of Instruction at TOURAcademy TPC Scottsdale www.touracademy.com

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Tom Stickney

    Jan 31, 2015 at 11:03 pm

    Good stuff

  2. Jeff

    Jan 31, 2015 at 9:21 am

    Great read.

  3. P

    Jan 30, 2015 at 12:44 pm

    We need more articles like this to explain to weekenders what really happens with their game and why they score so poorly.

  4. Jay

    Jan 30, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    Great article. Thanks!

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Instruction

Clement: This wrist position can add 30 yards to your drive

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Drop the mic on how the wrists should load and be positioned for compressive power, accuracy, and longevity! There is a better way, and this is it!

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Short Game University: How to hit wedges 301

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In golf, there is nothing harder than judging a flop shot over a bunker to a tight pin out of long grass. Why? Because there are so many variables to account for — in addition to what you can and cannot do with a wedge. In fact, up until very recently in the world of wedge design, we were limited to only increasing the landing angle to stop the ball, because relying on spin from this lie and this close to the green was next to impossible.

Now with the advent of things like raw faces, different CG locations, new groove design, and micro-ribs between the grooves, we can now spin the ball out of lies that we never could have done so before. This is not to say that you can now zip the ball back from these types of lies, but we are seeing spin rates that have skyrocketed, and this allows us to not open the face as much as we needed to do before in order to stop the ball.

Before we get into the shot around the green itself, let’s talk a bit about wedge design. For that, I called a great friend of mine, Greg Cesario, TaylorMade’s Staff Manager to help us understand a bit more about wedges. Greg was a former PGA Tour Player and had a big hand in designing the new Milled Grind 3 Wedges.

Cesario said: “Wedge technology centers on two key areas- the first is optimizing its overall launch/spin (just like drivers) on all shots and the second is optimum ground interaction through the geometry of the sole (bounce, sole width, and sole shape).”

“Two key things impact spin: Groove design and face texture. Spin is the secondary effect of friction. This friction essentially helps the ball stick to the face a little longer and reduces slippage. We define slippage as how much the ball slides up the face at impact. That happens more when it’s wet outside during those early morning tee times, out of thicker lies, or after a bit of weather hits. Our Raised Micro-Ribs increase friction and reduce slippage on short partial shots around the round – that’s particularly true in wet conditions.”

“We’ve been experimenting with ways to find optimal CG (center of gravity) placement and how new geometries can influence that. We know that CG locations can influence launch, trajectory and spin. Everyone is chasing the ability to produce lower launching and higher spinning wedge shots to help players increase precision distance control. In that space, moving CG just a few millimeters can have big results. Beyond that, we’re continuing to advance our spin and friction capabilities – aiming to reduce the decay of spin from dry to fluffy, or wet conditions.”

Basically, what Greg is saying is that without improvements in design, we would never be able to spin the ball like we would normally when it’s dry and the lie is perfect. So, with this new design in a wedge like the Milled Grind 3 (and others!), how can we make sure we have the optimal opportunity to hit these faster-stopping pitch shots?

  1. Make sure the face is clean and dry
  2. Open the blade slightly, but not too much
  3. Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the AoA
  4. Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

Make sure the face is clean and dry

If your thought is to use spin to stop the ball quicker under any situation, then you must give the club a chance to do its job. When the grooves are full of dirt and grass and the remaining exposed face is wet, then you are basically eliminating any opportunity to create spin. In fact, if you decide to hit the shot under these conditions, you might as well hit a flop shot as this would be the only opportunity to create a successful outcome. Don’t put yourself behind the eight-ball automatically, keep your club in a clean and dry condition so you have the best chance to do what you are capable of doing.

Open the blade slightly, but not too much

Without going into too much extra detail, spinloft is the difference between your angle of attack and your dynamic loft. And this difference is one of the main areas where you can maximize your spin output.

Too little or too much spinloft and you will not be able to get the maximum spin out of the shot at hand. With wedges, people equate an open clubface to spinning the ball, and this can be a problem due to excessive spinloft. Whenever you have too much dynamic loft, the ball will slide up the face (reduced friction equals reduced spin) and the ball will float out higher than expected and roll out upon landing.

My thought around the green is to open the face slightly, but not all the way, in efforts to reduce the probability of having too much spinloft during impact. Don’t forget under this scenario we are relying on additional spin to stop the ball. If you are using increased landing angle to stop the ball, then you would obviously not worry about increasing spinloft! Make sure you have these clear in your mind before you decide how much to open the blade.

Opened slightly

Opened too much

One final note: Please make sure you understand what bounce option you need for the type of conditions you normally play. Your professional can help you but I would say that more bounce is better than less bounce for the average player. You can find the bounce listed on the wedge itself. It will range between 4-14, with the mid-range bounce being around 10 degrees.

Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the angle of attack

As we know, when debris gets in between the clubface and the ball (such as dirt/grass), you will have two problems. One, you will not be able to control the ball as much. Secondly, you will not be able to spin the ball as much due to the loss of friction.

So, what is the key to counteract this problem? Increasing the angle of attack by setting the wrists quicker on the backswing. Making your downswing look more like a V rather than a U allows less junk to get between the club and the ball. We are not using the bounce on this type of shot, we are using the leading edge to slice through the rough en route to the ball. Coming in too shallow is a huge problem with this shot, because you will tend to hit it high on the face reducing control.

Use your increased AoA on all of your crappy lies, and you will have a much better chance to get up and down more often!

Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

The final piece of the puzzle through the ball is speed through the pivot. You cannot hit shots around the green out of tall grass without keeping the club moving and having speed. A reduction of speed is obvious as the club enters into the tall grass, but you don’t want to exacerbate this problem by cutting off your pivot and letting the arms do all the work.

Sure, there are times when you want to cut off the body rotation through the ball, but not on the shot I am discussing here. When we are using spin, you must have speed to generate the spin itself. So, what is the key to maintaining your speed? Keeping the rear shoulder rotating long into the forward swing. If you do this, you will find that your arms, hands, and club will be pulled through the impact zone. If your pivot stalls, then your speed will decrease and your shots will suffer.

Hopefully, by now you understand how to create better shots around the green using the new wedge technology to create more spin with lies that we had no chance to do so before. Remembering these simple tips — coupled with your clean and dry wedge — will give you the best opportunity to be Tiger-like around the greens!

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Instruction

An awesome drill for lag that works with the ball!

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Many lag drills have come and gone in this game because they have a hard time working when the ball is there! How many times do you hear about someone having a great practice swing and then having it all go away when the ball is there? This one is a keeper!

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