The standard, by-the-book advice when you're behind a tree is to play safely out to the fairway. But what if you're down in your match and need to make something happen? Or it's the 18th hole and you need a par to break 90 for the first time? You don't care if you make triple because the chance to shoot 89 is right in front of you—or, more accurately, right on the other side of that tree. With a few tweaks, you should be able to throw your ball up high over that tall boy and keep your momentum going.
SET UP TO CREATE LOFT
Let's say you have 150 yards to the green, normally a 7-iron, but you need the loft of an 8-iron to clear the tree. Take the 7-iron and make these adjustments:
1. Widen your stance so the insides of your feet are just outside your shoulders.
2. Aim the clubface at the target, then align your feet about 10 degrees open.
3. Play the ball an inch farther forward than normal. Swing the club along your stance line to hit down on the ball a little.
MAKE A STEEP BACKSWING
You should feel as though the clubhead is outside your hands as it nears hip height in your backswing. This will be easier to accomplish after the adjustments you made to your setup. Even if the clubhead isn't actually outside your hands, trying to get it there will open the clubface. Your swing will feel steeper than normal, as though you're lifting the club straight up as you reach the top. The goal is to produce a downswing with enough force to help the ball jump up in a hurry.
ADJUST YOUR RELEASE
On a normal shot you release the club so that the toe passes the heel and your arms extend the club low past impact. This is exactly what you don't want when you're trying to hit your ball over a tree. Instead, try to keep the clubface open for as long as possible. To do this, think about folding your arms quickly to get the club pointing at the sky. This is a vertical release, and if you normally tend to slice the ball it should feel very natural. (In fact, slicers have a distinct advantage when hitting over a tree, due to their steep swings.) Make a few practice passes to get the hang of this vertical release. At impact, it should feel as if the club is in contact with the grass for only a moment before coming back up.