Tree trouble is no trouble: make a posture adjustment to escape

Monday March 19th, 2012
Your regular address position won’t work in this situation, but by bending over more at setup while choking down, you can create a vertical swing that misses the tree going back. Another great escape!
Leonard Kamsler

 

Your drive has ended up next to a tree. For most players this scenario usually leads to a penalty stroke—"I'll take an unplayable." That's certainly a smart way to handle the situation, because as you can see in the first photo above, taking your normal stance with a 60-degree wedge means striking the tree almost immediately at the start of your backswing.

Another solution would be to go to the other side of the ball and swing an upside-down 4-iron left-handed for a bump-and-run shot up to the green. I know many pros and even some amateurs who have practiced left-handed swings enough to pull this off. But if you've never practiced lefty shots, or have a hard time pulling off bump-and-run shots even with your everyday right-handed swing, this isn't a realistic option, either.

There is, however, another play that you may not have considered: Stick with a right-handed swing approach, but change your setup posture by bending over sharply at your waist and playing the ball back in your stance. If you then also grip down on the shaft and stand closer to the ball, you'll naturally produce a drastically more upright (closer to vertical) swing plane, and you'll be able to fit the club into the space between the ball and the tree (as shown in the third photo).

Swinging on a more vertical plane isn't too difficult an adjustment to make, but to generate enough power with a short-shafted club (i.e., to get the ball all the way to the green) you'll have to swing harder than normal. By using a 7- or 8-iron (delofted because you're playing the ball back in your stance) you can carry the thick rough before rolling the shot up to the green (last photo).

How much do you need to bend over at the waist? Every case will be different. My simple answer: Bend over and tilt your swing plane until it becomes vertical enough to clear the tree. Try this shot and a few lefty swings during your next practice round—it'll be nice to have both options ready for your next great escape.

 

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