Here's my tip of the month: Always stand behind your ball and look down the target line to evaluate the lie and the shot. Take the photo on the lower left: I see a perfect fairway lie and a beautiful area around the pin for putting. This makes me feel that I should take dead aim for the flag and play for an up-and-down. There seems to be enough room short of the pin to allow me to carry the ball a couple of steps onto the green and stop it near the hole. I also notice a terrace behind the pin, which should act as a backstop if I fly the shot a little too far, especially if there's backspin on the ball. My feel tells me that a 50-yard sand-wedge swing (Image A, below) from this clean lie should produce the perfect trajectory and backspin.
|Photos by Leonard Kamsler|
Now put my ball two steps back, in the first cut of rough, and what I see tells an entirely different story. With the ball sitting down slightly, I'm sure to catch a little grass between the clubface and ball at impact, which will reduce backspin and prohibit me from stopping a sand wedge near the hole. From this lie, I need to make a 55-yard swing with my L-wedge (B), which should produce a higher, softer-landing shot, even though it will have less spin than I'd like.
If I drop back another two paces, I find the heavy rough. I'm sure to trap lots of grass between the clubface and ball, so I'll make sure my L-wedge grooves are clean and dry (to get all the spin I can), open the face a fraction (to add a little loft), aim slightly left of the pin (to compensate for the open face), and swing for a 60-yard carry (C). This should ensure that I carry the water, even if the ball comes out slower than expected. I need to launch the ball high, because it won't have much backspin and will have to come down almost vertically to have a chance at stopping near the hole.
As similar as these three shots look, each requires a different approach. The lie dictates what you can and cannot do, and a slight mistake can be costly. Read your lies carefully, so you can plan well and execute with confidence.