Your Lie Dictates Your Shot

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.

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