By James Leitz It's Masters week, which means that we'll see a lot of players at Augusta hitting shots off of pine straw. I've been the head golf professional at Pinewood Country Club in Slidell, Louisiana for 31 years, and as the name suggests, I've seen my share of pine-straw lies — though the lies are not as prevalent in recent years, because Hurricane Katrina took out over 1,000 pine trees in 2005.
Playing out of pine straw can be tricky. The first thing you must do is assess the thickness of the straw, just like you do with sand in a bunker. Pine straw can be very slippery, especially on a slope; you can lose your footing very easily when starting your downswing, so be sure to work your feet into the straw and find the bare ground. Your footwork should be very quiet, as in a fairway bunker. Use mostly upper body to swing the club when hitting out of thick straw.
Some lies are trickier than others. If your ball is sitting on top of a significant clump of straw, watch out: You could hit almost completely under it, or strike the ball too high in the face. Also, don't ground the clubhead at address because touching the needles with your club can make the ball move.
While a ball hit out of pine straw reacts similarly to one hit from the first cut of rough, you can control the curve of the ball better hitting out of straw than from the spinach (just ask Bubba Watson, who hit the shot of the tournament off pine straw in 2012, pictured above). This comes in handy because there are usually trees to negotiate when hitting out of the straw! James Leitz is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher (Photo: Al Tielemans/Sports Illustrated)