Photo & video by Joachim Guay
By Matthew Brookes
Ever hit an approach shot out of the rough which drops out of the sky and finishes short or conversely comes out hot and flies the green? Chances are you’ve experienced both frustrations, perhaps even on the same hole. Understanding the science behind inconsistent strikes out of the deep stuff can help save and even transform your round.
It’s important to understand how hitting out of thick grass affects impact and how the ball flies as a result. The grooves on your clubs cause friction, thus helping grip the ball. This, combined with loft and the resulting launch angle, helps the ball spin and fly through the air.
At impact in the rough, it is easy to trap grass between the ball and the clubface. This will reduce friction and grip on the ball, which in turn reduces the launch and spin. Less spin and a lower launch angle can cause the ball to drop out of the sky while reduced spin and optimal launch can cause the ball to fly further. This is very hard to judge but we can have an educated guess. Clubhead speed will affect the drop off point where distance is lost so the faster the clubhead speed, the longer the club you can hit without losing total carry distance.
What to do?
Imagine you have a flag that’s 160 yards away and the ball lying in thick rough. Due to the changed conditions at impact, we now know what will happen due to the grass. An educated guess has me thinking his shot will now play around 10 yards shorter. So 150 yards is now the distance and we choose a club accordingly. For myself in this situation, I would move from a 9 iron to a pitching wedge. The combination of increased loft on the club and reduction in spin due to the grass will help generate the optimal ball flight or “a flyer” and make it travel the required distance. With a little knowledge, it’s easy to say goodbye to those shots that finish shy for fly long and reach for your putter instead. Good luck with the birdie putt.
Matthew Brookes is a new PGA teaching professional and golf specific fitness trainer at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht club’s Peter Cowen Academy Dubai.