How to Punch Out From Behind a Tree

If you’ve hit a hard hook or slice in your lifetime, you have probably found yourself in a horrible spot: behind a tree. You can see the green straight ahead, but there’s an oak trunk in the way. Or a pine. Or an evergreen. Doesn’t matter. It’s still awful.

If you’ve tried to hit from behind the tree and actually STRUCK the tree itself, that’s an even worse feeling. Suddenly, your ball has ricocheted and is now ten feet behind you (behind a different tree). Yikes.

Some tentative players may take the easiest route of just wasting a stroke by hitting onto the fairway, perpendicular to the line to the green. If you’re worried about hitting your 5-iron, or you don’t trust yourself to clear the tree, that’s a pretty safe bet. But if you’re looking to get competitive and minimize your strokes, it’s a good idea to learn how to hook around a tree, or any other obstacle, for that matter.

Use the Right Club

Think low. You want to hit low, skirting around the base of the tree. One of the only things worse than being at the bottom of a tree is being stuck up in the branches of a tree. Choose a 4-iron or 5-iron for this shot.

Additionally, get comfortable with the club. It’s tempting at the range to only hit the “pretty” clubs – the 7’s and the woods and the drivers. The straight, low shots from a 5-iron are a great secret weapon to have in your golf arsenal. Next time you hit the range, punch a few balls with your 5-iron. Get comfortable with the club and how it swings.

Aim Your Body

Your feet and hips and shoulders should align with the starting point of where you would like the ball to begin its curve and journey. That’s a really wordy way of saying aim to the right side of the tree. Aim your body to the open. If you’re a lefty, aim to the left side.

Aim Your Club

Your club face will need to point directly at the place you wish you could hit your ball to. That means you’ll need to turn the club in your hands, making it a more closed club face. It may feel strange, but take a practice swing while you’re on the range. Note how the smallest turn in your hands makes the ball hook. It’s a habit that golfers usually try to break – but to hit around a tree, you’ve got to master the hook instead.

Relax and Punch

If you tense up during the shot, you may end up tightening your grip – and then you’ll undo the left aim and closed club face. Hit down on the ball, but do so with hands that are slightly flexible, so that your wrists have the freedom to turn how you need them to turn in order to successfully hook.

To create a planned hook shot, imagine you’re making a triangle. One leg of the triangle is the alignment of your feet. The next leg is the line you would want your ball to go if there was no tree or obstacle. The last line will not be a line, but rather a curve – it will be the hook of your golf ball as it travels from your leg line to your club line.

Please note, if you’re stuck just a few feet (or inches) behind a tree, this method probably won’t work. You’ll need to absorb that extra stroke and punch out to safety on the fairway.

Can’t stop hooks or slices even when you aren’t stuck behind a pesky tree? Read How to Stop Hooks and Slices.

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