The Most Important Aspect to a Solid Short Game

Good players see things that average players don’t. For instance, they don’t just read the slope of the green, but how that slope fits into the overall lay of the land. Many of these very subtle nuances to the game take years of experience to recognize. Your average golfer grabs a club, stands over the ball, and whacks it with a general sense of “Let’s get this thing closer.” Repeat.

Additionally, it is widely accepted that the fastest way to improve your golf score is to improve your short game, and one of the most overlooked aspects of the short game may very well the most important piece: the lie of the golf ball. It dictates everything.

Learning how a shot will be affected based upon how the golf ball sits in the grass is critical to improving your touch and execution around the greens. Check out our handy rundown of some of the basic lies you’ll find around the putting surface and how they impact your shot selection.

Thick rough

Sitting up

sitting up

Just because your ball is in the tall grass doesn’t necessarily put you at a disadvantage. When the ball is sitting up in fluffy grass, you can play just about every shot in the book because you’re able to make clean contact with the back of the ball. Making clean contact can be a bit tricky from this lie though because the tendency is to strike the ball higher on the clubface, which can result in a higher trajectory and decreased velocity – ultimately, the ball comes up short. The best way to counteract this is to take a less lofted club and brush the tips of the grass with your clubhead during your practice swings. This will help make sure the club bottoms out at the right depth.


Sitting down

sitting down

If you’ve gotten a bad break and the ball is sitting down in the rough, your options are pretty limited. It will be difficult to get the ball in the air because there isn’t much room to slide the club between the ground and the ball. Additionally, you can expect to produce very little spin on the ball since there will be so much grass between your club and the ball. Finally, the ball tends to come up short of the target because the grass will absorb some of the club’s energy.

For these reasons, the most common and safe shot to play from this lie is the chunk-and-run chip shot. Hit down on the ball and expect it to come out low and run like a putt.


Tight lie

tight lie

Tight lies make average golfers nervous because there is minimal room for error. The ground is usually firm, and if the shot is hit fat or thin at all, the results could be disastrous. The shot selection from safest-to-riskiest is the lowest (putt) to highest (lob). Using the putter in this situation can be a great call, especially if the player lacks confidence from this lie. At the end of the day, even a poor putt is likely to end up better than a decent wedge.

The biggest advantage to this lie is that the ball will spin likely crazy. Even low running chip shots will grab a bit, and pitches and flops should stop almost as soon as they land.



Clean lie

clean lie

This is another lie that offers a great deal of versatility. If you need some zip on the ball, pick it clean with an open clubface and the ball will spin quickly, similar to a tight lie. If you need the ball to run out a bit more, you can hit in the sand behind the ball and intentionally hit the ball fat. This will limit the contact between the club and ball and impart much less spin.

In order to pick the ball cleanly, it’s important to use the bounce on the sole of your wedge to glide the club cleanly through the sand and under the ball. To hit the ball fat, use more of the leading edge of the club to dig into the sand and pop the ball up.


Plugged lie


This is one of the most difficult lies to play from because it’s difficult to judge. How far the ball sits down in the sand will determine how much sand you are forced to take and how the ball will come out. Don’t expect a shot from this lie to have any spin. The ball will also likely come out at a lower trajectory because it’s difficult to get the club down into the sand and below the ball, since it’s sitting down.

Another factor to consider is how much moisture is in the sand. If the sand is very damp, it will be harder to hit through and thus require a more powerful shot. If the sand is dry and fluffy, the club has a tendency to pass through it more easily.

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