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Saturday, July 23, 2011

What Rough? This Is Hardpan!

At the end of my post about playing from greenside rough I joked that "'if the weather stays this hot, I may have to post a tip on playing hardpan... or maybe cracked mud." Dexter commented that many of the courses he played were already to that point.

You -- my readers -- ask, I answer. Here's a post on playing hardpan.

I've got two vids on the subject here, one by teaching pro Greg McClure and one by some guy named Haney. ;-) It's neat because I don't often get videos that show the same shot from both left and right, but it also demonstrates just how simple and how difficult one shot can be.

After the videos, I'll give you a simple technique that will encompass the best of both teachers' approaches:

Ok, you see what I mean. Let's look at the basic problem both teachers addressed.

The driving principle is simple: If you play from hardpan, you have to hit the ball first. Quite frankly, this isn't much different than hitting any other shot except for one thing. A shot played from a cushion of grass gives you a margin for error. If you hit just a bit fat, the club doesn't bounce as bad. If the lie is thick enough, the club might even slide right under the ball. That's why you sometimes play very deep lies as if they were bunker shots.

We don't get that forgiveness here. If the club hits the ground first, it bounces up hard and fast! So if we make an error, it has to be that we hit down too sharply on the ball. McClure's warning about bounce comes into play here. So the second principle is clear: The more bounce your club has, the more critical it is that you hit the ball first.

What's the best way to do this? Principle #3: Play hardpan shots -- even full shots -- with a short game setup. Think Stack & Tilt, baby! Put the ball back a bit in your stance, lean the club shaft forward so your hands are ahead of the ball, set your weight a bit more onto your leading side (right side for lefties, left side for righties), and keep it there throughout the stroke!

BTW, this is why Haney is talking about hitting a cut shot. Many players open their stance and play cut shots when they use a short game setup. It gives them a bit more room to swing the club without hitting their hands against their leading hip. You don't have to play a cut shot if you don't want or need to, but that's why Haney suggests it.

Final principle: Make sure you hold the club firmly. When you hit down into the ball and that ball squirts off the lie, the club is going to hit hard ground. It's going to hit hard. It won't be comfortable, and if you aren't holding the club firmly you might hurt yourself and then add insult to injury by mis-hitting the shot as well. You don't need a death grip or anything, but you need to hold the club a bit more firmly and be ready for the jolt.

Like most things in golf, this shot just isn't that "hard" (sorry, couldn't resist) but you need to understand what to do. Set up for a normal short game shot, hit the ball first, and be ready for the jolt when the club hits the ground. Do that, and it's basically just like any other chip or pitch.

1 comment:

  1. "The more bounce your club has, the more critical it is that you hit the ball first." Now I understand why I struggled with this shot during my last round.

    On two occasions I found myself faced with a hardpan lie. I thought I was in good shape because on both shots, I was only 110 yards out. This is perfect sand wedge distance for me. Both shots, however, resulted in the ball going half the distance needed.

    The sand wedge, I realize now, has too much bounce for this shot. I should have taken my gap or pitching wedge and hit the shot described above.

    I'm playing a course this coming week which has some areas that are certainly classified as hardpan. Let's hope I drive the ball well so I don't have to execute this shot. But if I do, I'm ready. Thanks.