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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Playing Off Pine Straw (In Case You're Not Phil)

One of the holes at Congressional that's receiving a lot of attention has the greenside slopes closely mown so the ball will roll down into pine straw. (I think it's the 16th.) This is the only raised green on the course, and the pine straw makes it difficult to get the chip close.

Of course, pine straw is an integral part of many golf courses. If you can play off of it, you can really show off to your playing partners. (Or win a Masters, if you're Phil Mickelson.) Fortunately it's not hard to learn how to play it, and I found a couple of videos that cover the shot.

The first one was shot at Pinehurst, which is only about 2 hours from where I live:

And this second one is more of a checklist of things to keep in mind when you have to play off pine straw:

The main points you need to remember are these:
  • You want to hit the ball before you hit the pine straw, so think of this as a chipping motion. Set up so you're sure you'll hit the ball first. Essentially you'll use your short game setup -- ball back in your stance, weight a bit more on your front foot.
  • Get a solid footing, but be careful not to move the ball when you do. You don't want a penalty shot added to your score.
  • Don't ground your club. Again, if the ball moves because you moved the pine needles, that's a penalty.
  • If you can, determine whether there are any roots or rocks hidden by the straw. You don't want to hurt yourself.
  • Did I mention that you don't want to accidentally move the ball? Be careful!
And remember that not all lies are the same. You may get a lie that lets you really go after the ball, or you may get a "buried lie" where the ball literally looks like an egg in a nest. If you don't have a good lie, don't try to imitate Phil -- just chip it back out and take your medicine.

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