IT’S one thing to pure it off a range mat or spongy grass in the middle of the fairway, but you’re really not playing good golf until you can hit good shots from the tough lies. I’m talking about when your ball is sitting in the rough, or when it’s in a depression like a divot hole, or when the lie is bare or super tight. Knowing how to handle those situations will make you a better player because, let’s face it, more often than not your ball isn’t going to be sitting pretty.

With an assist from my swing coach, Randy Smith, I’m going to walk you through the adjustments you need to hit it solid with your irons from anywhere. But first, here’s a good swing thought to improve your iron play: feel like the club is moving just above the ground for as long as possible in the follow-through. It’s something I’ve been working on that will help you, too; especially if you try to help the ball up with a scoopy swing. Let the club do the work instead. Now here’s the rest of my advice for better iron play.      

with Ron Kaspriske

1. The Deep Stuff

make a stronger pivot Around your front leg

Cody Gribble

Most amateurs I play with don’t have enough swing speed to power the ball out of the rough. They need more loft, so a 5-iron is probably not a good club selection. They also need to get their weight more on the front foot as they swing down. For me, that’s the right leg. For right-handers, it’s the left. The death move is to try to lift the ball out by swinging off your back leg. That puts too much grass between the clubhead and the ball. Instead, as you swing down, feel like your front leg is a super sturdy post, and pivot your body around it. This will produce a more vertical swing path to hit the ball solidly. Expect it to come out lower with less backspin.

2. Terra Firma

Put the club on the back of the ball

Cody Gribble

When there’s no cushion of grass under the ball, I’ve seen a lot of amateurs freak out. Don’t. This shot is not that demanding if you remember one thing: give the back of the ball a smack with the clubhead. That means your club should ride along the ground a little longer through the impact zone, taking a thin divot after the hit. A great drill Randy uses to teach this swing is to tee a ball 1/16th of an inch off the turf and have students try to shear the head off the tee with a 7-iron. If they do it, the ball takes off like a rocket. Decapitating an imaginary tee under the ball also is a great image to use on the course.

3. In A Crater

Lead with the shaft

Cody Gribble

Whether it’s a hole from a divot or some other type of depression where your feet are slightly above the ball, I’m hoping your instincts kick in, and you realise you can’t “lift” it out of this lie. You’ve got to hit down on the ball. In fact, Randy teaches some students how to use longer clubs by having them hit balls out of these lies. A good thought for this shot is to have the shaft leaning towards the target as you strike the ball.


Cody Gribble, 26, won in his second start as a US PGA Tour member (Sanderson Farms Championship), but nudging an alligator back into the water at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March was his viral moment on social media.