You Try To Go Around A Tree, But Nail It Dead Centre

Finding yourself behind a big tree is no fun. But slamming your next shot into the trunk is enough to make you want to walk off the course. Like I tell my students, “When you’re in trouble, get out in one shot.” In recent years we’ve learned from TrackMan and other launch monitors that the angle of the clubface at impact determines a shot’s starting direction much more than the swing path does. So when players swear they swung left or right of a tree but hit it anyway, it means the clubface was pointing at the tree at impact.

Here are four simple steps to getting around obstacles:

1. For solid contact, choke down, stand closer to the ball, and swing about 70 per cent.

2. The old adage, “Aim the clubface where you want the ball to finish and swing where you want it to start” has been proved wrong. Aim the face where you want the ball to start. And give yourself some room for error.

3. Open your stance for a slice or close it for a draw, then swing along your stance line.

4. To keep it low, use a long iron. Play it back, and stand narrow.

Follow this plan. You’ll save strokes, and lots of frustration.

Under Pressure,. Go For The Dunk
Anytime you’re in a stressful situation, you can choose to think of it as a burden or an opportunity. Approach it like a basketball player in a slam-dunk contest: Here’s your chance to show off. The way your eyes track is crucial. If the last thing you look at is the tree you don’t want to hit, chances are you’ll be subconsciously drawn to it. Force yourself to look only at your distant target through the opening, then give it a rip.

Phil Mickelson

Mickelson’s Best Shot Ever
In the 2010 Masters, Phil Mickelson came to the par-5 13th hole with a one-shot lead. He drove it into the right trees, some 180 metres from the green. Most other players would have pitched out, but not Phil. He saw a window, grabbed his 6-iron, and hit it to four feet. “The gap wasn’t huge, but it was big enough for a ball to fit through,” Mickelson joked afterwards. He made birdie and eventually won by three over Lee Westwood.

– Jim McLean is a Golf Digest Teaching Professional.