Golf courses have trees for a number of reasons. To break up the holes, narrow fairways, and creating more challenges for golfers are among the most common.
If you hit your ball under or into a tree, you are in good company; it is very common and happens to even the best golfers. The good news is, with a little practice, there are many methods to get it out.
Imagination and practice make hitting through, around, over, and under trees possible. Mental skills are important when it comes to tree shots. You must visualize and feel the movements for the best results.
Next time you are at the driving range, try practicing some of the techniques below and you will be better prepared for those tricky tree shots.
- Hitting Under Low Branches – Punch Shot
If the ball comes to rest on a clean lie, it is possible to hit a low shot under tree branches with decent accuracy. Try the classic “punch shot” here to keep the ball flight low and avoid getting it caught in any branches on its way to the green. First, choose a longer club from your bag. Place the ball back in your stance. This pairing will help to keep the ball low. Aim a little to the right of your target, as the ball will go more left. Use more shoulder action and less legs. Choke down. Choose an alignment mark a foot ahead of the ball. Swing with confidence and purpose, although you likely won’t need a full swing here
It is important to note that this type of shot will likely not work from heavy rough; you will be better off chipping out.
- Hitting Over a Tree
If you are going over a tree, the technique is different. You will need a full swing with a high flight. Choose a club with a high loft (such as a wedge) that will get the ball up in the air. Play the ball forward in your stance. Open the clubface a little. Swing hard.
This is another shot that will be difficult from heavy rough (or a bare lie). When in doubt, chip it out.
- Tree Trunk – Left-Handed Shot
Sometimes a tree trunk will prevent a swing. It is possible to hit the ball left-handed with practice. Turn your iron on its toe or use the back of a blade putter, if you have one. Make sure you take several practice swings to get your rhythm. This will feel unnatural to you (unless you are ambidextrous). Use this shot to advance the ball 50 yards or less and get to a safer lie.
- Tree Trunk – Backhanded Shot
If the ball is beside the tree trunk, it is also possible to hit it backhanded. Stand beside the ball with your back towards the target. For a right-handed golfer, the ball should be beside your right foot. Using your right hand only, swing the club towards the target. Similar to the left-handed shot, this shot is also used to advance the ball a short distance into a safer spot of play.
- Tree Trunk – Shoulder Brace
Sometimes the tree trunk is ahead of the ball in your stance, preventing a full swing. In this case, you can lean against the trunk with your left shoulder. Choose a longer club. Brace against the tree trunk and take a hard and short backswing to punch the ball forward.
The most important thing when it comes to tricky tree shots is practice! Practicing these shots at the range before a round will help you be better prepared and have more confidence.
Tree shots can save a stroke but always think about damage control first. Hitting a tree twice is never fun. The saying that trees are 90% air is more false than true. When in doubt, just chip it out!