Tricky shots around the green
You do not come across these shots everyday and they are seldom practiced. Yet I bet in a crucial situation you have had to play one of the following shots and it has caused you to lose strokes! So, let me add some tools to your short game tool box with an explanation of some tricky shots around the green.
Ball against the collar:
There are 4 ways to play this and which one you choose depends on the severity of the collar. The first one is to use the toe of the putter. This works as you have reduced the surface area so you have less to get tangled up in the rough. Make sure that the toe is square when you do this as often it is actually open and the ball squirts right. Make your normal putting stroke keeping your wrists out of the shot as with a regular putt.
You can also blade a wedge. This is a common shot and is low risk. Simply hold the wedge as if it were a putter, shaft high, eyes over the ball etc. Hover the club so that the leading edge is level with the equator of the ball. Then simply make your normal putting stroke and you will thin the ball or top it onto the green. The ball will roll a lot so practice some of these shots to improve your feel.
A 3 wood is another common option. It is played the same as the bladed wedge but has the advantage of being a club with a wide sole so it skids better through the rough. Lastly, a shot that Michael Campbell showed me is to get the ball way outside your right foot. Keeping the left shoulder low make a short 'chop' swing at the ball with your most lofted club. The ball will skid out and then actually check on its way to the hole. A great shot from a tall collar, but needs practice.
There are two ways to hit from the rough. You first need to understand how the club works. On a normal shot off a tight lie you want the front edge to hit the ground to nip the ball off the turf. In the rough the front edge will get tangled in the longer grass. You need the back edge or bounce to allow the club to skid through the rough. So here are two methods, try both and see which you like.
To get the ball out soft, spinny and consistently we have to set up in a way that allows the back edge to skid. Stand open with your body, get the ball in the middle of your stance and lean the shaft back away from the target. Keep the face fairly square as you are going to add loft as you hit it. Make a backswing with little or no hinge, feeling like you drag the club. Then on the way through, scoop your right hand under your left. This goes against what many have been told, but I can assure you that it works. This is the exact shot Michael Campbell used to chip-in on the last hole at Bay hill in 2002 to win $444,000! Again, this shot takes practice but works really well. Make sure that you have plenty of speed in your stroke as the grass slows the club down.
A more conventional way is to stand open with the clubface open getting the ball back a hint. Then make a choppy backswing with a lot of speed. Hitting into the grass like a plugged bunker shot. This works great if you let your wrists scoop a little during the hit so that the back edge can skid. Both shots are effective but I feel the first one is easier and more effective and is favoured by many pros.
Again, the nemesis of this shot is the bounce or back edge of the club. If that makes contact with a sandy lie you will not hit the ball crisply and therefore not hit it far enough. To stop any bounce, a trick is to get the club up on it's toe as there is no bounce there! Simply stand close and tall with the shaft high, much like a putt. Move the ball back and weight left to encourage a downward hit. Then make a putting stroke. The ball will come off the dead area of the toe and will be struck crisply everytime.
Ball above feet, outside the bunker:
This shot is about getting comfortable at address. You have to adjust your legs and feet a lot to get the feeling of being in a level position to hit it. You must grip right down the grip with the ball back a touch. Because of how level and high the shaft is at address the swing is very rounded. All you can do is make a short little stabby stroke. Do not use too much loft as the shaft angle will make the ball go left. So aim a touch right to allow for this.
The buried lie is more psychological than anything. It is actually an easy shot as you have only one option, to blast it out! A good trick that Seve showed a player I teach is to stand wide and dig the feet in, then get the left shoulder low and keep it there throughout the stroke. Breaking the wrists a lot and hitting hard into the ground the ball will pop out. Experiment with the clubface a little. Slightly closed at address makes the club act like an ice cream scoop. But for the more advanced if you open the face and put the heel of the club near the ball you will find that the ball will pop out higher and even have a little backspin!
Firstly, the club you use here is de-lofted due to the slope. So get your lob wedge or most lofted club out! The secret is to get your shoulders parallel to the ground as much as possible as if on level ground. This will take a lot of adjustment of weight and knee bend to get right and feel comfortable, using them much like the independent suspension on a car. You must also aim left and get the ball back a touch or you will hit the slope before the ball. The downhill slope encourages a swing that cuts across the ball, so make sure that you aim left and have the face open to allow for this. Making your backswing you will feel restricted due to the slope stopping your turn. On the way through make sure that you keep your knees as bent as they were at address as the slope encourages you to come up and out of the shot.
All these shots are fun to practice and can save shots at crucial times, so get out there and give them a try!