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What Really Happens from the Rough

If you’re like most golfers, you probably aren’t very good when playing from the rough. Even Tour Players sometimes struggle from the rough as it adds an element of difficulty to the shot in that you have to predict how it’s going to come out: fast or slow. In the examples below, I will show you the actual TrackMan launch monitor data for different shots and explain how you can become better at adjusting for playing from the rough.

First, let’s take a look at a normal 7-iron shot for me from the fairway.

As you can see, this is a good lie in the fairway that allows clean and predictable contact. The first shot, I hit a normal 7-iron which flew 161 yards in the air and had 7200 rpm of backspin with a height of 80’. The second shot carried 159 yards, had 6800 rpm of backspin and a height of 83’. Both these shots are right around what I expect from a normal/average 7-iron, 160 yards of carry, around 7,000rpm of spin and an apex around 82'. They are very predictable shots and consistent.

Below are two very different lies in the rough: one sitting up and the other sitting down.

What would you expect to happen from each of these different lies?

Taking a look at the TrackMan launch monitor data from each of these shots, you can see they are very different. The ball sitting up in the rough (pictured above left), the flyer lie, flew 172 yards in the air while the ball sitting down in the rough (pictured above right) only flew 139 yards, a whopping difference of 33 yards with the same 7-iron. Both shots had a much lower spin rate of 3100 rpm and 4900 rpm respectively versus the shots from the fairway that averaged 7000 rpm of backspin. This is one of the keys to the flyer lie: the ball travels about the same height, but with dramatically lower backspin. There is less resistance to the ball traveling through the air with less spin, allowing the ball to travel noticeably further. With the bad lie, the grass prevents clean contact, slows down the club head and slows the ball down as it launches up and out of the grass, all leading to lower spin, lower ball flight, less ball speed and a shorter carry distance.

With the Masters coming up next week, you will see that the rough is very short compared to most weeks on tour. While this short rough may seem innocuous, the potential loss of distance control can prove costly on a course that demands precise distance control. Watch for flyer lies as the best players in the world play from this short rough and see how the rough limits their ability to control the distance the ball flies and the way the ball stops or doesn't stop on the greens.

Reading the lie and being able to predict how the ball will react are keys to being able to successfully play a shot from the rough. Make sure you pay attention to how the ball is sitting and use this information to help you with club selection, target selection and address and swing modifications so that you can pull off a successful shot.


Dale Abraham is a GOLF Magazine "Top 100 Teacher," a Golf Digest "Top Teacher in State" (CA) and a GRAA Top 50 Teacher - Elite Member Status as well as a 2-time PGA Section Teacher of the Year.

Dale can be reached at


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