SI Vault
Arnold Palmer
August 09, 1965
A man renowned for his bold trouble shots shows the brave how to hit off hard ground, over trees, off sides of hills, out of holes and through a fringe
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August 09, 1965

Seeing Through Some Dirty Lies

A man renowned for his bold trouble shots shows the brave how to hit off hard ground, over trees, off sides of hills, out of holes and through a fringe

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So much for the usual divot shot, but things can get more complicated. For example, there is the situation where the ball is up against the far side of the divot, and then the opposite, where the ball is on the near side. With these, you have got to think about how much the impact might jar the club face. Therefore I close the face somewhat if the ball is on the far side of the divot, and open it some if the ball is on the near side. How much the club should be opened or closed depends, of course, on the hardness of the turf, the depth of the divot and the distance desired. Above all, keep the grip firm and the swing firm, because the part of the club that is coming into the grass will tend to catch and cause a slight twisting of the club face. A firm grip prevents this twisting. Now hit the shot and set off on a firm search for the guy who left the divot there in the first place.


When you hit a poor shot and wind up in trouble, you do not have much to complain about. But when you hit the green and are in trouble, well, that is like being sent to prison for a crime you did not commit. Yet it happens often. What I am talking about is the putt that you cannot stroke properly because it has wound up half on the green and half off. It is right up against the fringe. You cannot get the putter down squarely behind the ball, and when you first try to take a smooth backstroke the club gets caught in the grass. Just when you had the hole practically defeated, fate seems to be demanding a three-putt green.

But you can conquer fate as well as the golf course. Begin by seeing exactly how low you can get the putter behind the ball without really mashing down the grass—which would be illegal. Say you can get a firm rap at half of the ball. That is good enough.

Since this is an unusual shot, you must take a rather unusual putting stroke. A long, slow backstroke followed by a jabbing motion will do the job. You must come down sharply into the ball, since you have to guard against coming into the putt as low as you normally would in order to keep the putter blade from catching in the fringe. What you need is the jab putt—Bob Rosburg style. This means that you stop the stroke at the instant of impact. There is no following-through with the putter toward the hole. This, by the way, is one trouble shot that you should practice regularly, because they are just never going to mow down that silly fringe.

So now I have taken you through about every kind of trouble, from water to woods to sand to the edge of the green. Let me sum it up by restating what I feel are the two most important principles concerning trouble on a golf course, two things you must remember.

First: trouble is bad to get into but fun to get out of.

Second: if you can see the ball you can probably hit it, and if you can hit it you can move it, and if you can move it you might be able to hole it out. So try. It is the trying that is fun.

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