It may not happen often, but every now and then the weekend golfer hits a shot so far off line that it strays into an area of his golf course that was never really intended for play—a place where the rough is knee-deep. Usually he takes an unplayable lie, or hacks it out in three or four shots and tries to forget the whole thing. The pros, on the other hand, rarely face such a shot. But two weeks ago, at the British Open in Muirfield, we all received a reminder of what high rough is like. The grass bordering the fairways at Muirfield not only was a foot to 18 inches deep, it was topped with a heavy head of grain that caused the stalks to droop.
Two types of shots are involved when the rough is this deep: one for when you are a considerable distance from the green, the other for when you are just at the edge of it. On the longer shot you must surrender any hope of trying to reach the green. Your goal is merely to get the ball onto the side of the fairway that will best open up the green for the next shot. By doing this, you may reduce what seems to be a certain loss of one stroke to something like half a stroke. You should use a wedge or a nine-iron, because these clubs have enough loft to get the ball up quickly and enough clubhead weight to fight through the grass. The blade should be opened at address, for the grass will grip the clubhead as it comes down and tend to close the face. The backswing should be upright to reduce the quantity of grass that must be mowed through, and the downswing hard, with the left hand extremely firm. You won't get much distance, but you should be able to hit far enough to reach the proper side of the fairway.
An explosion shot is the best answer to deep grass around the greens, though it takes a little nerve. You should hit two or three inches behind the ball, just as if hitting from sand, and emphasize the follow-through, for that is what gets the ball up. The explosion shot out of deep grass behaves the same way it would if hit from sand, landing softly and not rolling very far.