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Threading Shots Through Gaps In The Trees Stroke Savers

I have played golf for more than 40 years. Most days on the course I find myself shaking my head at the dreadful decisions people make, especially after hitting their tee shot into the trees. The sound of the ball pinging around amongst Japanese cedars happens far to often and even has begun to creep into my dreams. You cannot imagine my frustration as I watch hard-working students not improve their scores because they try to weave their ball through a gap in the trees that even Phil Mickelson wouldn't attempt. Inevitably they end up with scorecard wrecking 9 and I realise their recent lobotomy was a complete success.

Golf courses in Japan are mostly parkland-style courses whose fairways are heavily tree-lined. It is quite a rare occurrence to play links golf here. Even the much revered Kawana courses have some holes where an errant tee shot will have you amongst some pretty menacing trees. The ability to extricate yourself from trouble is an important ingredient to enjoying yourself in Japan and shooting some decent scores.

The average golfer's mindset, after a poor shot, is often to make up for it with a brilliant one. Professional golfers have much different thought patterns. Professionals are fabulous at risk analysis and understanding the percentages of playing the smart shot versus the risky one.  Through experience, they often see the sideways chip out as the only option because bogey is your friend with par a distinct possibility.

What To Do

The Golden rule when in the trees is this. Firstly look for the easiest route back to the fairway. This often means you must quell your ego and chip out sideways. No hero shots, please. Secondly whilst in the trees you must “Look Up”. What I am referring to is checking the overhanging branches in front of you. More experienced players might have the right idea of taking the most direct route back to the fairway. However, because they are only trying to move the ball 30 or 40 yards they feel compelled to use a pitching or sand wedge because that is their “short distance” club. The ball inevitably pops up and hits the branches in front of them, ending up in a worse predicament. Sometimes they take their wedge play it off their back foot and lean the shaft forward to keep the ball low. That generally doesn't work either. It is a shot they rarely practice and end up duffing it 5 feet in front of them.

Do this. Choose a 5 or 6 or maybe a 7 iron. Play it off the middle of your stance. These clubs naturally have less loft so it is easier to make the ball come out low. I suggest all golfers practice these shots. Try to hit them between 10 to 40 yards to create a feeling of how much backswing is necessary to control the length of the shot in front of them. Simple.

So in summary:
1. Choose the easiest way back to the fairway.
2. “Look Up” to understand the best trajectory for the shot.
3. Choose a low lofted iron.

Oh and please stop trying to thread your ball through tiny gaps in the trees to get closer to the green. You are not good enough to control the direction and trajectory of such a precise shot. Especially if you don't practice them... Rant over!

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