COURSE STRATEGY – RECOVERY SHOTS
By Michael Balderstone, PGA Master Professional and Founder of the Balderstone Sports Institute
The old adage is “Go where the mower goes” to keep the ball out of trouble. Of course, this is our goal, but no matter our playing ability, we know that occasionally (or sometimes often!!!) we find ourselves in the trees. Golf is essentially a game of recovery, therefore escaping from trouble becomes a key skill that we need to learn if we are to be successful.
Great exponents of this art include the late Seve Ballesteros, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, all aggressive players who could take a risk knowing that they were confident of recovering. It is no coincidence that these guys are also known for exceptional short games. The linking factor is the imagination and visualisation that both skills require.
In most cases it is advisable to take your punishment, play the percentages and get the ball back to the fairway, even if it means chipping out sideways. This is smart course strategy and can eliminate the big numbers on your card. But sometimes we don’t have that option, or we need to take a risk to win a match or tournament. Maybe there is a gap in the trees that is your only way out, but it appears pretty small.
A great mental technique to focus your mind, and build your confidence in pulling the shot off, is to imagine how many golf balls can fit into the gap at the same time. It is normally hundreds, which now makes the gap appear a lot larger and your chances of success far greater. If you commit to the shot with this visualisation in mind, you will find that you too can pull off amazing recovery shots when needed.
Two other things to bear in mind;
- If you need to keep the ball low, swing softly. The harder you hit it the more back spin you impart and therefore the greater the height.
- If you need to curve the ball around a tree, allow more margin when aiming. The ball will start closer to the clubface aim than the swing path, so aim wider around the tree.