Golf tends to keep us humble because designers strategically placed water hazards and bunkers right where we want to hit the ball. Those are some obvious challenges, but there’s also the issue of tall grass or rough that can trip us up. Especially when trying to decide what golf club to use in the rough?
Escaping from rough or high grass along a fairway or around the green is most often accomplished by using an iron. Some golfers also use a wedge, Hybrid club, or fairway wood. Their choice is dictated by several criteria, such as distance to the hole and height of the grass.
Golf is fun, but plenty of science goes with making the best of your ability and equipment. There’s a science to the answer too, and golf equipment manufacturers spend millions of dollars designing and testing clubs before spending millions more convincing golfers to buy their new products.
For better golf scores, follow these steps as we explain how to evaluate which club to use for any patch of rough you might encounter on the golf course.
Step Number 1: Evaluate your Rough
There’s no way to explain what golf club to use in the rough until you determine your lie. If your golf ball is perched on the top of the rough; lucky you! Choose whichever club you typically use to get the distance you need.
However, if your ball has settled into some thick fescue grass, it may be hardly visible, and the tall grass maybe 4 to 10 inches high.
The “rough” in golf is considered long grass that is off the fairway. The rough is harder to hit out of and takes more power to get the ball to where you want it to go.
The longer and thicker the grass, the harder it will be to swing a club through accurately. High loft clubs with an open face like a wedge are easier to swing through the grass since there’s less friction as the blade-like clubhead sweeps through the grass.
Flat-faced clubs like a two-iron or a driver get bogged down and thrown off course by the grass.
So, evaluate your rough spot: grass density, ball depth, distance to the hole, and swing speed. And be honest.
Golf courses have rough to punish players for straying from the fairway. That’s the whole point – and why you’ll have to adjust to your current situation instead of just using the clubs you usually play from the middle of the fairway.
Step Number 2: Choose Your Swing
Playing out of long rough is brutal. The club face will be slowed down, but so will the club’s shaft as it meets high grass, slowing down your swing by about 10%.
Don’t worry about that. Take a steady but not overpowering swing (which may seem counter-intuitive) to ensure you make better contact with the ball.
Over-swinging makes things worse as your accuracy is reduced, and the physics of the grass against your club closes the face and pushes your shot left. To combat these issues, aim slightly right.
You’ll also want to stand closer to the ball, perhaps two or three inches, to increase your drive angle and reduce how much grass your shaft travels through. These two changes will increase your accuracy considerably.
Step Number 3: Choose a Club for Short Rough
In rough slightly taller than the fairway, you can safely use a fairway wood for distance without making any other changes. Just expect to see a slight reduction in distance. Consider a three-wood for distances you usually hit a five-wood.
You can also use a hybrid club successfully out of short rough. Many men can substitute a 5-iron or a 5-hybrid for distances they usually strike a six-iron, about 140 to 190 yards. Most women would expect a 6-hybrid to travel between 110 to 150 yards.
Remember that coming out of the rough will slightly reduce the flight of the golf ball as it won’t get the loft often obtained on a standard fairway strike.
Step Number 4: Choose a Club for Long Rough
Long grass is where your wedge clubs are necessary. Professional golfers who maintain more swing speed and strength aren’t perturbed by moderate rough but are likely to choose a low iron instead of a fairway wood.
Amateur golfers with less swing speed can try a high-loft hybrid club but may be disappointed by the reduced distance and accuracy. As mentioned earlier, keeping a steeper angle of the ball strike helps reduce the pull of the grass. This is best accomplished by putting the ball slightly back in your stance.
Usually, an iron is your best friend for digging your way out of the rough. Choose a club one lower than usual (Ex: a seven iron instead of an 8) and ensure you grip the club tighter – you’re driving it through lots of grass.
Step Number 5: Choose a Club for Rough around the Green
Players who like to pop their golf ball over the fringe or apron without taking much height won’t be able to get away with a chop shot from high rough. Instead, players must make a short but high shot and crush their club through the rough simultaneously.
That’s usually accomplished with a wedge. The blade-style clubface tracks through grass easily, and you’ll get the height you need without much distance.
There’s no way to guess – practice can help you decide – but you’ll be using one of the wedges you probably already have in your bag:
- A Gap Wedge – with a 52-degree loft
- A Sand Wedge – with a 56-degree loft
- A Lob Wedge – with a 60-degree loft
Remember, your downward swing is steeper in heavy rough to drive through the grass and under your golf ball.