Big Trouble

I have chosen four of what I feel are the most common trouble shots you may encounter at The Bridges Golf Club. And "Taking the Challenge" at the Bridges involves being prepared for trouble shots. It would be naive of me to think otherwise. Remember, every course has a little different layout and terrain so practice accordingly.

Welcome these difficult situations as a test of your intellect. These shots just take a bit more creativity than others. Besides, if we hit every shot in the fairway and then on the green, we would have nothing to talk about over a beverage after the round.

Trouble shots might be the hot topic of conversation after the round but are less popular at the practice range. There are several reasons why we don't practice trouble shots. First of all, we never expect to have to play a trouble shot. And there are not many practice areas set up to work on these types of shots. Besides, trouble shots are not the most glamorous shots to practice. Imagine yourself hitting a large basket of practice balls from high rough or under a tree. The way to practice trouble shots is with one golf ball and the competition of others. It's the difference between practicing for five minutes or two hours.

Here are four common trouble shots. With a little guidance and practice you could save yourself a few strokes and a lot of frustration.

The Plugged Bunker Shot

This is a fairly easy shot to get out of the bunker, but difficult to get close to the hole. Understand: Because the ball is in a hole it will come out fairly low and with very little spin. Little spin will cause the ball to roll when it lands on the green.

Keys: Close the face of your sand or lob wedge. Next, close it even more. Did I mention, close the face? Finally, strike the sand fairly close to the ball. Make sure you get the sand out of the bunker.

The Backhanded Shot

In this situation, you cannot take your stance because a tree, bush, or severe slope is in your way. This shot is necessary when your only option is to stand on the opposite side of the ball.

Understand: This is a difficult shot to hit more than 30 yards. So we are just going to take our medicine on this one.

Keys: Flip your seven iron around, stand very close to the ball with your back to your target. You are going to use your dominant hand to hit the shot. Take lots of practice swings, and avoid your ankle! Trust me, this is much easier than trying to hit it left-handed.

Downhill Chip Shot

Several of the greens at The Bridges are set into the hillside, testing your ability to chip down to the putting surface.

Understand: Don't try to hit this shot high. The slope of the ground has already determined that this shot must be hit low.

Keys: The most important key is to make solid contact. You're going to use a basic chipping technique with one adjustment, angle your shoulders with the slope. This will help you swing with the slope. On a downhill chip, you will make a higher backswing and a lower follow through.

Ball in a Small Hole Next to the Green

This is almost guaranteed to happen at least once a round. The ball is located just a couple feet off the surface of the green, but it has settled into a small depression, not much larger than the ball itself. This simple shot is very easy to chunk short or blade over the green.

Understand: Because the ball is sitting down in a depression it is very difficult to spin. This is the bad news and the good news. Because it will come out with topspin, it will be easier to predict the first bounce. No matter if the first bounce is in the rough or on the surface of the green I know it will not spin. The ball will roll true, which makes the shot easy to execute with a putter!

Keys: Use your putter, it's the key. Place the ball slightly back in your stance, and treat the shot like a chip. You will contact the ball with a descending blow, the ball will pop over the long grass, and roll with topspin. Plan on hitting it close to the hole.

It is a good idea to be knowledgeable of the trouble shots you encounter the most, and practice them. You need to set up your practice to be entertaining. We cover a few trouble shots during the on-course instruction portion of our one-day golf schools at The Bridges Golf Club. It's a real kick to put yourself in a situation and see how many shots it takes to put the ball in the hole. No matter the situation or the results, make sure you keep it fun.

Perry Andrisen is a PGA Teaching Professional at The Bridges Golf Club in San Ramon, California. He teaches over 2,000 lessons a year. He has previously worked at Montreux Golf Club and Hazeltine National Golf Club. Perry has coached players from the PGA Tour, Nationwide, Hooters, Teardrop, Spanos, Pepsi, Dakotas, and Golden State golf tours. Among his PGA Tour clients is his former college teammate Aaron Barber. Perry has found a Profession that he absolutely loves, and it shows in every lesson he gives. For more information, visit Perry's Web site at

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