Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Contents - Rickie Fowler is a Golf Di­gest Play­ing Ed­i­tor.

At my home club, Medal­ist in Hobe Sound, Florida, miss a fair­way, and there’s a good chance your ball will end up on pine straw. The main­te­nance crew rakes the straw to de­fine the edges of sandy ar­eas, so it’s a very present and in­te­gral part of the golf course that you have to learn to play from. The big­gest mis­take I see vis­i­tors make is los­ing their foot­ing. The stuff is su­per-slip­pery, so you have to kick it away so your cleats can get in di­rect con­tact with the ground. If you just twist side to side like you’re set­tling into a bunker, your feet will stay on top of the nee­dles, and you’ll have a tough time mak­ing a bal­anced swing.

The other big key is to grip down an inch or so. With a flat stance you might not re­alise it, but the straw makes the ball sit up like it’s on a tee. Chok­ing down makes the club shorter so you’re less likely to slide un­der the ball. Ball-first con­tact might be more crit­i­cal here than off any other sur­face. If the ball is sit­ting pre­car­i­ously, you’ll prob­a­bly have to hover the

club­head at ad­dress to avoid in­ad­ver­tently mov­ing the ball.

Fi­nally, re­sist the urge to try to pick it clean. Play the ball back in your stance and go down and get it, as if you were rip­ping a big divot in the fair­way. The lack of re­sis­tance from the straw is a cool sensation.

TOUR SAUCE When you’re on pine straw, it prob­a­bly means you’ve got some­thing block­ing your shot. Whether it’s a pine tree or pal­metto bushes like here, my es­cape method never varies. Big­gest thing is avoid­ing what­ever’s in front of me, so I aim wider to the side and force my­self to curve the shot more.

To hit a big draw, I shut the face at ad­dress, aim right and swing nor­mal. To fade, I open the face, aim left and swing. It might feel like you’re in trou­ble, but the straw can help you catch the ball clean, so it’s a per­fect lie to bend one. – with max adler

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