If you find yourself in a tough spot in the trees, don't make your situation worse by trying a heroic shot out -- and catch a branch or hit a trunk, which only keeps the ball in the woods. Take a lesson from low handicappers: When in trouble, play a smart, high-percentage shot, even if it means hitting out sideways and safely back to the fairway.
Playing safe usually is the best bet because it helps eliminate the possibility of a "blow-up" hole. When you do decide to go the cautious route, plan the shot carefully. It's common for players who've accepted their medicine to make a strong, frustrated punch and run the ball through the fairway and into trouble on the other side. Stop, calm down and pick the best target, then make your best effort to land the ball there.
When playing a short shot back to the fairway, remember that the lower the ball flies, the easier it is to hit on a straight line and avoid hitting obstacles such as overhanging branches. Therefore, stay away from the high-lofted 8-, 9- and wedges; practice with the 5-, 6- and 7-irons. You still have to exercise caution because the lower the shot, the farther it will run. Slow your tempo or take one less club if the lie allows.
Play the ball back in your stance with your hands ahead. The key to hitting a low shot is keeping your wrists firm through impact, the hands leading the clubface into impact, with the clubface pointed down the target line in the follow-through.
Private Lessons 1999 Times Mirror Magazines, Inc., used under license by GolfServ Online, Inc. Instructional information provided by Golf Magazine.