How To Escape From A Bad Lie In Golf

A change in mindset can help you escape from a bad lie in golf more regularly, says PGA pro Katie Dawkins

bad lie in golf

We’ve all hit golf shots that have landed us in a world of trouble, but whether we have ended up in a bad lie through rotten luck or poor execution, it's important to move on, accept the outcome and deal with the predicament facing us the best we can.

First thing's first, how we react to said poor shot or bounce is extremely influential in how well we then escape from the spot we're in, so having a meltdown certainly isn’t going to help. In fact, it’s just wasting energy you’re going to need to get back in play. Save that for things you can control.

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In this article, PGA pro Katie Dawkins discusses how a different perspective can make all the difference when it comes to executing recovery shots.

Change your attitude

It's time for a change of mindset. Instead of berating yourself for a bad shot or an unlucky bounce, why not think about how good you can be from this position? How Seve-esque can you appear to your playing partners who, let’s face it, have written you off at this point?

Get your game face on and get stuck in. Attitude isn’t going to do all the hard work here but it’s going to help.

Whether you're pitching or chipping, routine will also help to make this cleansing and motivating. The previous shot has been and gone - you can’t change it - so let’s focus on where the ball is now. Dealing with the now is a great way to get round the course whether you’re in the rough or down the middle of the fairway.

Bad lie in golf

However you ended up in a bad lie on the golf course, make sure you're focused on the task at hand

On getting to your ball, try not to notice all the negative stuff. It may be half buried and sat with thick grass behind it, or perhaps it's even sporting a large chunk of mud, but whatever the case, keep your attention on the job at hand, not on how hard done by you feel.

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Ensure you spot the kindest route back into play. Sometimes taking your medicine and just getting the ball out will be as satisfying as going for gold. But, as with all shots, visualise your ideally executed escape whatever shot you choose.

Now rehearse it. Be positive in your self talk and in your commitment to the swing. Testing the rough and how easily your club travels through it will build belief that you’re going to pull this off. Do this away from your ball so you don’t disturb it.

Prepare for the unexpected

Aim is essential. Get that clubhead lined up to a mini target in front of your ball. There’s no point nailing the escape shot of your life if you’re aiming at the middle of a tree trunk and not at the gap.

If the ball is lying horribly, think 'B'. Move it Back in your stance if it’s Buried. From there, lean a bit more weight on the foot nearest the target.

Bad lie in golf

It's important to remember not to decelerate when you're on the golf course and in a bad lie

Keep the backswing compact and accelerate. Deceleration with a lob wedge, for example, can come from too long a swing and/or a lack of confidence, so give it some beans but control the distance the ball goes by limiting the swing.

Another important fact to remember is that you’re not going to succeed from trouble every time, so let’s be realistic. Practise escape shots and get out on the course and play a few holes here and there chucking your ball into all sorts of juicy lies.

Challenge a friend for an even more motivational practice session. This is how I practised as a junior and I still enjoy the challenge of getting out of trouble. If you enjoy the challenge, you won’t fear getting into a pickle as much.

So what are you waiting for? Embrace the fun that comes with pulling off an unlikely escape and you'll love the impact it has on your scores.

Katie Dawkins
Advanced PGA Professional and freelance contributor

Katie is an Advanced PGA professional with over 20 years of coaching experience. She helps golfers of every age and ability to be the best versions of themselves. In January 2022 she was named as one of Golf Monthly's Top 50 Coaches.

Katie coaches the individual and uses her vast experience in technique, psychology and golf fitness to fix problems in a logical manner that is effective - she makes golf simple. Katie is now based at the stunning Hamptworth Golf Club on the edge of the New Forest. An experienced club coach, she developed GardenGOLF during lockdown and as well as coaching at Hamptworth she freelances, operating via pop-up clinics and travelling to clients homes to help them use their space to improve. 

She has coached tour pros on both LET tour and the Challenge Tour as well as introduced many a beginner to the game. 

Katie has been writing instructional content for magazines for 20 years. Her creative approach to writing is fuelled by her sideline as an artist.