Hitting from the Rough

How to Hit out of the Rough: Tips to Get Back in Play

If you want to break 90 or break 80 consistently, you need to learn how to hit out of the rough. Because one thing is for certain, playing from the thick stuff is inevitable – no matter how good you get at golf.

Even as a plus handicap, I can only remember a handful of rounds when I hit all 14/14 fairways. The PGA Tour average is only about 60% fairways in regulation, so missing them is part of the game.

Which is why you need to learn how to hit from the rough. Today, I’ll share seven proven tips to make this shot a lot easier so you can get back in position and not let a bad driving day ruin your round. 

How to Hit Out of the Rough 

Key Takeaways 

  • Hitting out of the rough requires a different strategy than playing from the fairway.
  • The first step is accurately assessing the lie so you can determine what type of shot to play and which clubs to hit.
  • It’s best to use irons vs. fairway woods or hybrids from the thick rough, as the grass will twist the clubface closed.
  • Other tips to hit it better from the rough include playing a fade, increasing grip pressure, and playing more conservatively. 

Keep reading to learn more now. 

1. Always Evaluate the Lie

The first tip is to make sure you accurately assess the lie before pulling a club out of the bag and following the other tips. Similar to a greenside bunker – the lie will determine the shot, club, and target selection.

Some golf courses have multiple cuts of rough; the first cut is the lightest and easiest to play from. While the second (and sometimes third cut) is thicker and even more challenging. Multiple cuts of rough are more common in professional golf events, especially majors, than everyday golf courses.

When the ball is in the rough, two types of lies are common; a flier or when the ball is sitting down. A flier lie is when the ball is sitting up nicely, almost as if it were on a pillow. The ball tends to fly a lot further than normal as it’s almost teed up.

The opposite is true when the ball is sitting down. From this lie, the ball tends to come out poorly and only a fraction of the distance as normal. This is because the club doesn’t make as good of contact with the ball from the thicker grass.

Once you understand the type of lie, then you can choose the right club and ideal shot. 

How to Hit from the Rough

2. Use the Right Club

In general, you want to use more irons and wedges from the rough than long irons, hybrids, or fairway woods.

Thicker grass closes the club at impact and can lead to some big misses. The longer the club, the bigger the potential miss. 

This is why it’s a good idea to take less club and swing harder to try and chop it out (if the ball is sitting down). Unless you have a near perfect flier lie, don’t try to hit fairway woods unless it has a ton of loft like a 7-wood, 9-wood, or heavenwood.

The thicker the rough, the more often you should hit irons vs. fairway woods or hybrids. 

3. Increase Grip Pressure and Open the Face 

As mentioned above, the rough twists of the clubface closed at impact. But there is one thing you can do to help offset that at times. 

Increase your grip pressure.

If you’re a 5/10 on a normal shot, try to hold the club more like an 8/10 or 9/10 instead. This will help the face stay more square and hopefully not close as much as impact for better contact. 

The thicker the rough, the firmer your grip pressure. 

Golf Grip Pressure Points

Another tip to change at setup is to open the clubface. Since the club will inevitably close at impact, starting with a slightly open face will help straighten out your ball flight. 

4. Change Your Ball Position

Next, make sure to adjust your ball position. Move the ball slightly further back in your stance (close to center) to promote a more downward angle of attack. 

Having a steeper downswing will help you get ball first contact instead of hitting the grass first. You might also want to feel like you’re hinging your wrists faster on the backswing as well.

Also, make sure to always accelerate through the shot. Thick grass will restrict the club at impact, so make sure to swing aggressively.

It might be a good idea to have regular golf workouts in your schedule to add strength as well. This is why top professionals spend so much time in the gym – it’s easier to create clubhead speed to escape the rough. Not to mention hit it longer off the tee. 

5. Stay Down on the Shot 

Joaquin Niemann, who shot a 59 in LIV’s first event in 2024, shared some advice with Golf Digest about shot selection from the rough. Instead of hitting a full shot with a big follow through, he recommends a punch shot so you stay down on it longer and make better contact.

As mentioned, “There’s one more thing you need to do to make solid contact—stay down through impact. Your instinct might be to rise out of your address posture, trying to use your body to help lift the ball. But when you do that, you’re probably going to catch too much grass and chunk it, or catch the ball on the upswing and blade it.”

6. Opt for a Fade 

Another tip to help you play from the rough is to try and play a fade, not a draw. While the fade vs. draw debate rages on in the golf world, the fade is the play from the rough. 

Why?

Should you play a fade or a draw

Because the rough already wants to close the hosel, which shuts the face, and leads to a lot of pulled golf shots. If the face is also closed – which is needed to hit a draw – the shot might start left and keep going left. This can lead to some big misses and possibly blow up holes.

When you’re playing from the rough, opt for a fade over a draw. Even if the face does get a little shut thanks to the thick grass, it’ll lead to a straighter, more playable shot. 

Don’t forget, golf is a game of misses more than anything else. 

7. Play More Conservatively 

Finally, when you’re in the rough, you need the right approach shot strategy. This is not the time to try and play overly aggressive and attack flags that are tucked behind bunkers or near the water.

The main reason is that you can’t make the same contact with the ball as you can in the fairway. When hitting from the fairway, it’s easier to make better contact which produces the same spin rates and produces a more reliable shot pattern. But when hitting from the rough, your shot dispersion is much bigger.

Some lies might look as good as a fairway one but spin rates will differ a lot (especially from thick lies). This causes the golf ball to travel a lot shorter or sometimes longer if it’s a flier lie.

Which is why it’s a good idea to play more conservatively. 

In case you need more evidence, check out these statistics from the PGA Tour in the 2023-204 season. 

  • Average proximity from fairway: 37’8”
  • Average proximity from rough: 45’10”

PGA Tour players hit it almost ten feet closer on average from the fairway than the rough. That’s due to the ability to make better contact, which produces consistent distance control.  

This is why you want to play it safe and not overly aggressive when you miss the fairway. 

Best Golf Recovery Shots

FAQs About Hitting from the Rough 

Do you have more questions about hitting from the rough? If so, keep reading through the most frequently asked questions and answers now.

What does rough mean in golf?

The rough is a common golf term that refers to the thicker grass near the fairway cut of grass. On par 4s and par 5s, you have the ability to hit the fairway (fairway in regulation) and if you miss, you usually end up in the rough, fairway bunker, or possibly a hazard. 

How do I hit out of the rough?

To hit out of the rough successfully, you need to take less club (fewer woods/hybrids) and make adjustments at setup. Some easy tips to make better contact include:

  • Choking up on the club.
  • Increasing grip pressure. 
  • Playing a fade, not a draw. 
  • Opening the clubface slightly. 
  • Playing the ball in the middle of your stance. 

Scroll up to learn more about our best tips to hit from the rough. 

What clubs can you hit out of the rough?

It depends on the thickness of the rough. 

In general, you want to avoid hitting 3 or 5-wood unless you have a flier lie and it’s sitting up perfectly. Otherwise, it’s a good idea to take more mid and short irons so you can get the ball back in play. 

Golf Ball in Grass

Should I hit a hybrid out of the rough?

It depends on the lie and any trouble near the green. If the ball is sitting up well and there is no trouble, a hybrid can be a great option (especially if it’s a 5H or 6H). But if the ball is sitting down and/or there is water or out of bounds to deal with, opt for an iron instead. 

My Experience

Playing from the rough is an art, but if you can analyze the lie, you’ll make everything else easier. Always ask yourself if it’s sitting down or if it’s a flier lie so you can choose the right club and type of shot.

My other big tip is to make sure you play more conservatively. 

As mentioned earlier, even PGA Tour players struggle from the rough and don’t hit it nearly as close. Spin and distance isn’t as predictable, so play it a bit safer when you’re in the rough to not compound mistakes and make a big number.

Lastly, speed training has helped increase my speed, which has led to longer drives and more consistency in the rough. If you haven’t started adding speed yet, I can’t recommend it enough. Check out Rypstick, SuperSpeed, or The Stack System to start making this game a little bit easier. 

Final Thoughts 

You need to respect the rough when you’re out of position. 

Take less club, play more safely, and get yourself back in position. Paired with the right adjustments at setup, you should be able to play it consistently. 

Next, make sure to learn these common shots in case you miss the fairway.

Picture of Michael Leonard

Michael Leonard

Michael is an avid golfer of 25 years who played in high school, college, and now competes in Arizona amateur events. He is a full-time writer, podcast host of Wicked Smart Golf, and mental golf coach.