Stuck behind a tree on the golf course? Here's how to hit a punch-out shot
CMC Instruction

Stuck behind a tree on the golf course? Here’s how to hit a punch-out shot

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Most golf courses have trees on them, and those trees come into play for most golfers. After all, very few golfers hit the ball so straight and on target that they'll never find themselves stuck behind or near a tree.

Lots of golfers panic when they get stuck behind a tree, or they face a shot where they have to hit the ball under a tree's low-hanging branches. Golfers get anxious because they aren't equipped with the knowledge or skill set to know they can escape that situation with just one shot -- and maybe still even make a par.

That's where I can help.

Everyone hits bad golf shots, and they often have tough consequences, like getting stuck behind a tree. But if you remain calm and know how to get out of such a situation, then you'll save strokes and shoot lower scores. For the times when a golfer's ball is stuck behind a tree or needs to be hit low to avoid branches, the go-to shot is a punch shot.

How to hit a punch shot under and around trees

A punch shot is a shot that starts low and stays fairly low to the ground, eventually rolling out to an intended finish point. It's a shot that's handy not only when there are obstacles in the air, but it's also handy when needing to hit a shot around the greens that rolls to a target that's hard to reach through the air.

Either way, a punch shot can be executed with practically any club in the bag. However, for most golfers, it's easier to use a less-lofted club to hit that shot. I tend to pick a 7-iron for a punch shot where branches aren't a big issue, and then I'll pick my lowest-lofted iron (in my case, a 4-iron) for a punch shot where I have to keep the ball as low as possible.

Of course, the club I choose also depends on the quality of the lie. If the rough is deep or the ball sits on bare ground, then I'm going to prefer the higher-lofted club becuse it's shorter and will give me a better chance at making the best contact possible.

Either way, setting up for a simple punch shot -- just hitting it straight from Point A in the woods to Point B in a safe spot -- is pretty easy.

  • Stand closer to the ball than a normal iron swing, standing more upright but a comfortable enough distance away from the ball.
  • Put the ball toward the back of your stance to make sure you make a descending blow to keep the ball lower.
  • Lean the club shaft slightly forward, with the grip just ahead of the ball.
  • Place your weight toward your lead leg (the left leg for a right-handed golfer), with something like 60 percent of your weight on that lead leg.
  • Make a smooth backswing that matches how far you want to advance the ball and be sure to pull the hands through the hitting zone ahead of the club.

With a solid punch shot in hand, you'll be able to reliably escape from tough situations. As you improve your skills, then you can learn how to hit punch shots with a draw and fade shape, which will open up even more possibilities to escape from difficutl lies on the golf course. But first, get the basics right.

About the author

Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for nearly 20 years. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He is currently a +2.6 USGA handicap, and he has covered dozens of major championships and professional golf tournaments. He likes writing about golf and making it more accessible by answering the complex questions fans have about the pro game or who want to understand how to play golf better.

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