I counted myself fortunate to find this result of a poorly struck iron gently nestled atop a bed of leaves. At this time of the year at my favorite local course, most shots in the rough—and a good many that land in the fairway—are lost forever under a crisp thick brown carpet.
The secret to playing balls out of leaves is not one that I’ve ever seen discussed in the major golf magazines. Over the years, I’ve tried a variety of shots, from a punch with wood or hybrid to a full lob with a wedge. None have really worked. A leafy lie simultaneously sucks all of the power out of a shot and prevents clean contact. More often than not, the ball just buries itself more deeply as the leaves move away from under it.
On this day I was fortunate. I played a wedge and it popped high and straight, although somewhat short of the green. I managed to two putt for a bogey. Not bad, considering I was lucky to find the ball in the first place.
Leafy lies are such a common occurrence in the temperate climes that I wonder it hasn’t caught the attention of one of the golf gurus. There surely is a Golf Channel segment here in the making. But I don’t think just any old instructor will do. Butch Harmon, David Leadbetter, Hank Haney, Jim McLean, Jim Click, and so many of the others live in places like Nevada, Florida, Texas and California, and I’m willing to bet they don’t see two foot deep leaf carpets. I’ll also bet they don’t have fairway leaves at tony clubs like Doral. No, the guy I have in mind is Rick Smith. He’s got a place in Florida, but he’s also a Michigan guy, based at the public Treetops Courses “Up North.” He surely knows what to do with the leaves.