How to Hit Out of a Divot
Sometimes, no matter how much you do right, you’re going to end up with a bit of bad luck. In golf, one of the most emblematic examples of this is discovering that the ball you just drove perfectly down the fairway has decided to nestle into a previous golfer’s unrepaired divot. Now instead of that perfect, spongy lie you were expecting for your approach shot, you’ve got an extra obstacle to deal with.
Thankfully, a long line of your frustrated predecessors have been there, too, and they’ve learned the best ways to give that divot-sitting ball the right trajectory and spin—almost like you hit it off of the good lie you deserved.
Here are the steps you need to take to turn your bad luck into a good shot:
Since your setup on a divot shot will slightly shorten your club and your swing, you’ll need a bit of a power boost from a divot. Use one club more than you would normally from that distance. For instance, if you’d normally use a seven iron, use a six. Using one club extra will also allow you to swing more comfortably at the ball, lowering your chances of trying to over-swing. You’ll be surprised to see how much an extra club will help you in these situations.
Set up with the ball further back in your stance than usual. You want the ball in the middle or just behind the middle of your stance. This will help you hit the ball at the bottom of your downswing, a descending blow that is absolutely necessary for success out of a divot.
Press your hands forward of the ball. This will do two things: first, it will help reinforce the downward motion on the downswing, letting your hands and the shaft of the club lead the way. And second, it will close the clubface so that solid contact with the sunken ball can be made.
Hot Tip: Woods & Hybrids
If you’re in a divot and are far enough away from the green to use a fairway wood or hybrid club, use it. Their rounded club heads are shaped nicely for strange lies like divots, and you don’t really have to change much in your normal setup and swing. Remember, though, to stay down with the ball through the swing. If you come up out of your swing with a fairway wood or a hybrid club when you’re trying to hit out of a divot, chances are you’ll hit just the top of the ball, which might pop it out of the divot, but won’t get you much else.
On the takeaway, break your wrists a bit sooner than you normally would on a backswing. Again, all of these minor adjustments will help create a steeper swing so that a descending strike will be made at the ball.
On the downswing, really power through. You’ll need some club head speed to get the ball out of the divot cleanly. Your goal here is to hit the ball first, and then the turf. If you hit down on the ball with enough swing speed, you’ll get it out of the divot with relative ease.
After you hit the ball from the divot, you’ll notice that the trajectory will be lower than usual, and the ball will hit the ground running. Keep this in mind if there are any hazards between you and your target. If you hit a short iron or a full wedge from the divot, you can expect some backspin on the ball once it lands on the green.
If you keep doing the right things off of the tee, luck will only be a minor factor in your golf game. The more unfortunate breaks you catch, though, the better suited you’ll be to hit any type of shot. Every time you hit out of a divot, for example, your ability to control the ball’s spin, trajectory and distance improves. And if you have access to a driving range with grass hitting areas, you can practice hitting from divots as much as you’d like. Sometimes bad luck can inspire some good skills.