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Swing: You're in Trouble—Here's How to Get Out

Where do most golfers spend the greatest portion of their time out on the course?Hint: It's not in the middle of the fairway or pin-high on the green. As most golfers undoubtedly know from their own down-in-a-divot, caught-between-a-rock-and-hardpan experiences, the place where they spend most of their time on the course is in trouble.

You don't have to go looking for it, because trouble will find you. Trouble lurks everywhere, from the middle of undulating, hanging-lie fairways to deep in the slippery, sloping rough. Trouble knows no race, gender or skill level. Even low handicappers and Tour pros find trouble; but they're seldom fazed because they're adept at extricating themselves. The rest of us just seem to keep getting ourselves into more trouble.

Don't despair—there's a light at the end of the tunnel of towering pines you're trying to ram your ball through. John Elliott Jr., a Golf Magazine Top-100 teaching pro based at the Country Club of Ocala, Florida, and Cog Hill Golf & Country Club in Lemont, Illinois, says that even average golfers can become accomplished troubleshooters with the right pointers and a little bit of work and play.

Improving your trouble shots starts at the same place where you try to improve every other facet of your game—your local practice facility. "Proper practice means practicing getting out of trouble," Elliott notes. "Practice should not be just a matter of making full swings with your driver and your irons from tees or improved lies."

As all of us know all too well, trouble on the golf course comes in an infinite variety of shapes, forms and situations whose mind-numbing difficulty defies our wildest nightmares. That said, Elliott offers four keys essential to mastering virtually any type of trouble shot:

Examine the lie. The way your ball is sitting (on hardpan, in a divot, lodged against a tree, etcetera) will determine what clubs you can use and what types of trouble shots you can actually pull off.

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