A tip for golf in the Las Vegas-area desert: An approach to hard pan

By Mike Davis, PGA, Contributor

One of the facts of life in the desert, especially with the water shortage issues that will face us in the future, is that golf courses are having less irrigated grass area. This means more desert areas or hard pan lies.

Desert Golf Tip - Hitting Out of Hard Pan
When hitting out of hard pan, the ball will usually have a lower than normal trajectory.
Desert Golf Tip - Hitting Out of Hard Pan

Here are some of the issues for you if your ball ends up in the desert.

Rules: Some area courses will mark desert areas as a lateral water hazard. This is marked by a red line or red stakes. This gives you the option of dropping within two club lengths of the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard with one penalty stroke. You may still play the ball from the hazard, but keep in mind that you may not move any loose impediments (rocks or sticks). You also may not take a practice swing where the club makes contact with the ground.

Course Management: You have another risk-reward decision to make. Generally, when you are in the desert, you want to take the safest and easiest route back to the fairway. If you choose to play a difficult shot, there needs to be a good reward for the risk. In other words, reaching the green would be a reward, but having a 9 iron instead of a 7 iron would not. You need to learn your comfort level with these shots to assess when to take the gamble and when to play safe.

Think low. The ball will usually have a lower than normal trajectory, so keep that in mind if there are trees involved with the ball flight.

The Shot: This is quite a bit like a fairway bunker shot, where the contact has very little margin for error and the ball must be struck very cleanly.

Avoid Wedges: Your most lofted clubs are very difficult in this situation, because the angle of the clubface places the contact point very close to the ground. Even if I'm chipping back to the fairway, I will use an 8 or 9 iron.

Have a Stable Swing: Slipping during the swing can be an issue; you want to make sure your feet are secure.

Taking a little off of the swing can also give you more stability. You should swing at about 80 percent to 90 percent or normal, so take one more club for the shot.

The path of the swing should be a sweeping motion that avoids either too steep or too shallow an approach.

Remember, practice swings are allowed if the desert area is not marked as a hazard.

Practicing this shot can be a little difficult and often hard on your equipment. I have several suggestions:

• If your course has a fairway bunker on the practice area, that is a very similar shot to hard pan.

• Try teeing up a ball very low (about a half inch off the ground) then hit some shots without hitting the tee. If you can accomplish this, you can handle hard-pan.

Mike Davis, PGAMike Davis, PGA, Contributor

Mike Davis is a PGA Master Professional and has been honored as a GOLF Magazine Top 100 Teacher. He has been chosen Instructor of the Year 13 times by different PGA Chapters and Sections. An expert in video golf instruction, Davis has been honored by the World Scientific Congress of Golf for his research.

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