VIDEO GOLF INSTRUCTION: Rickie Fowler and Butch Harmon on Escaping Trouble


How do you Escape Trouble on the Golf Course?

Trouble lurks on the golf course. Often it’s located not far off the fairway when you hit that push, that slice, that hook or smothered shot—whatever your miss might be from the tee or elsewhere.

This unfortunate occurrence happens to everyone who plays the game, including PGA Tour pros like Rickie Fowler. The golf ball ends up in bad places. What happens next determines a lot about finishing the particular hole and can set a tone, bad or good, for the rest of the round.

In this video, Fowler and top golf instructor Butch Harmon discuss and demonstrate the art of escaping trouble, also known as the recovery shot. For the amateur golfer, the key is to keep it simple. Fowler’s approach does that, mostly.

“I feel like I’ve had some of my own experience in here,” Fowler begins. “Sometimes it ends up being a very troublesome shot.”

He adds, “Sometimes you can be aggressive coming out of the trees, but a lot of times you just want to get the ball back out in play.”

It might be smart to ignore the first part of Fowler’s statement. The second part bears repeating in all caps: GET THE BALL BACK IN PLAY.

Coach Harmon affirms this thinking. “What you’re saying is that you’re just actually going to try to pitch this ball back to the fairway.”

“Yeah, exactly,” Fowler replies. “You’re just looking to find the easiest way out.”

How to Get Out of Trouble

  1. Choke down on the club. “First, I start with the grip. [It’s] a little easier to stay on top of the ball, cover it, have a little bit of control of the flight.”

  2. Quiet lower body. Easy does it. “Lower body is going to stay pretty still because of being in loose footing. You don’t want to try to hit this too hard. Then a bunch of stuff comes into play.”

  3. Narrow the stance. “Set the feet a little narrow and a little open.”

Fowler’s last thought before takeaway: “Don’t hit a tree.”

That might help a pro like Rickie, but I question whether it’s the best final thought for an amateur. A better thought might be to stay down and finish the shot. (Personally, I have a tendency to peek, and that can result in a mishit or offline shot that catches a tree limb or other obstacle.)

Another topic not covered in the video is club selection. In many recovery situations, it’s important to keep the ball low, so be sure to choose a club with the right loft. You might also want to move the ball back in your stance to help you hit the ball first and keep it on a lower trajectory.

Try these tips and remember to keep it simple. In the end, just get the ball back in play. That way you’ll escape trouble instead of compound it.

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Neil Sagebiel

Neil Sagebiel is a golf writer and author of two golf books published by St. Martin's Press, THE LONGEST SHOT and DRAW IN THE DUNES. He lives in Floyd, Virginia.

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