Hitting From the Fringe

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The golf course can provide many shots, especially around the greens, that have little to no versatility. For example, when your ball ends up in three-inch greenside rough, on the short side of the hole, your options are pretty limited. When hitting from the fringe you open the face, take a big swing, and hope for the best.

However, when your ball ends up on the fringe, you have several options and a plethora of clubs you can choose from. Not every shot from and around the frog hair is going to be the same, and this article will explain which kind of shot is optimal for the type of lie, distance from the hole, and the amount of fringe between your ball and the green.

What is a Fringe Shot?

The fringe is the (usually) fairway-length cut of grass that is situated between the putting surface and the first cut of rough. While not on the green, it’s by far the easiest short game shot to navigate. The only tough shot that involves the fringe, even though your ball is on the green, is when the ball has nestled against the fringe cut. Let’s tackle that shot first.

Ball Up Against the Collar

In this instance, the length of the fringe, and how much of the back of the ball it hides, will have a significant impact on which type of club and shot you should select. If more than half of the ball is exposed to the club face, this is the perfect time to use a putter. The only adjustment you may want to make to ensure clean contact is to set your hands farther forward, which will promote a steeper angle of attack- keeping the leading edge from catching the fringe before the ball.

Important: According to the Rules of Golf, as long as any part of your ball is touching the putting surface, it is considered to be on the green. This will allow you to mark your ball, clean it, and line it up if you prefer. If you can’t quite tell if your ball is on the green or not, assume that it isn’t and proceed with your shot. Your ball might be a little dirty, but it’s not worth losing strokes with a rules infraction.

If the fringe grass is long, only allowing you to see from the equator up, your best bet is to use the leading of your wedge and treat it just like a putt. This shot, known as “bellying a wedge”, is a better option than a putter since the sharp leading edge will keep the club from catching the fringe first.

For this shot, you’ll want to set up almost exactly like a putt; you can even use your putting grip. Make sure you choke down on the grip a couple inches so the club’s bottom and leading edge is right at the equator of the ball. From there, just make a normal putting stroke, and the ball should pop forward and start rolling immediately.

NOTE: This same shot is also handy if your ball is between the fringe and the first cut of rough.

Ball 1-3” On the Fringe

The shot you choose here will almost entirely depend on your proximity to the whole, the length, and quality of the fringe cut. If the fringe is tightly mown, keeping the ball as low to the ground as possible will be the most consistent way to get the ball rolling smoothly. However, shaggy fringe can cause a putted ball to bobble or come out dead, which will make judging distance difficult.

From tightly mown grass, the putter will almost always be your best play, particularly from short distances (15 ft or less). The main exception being if you are over 60 feet from the hole. If you have a long “putt”, it may be wiser to use a hybrid or fairway wood. The longer shaft and hotter clubface will let you make a simple putting stroke, similar to your normal one, but the ball will travel much farther.

The fairway wood or hybrid is also a great option for long, shaggy fringe cuts. The loft of a 3 or 5 wood will get the ball over the fringe and on the ground quickly, giving you a simple method to control the distance.

If you feel most comfortable hitting chip shots, anything from a 6-iron to a pitching wedge is an optimal club from both tight and shaggy fringe lies. Lob wedges and sand wedges are okay options too, but typically only for short-sided or very short (< 20ft) chip shots. For such a simple shot, nothing feels worse than taking a wedge and stabbing it an inch behind the whole. Stronger lofted clubs, especially for chipping, will widen your margin for error. A bad putt or bump-and-run will always turn out better than a mediocre wedge shot.

Ball More Than 3” On the Fringe

Even the tightest of lies on the fringe have the potential to cause your ball to bobble once it’s more than a few inches from the putting surface. You have the whole range of options, but there is one important key to keep in mind:

You want to get the ball over the fringe and onto the green, rolling like a putt, as quickly as possible. Like most things in golf, it’s all about what feels best in your hand and in your mind’s eye.

The best way to figure out what clubs work for you in all these different scenarios is to spend some time on the chipping green and experiment with different clubs. Take a hybrid, an 8-iron, a wedge, and a putter, and drop some balls on the fringe and up against the collar. A twenty-minute session can provide a ton of information. See what feels easy and what doesn’t.

The Final Word

For some, using a hybrid or fairway wood is too awkward, and the iron or wedge option is better. For others, they may exclusively use the putter on the fringe no matter what. Every golfer is different, and that is okay; the only thing that matters is what number you write on the scorecard. Find what works for you and shoot lower scores today!

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