‘It’s almost like backyard grass’: Tony Finau’s tips for playing from thick rough
The host for this year’s PGA Championship, the East Course at Oak Hill Country Club, is as difficult of a track as any place you’ll find; and players like Tony Finau are fully embracing the challenge.
Measuring nearly 7,400 yards with obnoxiously thick rough, Oak Hill doesn’t just test a player’s ball-striking ability — pressuring them to hit accurate shots — but also their will, with thick, unforgiving rough that adds another element of difficulty for players; especially around the greens.
Don’t just take my word for it, though. Check out the video below from GOLF’s Instagram account, which features Editor James Colgan showing how gnarly the rough will be at the PGA Championship.
Sheesh, that’s no joke.
Despite the difficult rough and length that Oak Hill presents, Finau thinks that these types of tests help bring out the best in him.
“They are really tough golf courses, and this definitely fits that bill. This is going to be a big golf course to handle,” said Finau. “I just feel like, mentally, you’ve really got to be there, and emotionally… that’s something that I’ve got to prove to myself and win a major championship. But I feel like I do have those tools to kind of overcome these type of tests.”
When Finau was specifically asked to describe what makes the rough so hard, and how he approaches such difficult shots, he offered up the following advice to amateur players.
“It’s hard,” he said. “It’s almost like backyard grass, where it’s really thick, so it’s hard to get the blades through the grass.”
But his approach is simple: Get a steeper angle of attack, which should help the club avoid getting stuck in the thick cabbage around the greens.
“You’ve got to be a little bit steeper, your angle of attack, because you can’t catch too much grass before you catch the ball, especially around the greens. If you catch too much grass before the ball, you’re going to shut the clubface, and you’re got to hit everything hot and left.”
This is where Finau says it’s important to use the bounce of the club.
“What I like to do is, you’ve got to chip with a little bit more bounce, a little bit more of an open face, and then just get a little steeper so you can get closer to the back of the ball when you’re hitting out of the rough so you’re not catching so much grass as you get through. That’s a shot that I tried yesterday, and it seemed to be pretty effective around the greens. Hopefully it works this week.”
While many amateurs won’t encounter gnarly rough like Oak Hill’s during a typical round of golf, by using the advice from Finau, they can see more productive shots in the short game. Sure, you won’t walk away with the Wanamaker Trophy, but you should be able to brag to your playing partners about being able to pop your shot up softly onto the putting surface — which should positively impact your scorecard.