What is Bermuda grass, and what’s the best way to play from it?

The season-ending trip to Eastlake for the Tour Finale is always something that I look forward to.  

This year was no different. There were many highlights in my week-long visit to Atlanta. I got to meet Jerome Bettis and Vince Carter; I played a small part in a pre-tournament hickory club challenge; I got a close-up of the Calamity Jane replica (awarded to the tournament-winner), and I got to call some incredible golf for PGA TOUR Live.

Eastlake is an incredible venue that challenges every club in the bag.  It demands accurate length off the tee, distance control into the greens, and imagination and touch on and around the greens.  It also requires an acute understanding of how to play on Bermuda grass… especially around the greens.

Chipping and pitching off Bermuda can be demanding and even the game’s best are oftentimes flummoxed by the challenge.  The reason being is the grain of the grass plays a considerable role in the performance of the clubface through the impact zone.  Essentially, into-the-grain and down-grain lies have vastly different influences on strike quality and spin and trajectory control (with the former being the most difficult to judge and play).

Even though grainy lies can be hard, they are not impossible if you understand and apply a few simple keys:

1. Be versatile with ball position

Many pundits say that the ball position should be played forward in the stance.  I agree with this concept but I contend that you should not be hand-cuffed by it. Daniel Berger (one of the PGA TOUR’s best off Bermuda) once mentioned to me that he moves the ball position around depending on the shot requirements. In other words, move the ball back into your stance if you are unsure and you want to guarantee ball-first contact.

2. “Shaft-lean” is a big deal

If you understand how the tilt of the shaft at impact exposes the leading edge of the club to the ground you will set yourself on a course to success.  Simply, the more the handle of the club is ahead of the clubhead at impact, the more the leading edge of the club will be presented to the turf through impact.  Further, the leading edge is a “cutter” and the back edge of the club is a “bouncer” (hence its name “Bounce).

Thus, the more your hands are in front of the head at contact the more the clubface is delofted, and the more the front edge will tend to cut into the turf (and stick into Bermuda grass).

Conversely, the less the hands are ahead of the clubhead the less the “cutter” will be exposed and the less the club will stick into the ground through contact – and this is preferable when into the grain.

Before we discuss any drills and changes I must stress that you can hit well-struck, flighted shots by using something other than your most lofted wedge. Think about it, you can have less turf interaction and vary the trajectory by using a less-lofted club as it requires less shaft-lean to engineer a lower shot.

A drill to help…

The ideal strike happens when, in the downswing, the leading edge leads into the strike, clips the grass and then the bounce helps the club exit the ground into the upswing.  This all happens in an instant and when it does the ideal turf interaction results in maximum control. 

A great way to practice this is to grab an old sandwedge and practice on cement or any firm surface.  

Without a ball, assume your address with a touch more pressure on your front leg. While gripping the club, allow your arms to hang freely from your shoulders over the middle of your body.  The shaft of your sand wedge should be set at an angle where the hands are low and it is pointing slightly to the left (for right-handers) of your navel.  

Make a swing and try and return the shaft to the same place it was at address. This will activate the leading edge and the bounce.  

When you have a sense for the timing and feeling, make a swing, strike the hard surface and feel how the club bounces off the ground into the followthrough.  

Once you are proficient at it, graduate to the fringe of a green and do the same thing.  And then when you are consistent at “landing” the club correctly, add a ball to the equation.

Make your pass, focussing on the replicating the base of the arc and not striking the ball.

You will be pleasantly surprised!


Golf.com Contributor

On-course announcer and analyst Mark Immelman is passionate about the game of golf. As a decorated instructor, award-winning NCAA college golf coach, and an accomplished golfer, Mark brings a robust knowledge and vast experience to his role as a television broadcaster and golf instructor. He is currently a Golf Analyst for CBS Sports HQ, and an Analyst and On-course Announcer for CBS Sports and Golf on CBS. He currently also serves as a Studio Analyst and an On-course Announcer for PGA TOUR Live  for PGA TOUR Live.

The older brother to 2008 Masters Champion, Trevor Immelman, Mark grew up in Somerset West, South Africa. After a successful amateur career in South Africa he was offered a golf scholarship to Columbus State University (Columbus , GA). He enjoyed a prolific collegiate tenure highlighted by his four-time All-America selections, two-time Academic All-America awards, and two NCAA Div. II National Championship victories. After graduation, Mark had a short season as a playing professional, but quickly turned his attention to his true passion – golf teaching.

As a golf instructor, Mark believes in cultivating ability and talent by providing comprehensive, holistic golf instruction that is easily understandable and of the highest quality to golfers of all abilities and skill levels. His passionate approach and keen knowledge of the game have led to him being a sought-after mind by leading Professional and Amateur golfers alike. Through his career he has taught and/or consulted to PGA TOUR and European Tour professionals and tournament winners such as: Larry Mize, Loren Roberts, Trevor Immelman, Scott Brown, Patton Kizzire, Louis Oosthuizen and Will Wilcox. He has been recognized as one of “Golf Digest’s Top 20 Instructors Under 40”, Golf Digest’s “Best Teachers in the State of Georgia” and Georgia Trend Magazine’s “Top 40 Under 40 – Georgia’s Best and Brightest”.

As a NCAA College Coach at Columbus State University (since 2001) Mark continues to coach the Columbus State Men’s Golf Team and his program is a perennial contender for Conference and National Titles. He is a two-time NCAA Div. II Atlantic/Southeast Region Coach of the Year, two-time Peachbelt Conference Coach of the Year, and the 2009 NCAA Div. II National Coach of the Year.

In 2019 Mark was selected as Captain and Coach of the (Arnold) Palmer Cup International Team. His team triumphed over the United States Team in the Palmer Cup Matches held at The Alotian Club outside of Little Rock, AR.

Mark’s additional broadcast duties include being a guest analyst on the CBS Sports “First Cut Podcast”. CBS Sports also uses Mark’s unique voice for audio and promotional PGA TOUR advertisements and promotional reads.

He has also served a 6-year tenure as a Play-by-Play Announcer for Sirius/XM PGA TOUR Radio.

Additionally, Mark hosts “On the Mark”, a PGA TOUR Podcast, which to date has been downloaded more than 3 million times in more than 125 countries.

He has also written golf instructional columns and articles for Golf Digest SA, Golf Digest USA and is currently penning instructional pieces for Golf Magazine. As an author, Mark has published two e-Books on golf instruction: “Scandalously SImple – The Easy Way to Accurate Golf Shots” and “Golf is a Game of Recovery”.

You can learn more about at MarkImmelman.com