Bobby wrote that the secret to playing good golf was the ability to turn three shots into two. Sooner or later we are going to miss a shot; and it is often sooner rather than later. When we do miss one, how good a player we are is really determined by our ability to recover--to essentially minimize the damage.
Consider what Bobby had to say about recovery shots in his book, Bobby Jones on Golf:
"I think it is safe to say that the man who scores between 95 and 100 usually loses about ten strokes per round because of failure to recover as well as he ought to, even in proportion to his limited ability. Tension, uncertainty, and fear take from him a heavier toll than they have any right to exact.
The tightening-up process as the player enters a bunker or long grass shortens his backswing considerably; usually, too, he feels the need of exerting some extra force in order to get the ball out. Thus he produces a short, hurried, ill-timed stroke that fails because of its inaccuracy. Brilliant recoveries to the edge of the hole are not for this man, but, under the conditions met in nine cases out of ten, there is no reason why a moderately successful recovery should not be within the reach of anyone. Most failures from bunkers, or rough, result from topping, and this is so because tension has upset the stroke.
I have said before that too much ambition is a bad thing to have in a bunker; the same holds true when playing from long grass. It is always difficult to resist the temptation to attempt to make up immediately for any mistake. When there is a long shot to be made, the average lerson will invariably try his luck with a club that he knows is unsafe. The one idea in playing from rough is to be certain of getting the ball up quickly enough to escape the grass. If this will not reach the green, it will be better to be a few yards short than to be still in the rough.
That a ball played from long grass will roll an abnormal distance, unless the turf be sodden, is a fact not often enough accounted for. Playing on fast ground, I have seen distances made with a five-iron or four-iron out of rough that would have required a two- iron or one-iron if played in a normal way from the fairway--and the shot could be played with assurance that it would clear the grass."
So, we have two valuable bits of advice from Bobby Jones. First, when faced with a bunker shot, or a shot from long rough, we must resist the temptation to try to do something heroic, or overly ambitious, to try to immediately make up for the shot that landed us in trouble. We want to make sure we get ourselves out of the rough, or the bunker, as the first order of business. And we don't want to let tension ruin the shot. We want to take our time, finish our backswing, and not hurry, or force, our downswing. Most trouble shots are missed by allowing tension to ruin our swing and, therefore, ruin our strike.
We need to try not to, as my father used to say, let one bad shot beget another. Just get the ball back in play and see if we can't recover instead by making a long putt, or a good chip. Sometimes, the best recovery shots are the shots played after the recovery shot.