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Monday Swing Analysis: Beyond the splash

Editor's note: Every Monday, PGA professional Kevin Hinton examines the game of a recent tour winner and tells you what you can learn. A Golf Digest Best Young Teacher, Kevin is the Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Golf Club, Locust Valley, N.Y., and is a Lead Master Instructor for the Jim McLean Golf School at Doral Resort & Spa. He also teaches at Drive 495 in New York. He has seen thousands of swings and has helped golfers of all abilities, from rank beginners to tour players. This week, Kevin examines the miraculous "water-explosion" shot Bill Haas pulled off in the playoff to win the Tour Championship as well as the Fed-Ex Cup worth $10 million, and he shows you how to apply the same principles to some other tricky on-course situations. 

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Kevin Hinton: Much has already been written about Bill Haas' incredible splash shot from the water on the second playoff hole Sunday to stay alive against Hunter Mahan, and how he went on to win the Tour Championship.


It may not seem like a shot you would need, but there are other shots you will encounter (from land) to which you can apply the principles of Haas' water explosion shot. Haas essentially played it like a bunker shot, combined with a lot more guesswork and some good fortune. He pulled it off beautifully. Here are three greenside situations where I'd recommend taking a similar approach.

1. Pine Straw
You've hit an errant approach and your ball comes to rest on pine straw. To make matters worse, you need to hit a lofted shot because of the large bunker between you and the green. Definitely not a good situation. Low is not an option, just like it wasn't for Haas. If it were, I'd recommend you play it as a bump-and-run of sorts and take your medicine. The ball likely won't end up on the green, but the mistake will be far less penalizing. However, here you need loft. Try to do just as Haas did and play it like a long explosion shot from a bunker. You're going to get some pine straw between the ball and the clubface, so be certain to make a committed swing with some speed. Your mistake needs to be hitting down too much and coming up short. Be sure that you don't miss the pine straw and make ball-first contact. Home-runs are only good in baseball!

2. Deep Rough
A similar situation--you've missed the green and are in another unfortunate lie (think U.S Open). It's not that the shot needs to be hit with a lot of loft, but the chances of making ball-first contact are slim at best. No chance of taking a standard chipping approach. The club will get 
caught in the grass, and the ball will go nowhere. You'll likely have the same shot all over again. Your only hope is to apply the explosion method. Give up on the idea of making ball-first contact and again play it like an explosion shot from a bunker. The more experience you have the better on this shot because there is definitely a knack to reading the lie. The worse it is, the more force you must apply. Err on the side of aggressiveness--you want to ensure you get the ball somewhere on the green

3. Loose Soil
You typically get this type of situation near the bases of trees or on courses with a lot of waste areas. You have to assess the probability of connecting with the ball cleanly. If you think you can, the safer method is to play it like a pitch and hope for solid contact. If you just don't see that happening, again apply the bunker explosion technique. The ground will still be firm under the initial loose soil, so don't open the clubface too much. Opening the face adds bounce to the club. If you strike the ground with excessive bounce, the club will "bounce" off the surface and into the ball. It's the same principle as a bunker with firm or very little sand. Keeping the face more square allows the leading edge of the club to dig more and prevent the skull. Remember, a lob wedge typically has less bounce than a sand wedge. It's likely the better club in this situation.

So those are three scenarios from land in which you can apply the Bill Haas water explosion technique. However, if you find yourself having to do this often, my best advice is to go to the range and work on your iron game!
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