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Instruction

Mid-week Lesson: Leadbetter/Flick say 'pick it from fairway sand'

By Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman


In the November 2011 issue of Golf Digest (Bubba Watson on the cover), which is hitting subscribers' mailboxes today and will be on newsstands soon, Golf Digest Teaching Professional David Leadbetter discusses the best way to hit fairway bunker shots. I found this tip really interesting because it is based on the same principle that Golf Digest Teaching Professional Jim Flick discussed in a tip I did with him for the November 2005 issue and again in December 2009 (Sweep the Ball from Fairway Sand). Jim said he learned the technique from Jack Nicklaus. Both teachers advocate feeling as if you are hitting level to slightly up on the ball through impact.

First, let's hear from Leadbetter:
"Many amateurs struggle from fairway sand because they swing too hard and release the club too early on the downswing. This causes them to hit the sand first, costing them distance. Here's how to stop hitting fat.

"First, choose a club that will allow you to comfortably clear the lip of the bunker. If the lip is not an issue, then take an extra club to remove any temptation to overswing. Once you have the right club, set up with the ball forward of center in your stance, dig your feet into the sand to create a stable base, and then grip down on the club to compensate for your feet now being lower than the ball.

"When you swing, try to pick the ball off the sand cleanly while staying in balance, as if you're catching the ball on the upswing. In essence, this type of swing will accommodate your early wrist release and allow you to avoid hitting the sand before the ball."

Now let's see what Flick had to say:
"I was walking with Jack Nicklaus during a practice round at the 1996 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills, and on one hole he drove into a fairway bunker some 170 yards from the green. There was a fairly steep lip, so I figured Jack might have to play short of the putting surface. But he took a 6-iron, kept his weight back, made perfectly clean contact, and put the ball on the green. 

instruction_blog_flick_bunker.jpgLeft: Jim Flick says to think of sweeping the ball out of fairway bunkers. The image of a broom is a good one if you're a visual learner.

(Photo by J.D. Cuban/Jim Luft)

"Later I asked Jack how he could hit the ball on such a high trajectory, and he said that with a middle iron to a fairway wood in a bunker, you do not want to hit down on the shot because the sand provides little resistance against which to trap the ball. Instead, you want the club swinging level at impact. Jack plays the ball slightly forward in his stance. He feels as if he keeps his weight on his right side longer through impact, similar to his driver swing. There should be little to no sand displaced.

Try it. You might be afraid of topping the shot, but I've yet to see any student top it with this technique."

OK, the message is pretty clear to me. In fairway sand, you do not want to hit down on the ball. Rather, try to sweep it or pick it off the sand, feeling as if you're swinging the club on a level or slightly upward approach.




"Try it. You might be afraid of topping the shot, but I've yet to see any student top it with this technique."

OK, the message is pretty clear to me. In fairway sand, you do not want to hit down on the ball. Rather, try to sweep it or pick it off the sand, feeling as if you're swinging the club on a level or slightly upward approach.

Good luck with your game, and look for Fitness Friday to get ready for a good weekend of golf.
 
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