Weekend Tip: Like Hossler, change clubs in the bunker
One of the game's cliches is that the long explosion is the hardest shot in golf. It doesn't have to be so difficult, however. Golf Digest Teaching Professional Jim Flick tells me that his star junior pupil, Beau Hossler, varies the distance of his sand shots by changing the club, not the swing. In other words, Beau plays the same basic explosion shot most of the time, but when he needs a shorter shot, he uses his lob wedge, and when he needs extra distance, he uses his pitching wedge. His array of bunker shots was clearly evident last week in the U.S. Open at Olympic, where he seemed to get it up and down from the sand nearly every time--even Johnny Miller was impressed.
The great advantage of this technique is on the longer shots because you don't have to hit too close to the ball and risk skulling it over the green. (You can even hit a little more behind the ball, and it will still get out.) So no matter what the shot, Hossler tries to take the same amount of sand and make the same length and speed of swing. The lower loft of the pitching wedge sends the ball farther, and the extra loft of the lob wedge sends it shorter.
When playing the shot with the pitching wedge, you still want to open the face and position the ball as you would with your normal sand-wedge swing. Opening the face gives the pitching wedge a bit of bounce so you can swing the clubhead through the sand easily without it digging. The ball will come out a bit lower and roll a little farther, but on normal greens it will still have some check.
The next time you're in a practice bunker, experiment with these three clubs. Some players even use a 9- or 8-iron on really long explosions. You'll soon be hitting sand shots of different lengths will much less effort--or fear.
Good luck with your game this weekend.