PGA Championship

Valhalla Golf Club

The Loop

How do you play out of the Road Hole Bunker without beaning yourself?

July 16, 2015

The 17th at St. Andrews is hard enough even if you were somehow able to erase the deep Road Hole Bunker from its spot protecting the front left of the green. It didn't give up a single birdie all day in the first round, and probably won't play much easier the rest of the week.

But if a player does find himself looking at a five foot tall wall of sod, how does he (a) figure out if there's enough room to play a bunker shot straight toward the wall and the flag, and (b) actually execute it?

Luke Donald and Jordan Spieth were two players who figured it out on Thursday. Donald was about two feet from the wall, but hit a perfect shot almost straight up in the air and ended up four feet from the pin. Spieth had a little more room, but executed just as well.

"If you're a good bunker player, you know if you can get if over the lip or not -- either you can't make a stance and swing at it, or you can't hit it high enough," says short game guru Kevin Weeks, who is based at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club in Lemont, Ill. "If you think you can get it over -- which doesn't necessarily mean aiming straight at the flag --  the first thing you have to do is set loft on the club. Take your most lofted wedge, open the face, and then set the handle backwards, away from the ball, to add even more loft."

Then, you need to open your stance so the face is pointed at the target and your stance is aimed left, says Weeks. "The ball will end up off your left toe. Widen your stance and squat down, with your weight in your heels, then take the club back with a big turn and swing around you. The face needs to keep pointing at the sky as you follow through. It takes a big swing, because you've added so much loft that the ball is basically going to go straight up."

The last piece? "Say a little prayer," Weeks adds.