The Loop

How He Hit That: Jimmy Walker's heroic bunker shot

September 26, 2014

The Friday morning four-ball match was about to get away from Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler. They were 2 down to Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer on the par-5 ninth, and Walker faced a tricky shot after reaching the greenside bunker in two.

But Walker cut the European's lead in half with one swing, lofting a majestic sand wedge within a few feet of the hole and watching as it checked and trickled in for eagle. That clutch shot -- and big birdies on 16 and 18 -- allowed the Americans to salvage a critical half point.

Consistent contact and spin are the keys to tour-caliber bunker shots, according to Top 50 teacher and short-game guru Stan Utley. "Tour players hit very close to the ball and take advantage of the bounce on the bottom of the club to produce that high spinning shot," says Utley, who is based at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale. "To get that consistent, precise close contact, the upper body needs to stay forward, toward the hole, while you get tall through the shot. The shaft needs to come back to vertical through the ball so that the bounce on the club is exposed. If the shaft is leaning forward, you're digging the club into the sand."

Under pressure, many amateur players instinctively try to help the ball up and out of the bunker by leaning back and scooping at it. "If you hang back, away from the hole, you're going to make contact with the sand where your weight is centered -- way behind the ball," Utley says. "That results in either a fat shot, or if you pull hard with your hands to try to save it, a skull."  Follow @RudyWriter