The Loop

How He Hit That: Wilson's holed bunker shot

January 23, 2012

*__Editor's Note:__Regular readers of the Instruction Blog have come to appreciate the weekly analysis provided by Kevin Hinton, the Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, N.Y. and one of Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers. This week, Hinton examines the bunker shot Mark Wilson holed in the final round, leading to his two-stroke win in the Humana Challenge.

**Roger Schiffman

Managing Editor

Golf Digest

Twitter @RogerSchiffman*

Kevin Hinton: Mark Wilson's holed bunker shot on the 12th hole of Sunday's final round was the catalyst to his fifth PGA Tour victory. With the birdie, Wilson regained a one-shot lead and never looked back. He noted after the round that the sand seemed firmer in that 12th-hole bunker, so he adjusted accordingly and the ball rolled into the cup like a putt. His follow-through was a little tighter and he landed the ball shorter, allowing for more roll. Here are the keys to proficient greenside bunker play, including from firmer sand. Practice them, and you'll start getting your bunker shots closer, and you might even hole one occasionally, like Wilson did.

Remember . . . the technique of a standard bunker shot is unique in golf. If executed properly, it is the only shot in which the club never contacts the ball--at least intentionally. Your goal is to hit the sand, not the ball, thereby forming a cushion of sand between the ball and the clubface, which will propel the ball onto the green. Here's how it's done:


-- Weight 60 percent on front foot

-- Play the ball forward

-- Slightly open clubface (pointing to the right)

-- Slightly open stance (aiming to the left)

-- Dig your feet in

-- Don't grip down (unless the shot is extremely short)


-- Aim two to four inches behind the ball (in firm sand, err on the closer side in firm sand and keep your swing tighter)

-- Make a normal, three-quarter backswing (in advanced bunker play, it's OK to  apply a cut swing--outside in--when extreme height is needed. Otherwise, make your "stock" backswing)

-- Get to your finish (on all shots, you must rotate your body, but limit how far the club swings through on shorter shots)

-- If the sand doesn't leave the bunker, the ball will not likely leave the bunker (the skull is the exception)


In hard sand/bad lies, you must make the club more of a  "digger" nature, a lob wedge has less bounce than a sand wedge, so it  digs more. A sand wedge is more of a "skimmer." Favor it in fluffy sand conditions. Finally, opening the clubface adds bounce, squaring the face and leaning the shaft forward reduces bounce... adjust accordingly.

[*Discuss this tip, and other pieces of instruction, on our partner site,