*Editor's Note: Every Monday Kevin Hinton, Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, N.Y. and one of Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers, tells you how a tour player hits a key shot. This week, Kevin looks at Zach Johnson's masterful fairway bunker shot in the sudden-death playoff with Troy Matteson at the John Deere Classic. The ball finished within tap-in distance for an easy birdie and the victory.
By Kevin Hinton
*First, let's go to the videotape:
Here are the keys you need to hit great fairway bunker shots, like Zach Johnson did.
Be certain to dig your feet into the sand enough to solidify your base, but not excessively. Because you have effectively lowered yourself, you'll need to grip down a bit on the club. Play the ball in its normal starting position, with your shaft and weight leaning slightly toward your front foot. Be careful not to overdo this. Otherwise you'll create too steep of an angle of attack into the sand. In general, your setup should feel quite "normal."
Zach hit 6-iron from 194 yards. The ball flew about 185, and released the rest of the way, rolling to within 12 inches of the cup. This was a fairly full 6-iron for Zach, but for the average player, it's a good idea to take one extra club. This will allow for a slight mis-hit, as well as encourage a more controlled swing. An important key to this shot is sound footwork. Zach does this very well throughout this swing, starting with keeping his left foot planted in the backswing. This helps maintain the space between his knees, preventing excessive movement.
The most important aspect to the downswing is to create a "shallow" angle of attack into the ball. Your margin for error is dramatically reduced if you hit down too sharply into the sand. It is much better to err on the side of picking the ball out of the bunker. A slightly thin shot will work fine, as long as you have a little extra loft to clear the lip. If you imagine the letters "V" and "U," try to make the bottom of your swing look more like a "U." That will encourage a shallow approach into the ball. Zach definitely took a sandy divot after contact, but it was not too deep or large. Here's a hint: If the color of the sand at the bottom of your divot is considerably darker than the sand your ball was originally sitting on, you've likely made too steep a swing and have dug too deeply into the bunker.
Make certain to get to a full finish, just like you would on a normal shot from the fairway. I often see golfers staying completely flat-footed throughout the swing, never getting off the back foot. This will definitely lead to fat shots. Zach has great footwork and finishes in perfect balance. His finish is somewhat shorter than that of other players, but it replicates his normal finish on regular iron shots.