InstructionJanuary 19, 2011

How to play a miracle shot

It was the 72nd hole of last week's PGA Tour event. Steve Marino had 210 yards to the green on the par-5 finisher and needed to make eagle to have a chance of tying tournament leader Mark Wilson at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Any tour player would have a good shot at knocking it on. But when you have to stand inside a fairway bunker and your ball is outside the bunker, two feet above your shoes, what do you do?

Watch the video here to see how Marino handled it, then read Golf Digest Teaching Professional Jim Flick's tips on how you can play from such an usual lie.

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"Anytime you have a difficult or strange lie, take several rehearsal swings to determine where the clubhead is hitting the ground," Flick says. "Always do this. That determines your ball position." Flick says that Marino does the following four things:

  1. He chokes down on the club dramatically. That helps keep him from hitting behind the ball.

  1. He stays really steady throughout the swing--almost making a driver swing. Notice that his head actually moves backward at impact, which shows he's swinging slightly up on the ball. Staying steady is a good thought for any usual lie. You are not allowed to create a stance in the bunker, but Marino makes sure to anchor himself with his right foot, then stays very steady on that foot throughout the swing, greatly limiting his weight shift. He swings the club back deliberately and smoothly. These adjustments give him a better chance of making solid contact.

  1. Marino factors in that the ball won't go as far because he's hitting up through impact, sending the shot on a higher-than-normal trajectory. Note he has only 210 to the hole, and he's swinging a fairway wood, which normally would go farther than that for a strong tour player.

  1. There is no flip through the hitting area. Look at Steve's left forearm through impact. He uses it to stabilize the clubface. There is absolutely no breakdown.

Flick also notes that when the ball is well above your feet, the tendency with a higher-lofted iron is to either hit a dramatic hook (raise an iron so the shaft is more level to the ground, and the face in effect closes), or there is a tendency to shank the shot because you are off balance. "Selecting a fairway wood reduces the chance of overhooking and eliminates the shank," Flick says. "Steve obviously has practiced this kind of shot, because he knew exactly what to do. Tour players practice all kinds of shots, but amateurs rarely do. If you practice shots like this one from time to time, you'll be prepared when you encounter an unusual stance on the course."

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*Roger Schiffman

Managing Editor

Golf Digest


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