Momentum Savers: Two Deft Shots To Keep Your Round Going
You're going along playing well, and then the wheels start to rattle. You hit some loose shots and three-putt once or twice, and now it feels like another mistake will end your round. You can tell yourself to stay calm, but in these situations you can control your mind only so much. Some shots, like very difficult greenside recoveries, add tension. You just have to power through, try to get excited about the idea of playing the perfect shot. Two hole outs that led to wins for me this summer—from behind the 10th green at Royal Birkdale at the Open Championship and from a front bunker on the first playoff hole at the Travelers—are times I pulled it off.
When my options are limited, I'm usually hitting lob wedge. What helps my consistency is that I hit a flop shot very similar to how I hit a standard greenside bunker shot. I open the clubface and cut across the ball with loose, fast wrists, letting the clubhead slide past my hands. The best bunker players have several specialty shots, but mastering just two deviations from your standard sand swing will serve you well.
I recommend the "chunk-and-roll" and the "nip-spinner." Practice these to build the nerve to stick them when it counts. They can save your day. —With Max Adler
HIT THE "CHUNK-AND-ROLL" FOR HEIGHT
There are two factors in how you hit any greenside bunker shot: the speed of the swing and where the clubhead enters the sand. For a chunk-and-roll, the clubhead should blast the sand so far behind the ball (about two to three inches) that you have zero chance of hitting it thin. You want to take a lot of sand with a lot of speed. The prime moments for this shot are when your ball is on an upslope or buried in the sand. The ball can just pop out high with no spin and tumble forward with the break of the green, like a putt. In the setup, favor your front foot to get your weight distribution even with the slope. Just like a regular bunker shot, stand a little open and swing along your foot line. Go hard with a downward driving motion. The slope wants to stop the club's momentum, but don't let it. Explode through with strong shoulders and arms.
Photo by Walter Iooss Jr.
“Nothing gets your round back on track like a big sand save.”
PLAY THE "NIP-SPINNER" FOR BITE
This is a spicy shot. The risk of skulling the ball over the green is high, so you'll even see pros back off a little. If you truly go for it, it's imperative that you strike the sand scarily close to the back edge of the ball, probably less than half an inch away. You whip the clubface through with a lot of speed, though here I'd say it's generated more with the hands than the big muscles. This shot is useful from any stance, but it's usually most necessary when you're on the downslope of a bunker. Despite the terrain running away from you, you need to find a way to make the ball sizzle and check when it strikes the green. To get centered over the ball like a normal bunker shot, you'll probably need to stand wide and dip your front shoulder. Keep the clubhead moving low and fast along the surface after impact. Then exhale.
Photo by Walter Iooss Jr.
Jordan Spieth writes instruction articles exclusively for Golf Digest.