June 15, 2015

My New Bunker Move Couldn't Be Easier

A good sand game isn't just for saving par. When you've got this shot dialed, it bleeds confidence into your iron game. Coming down the stretch at the Players, where I won this spring, I needed to go at every pin, and I did.

The technique I used in bunkers growing up was too complicated.

I'd stand way open to the target and swing along my toe line, thinking I had to cut across the ball to get height. When my timing was on, my sand game could be great, but I had to allow for the ball to dart right when it hit the green with left-to-right sidespin. If the putting surface sloped in that direction, I didn't have much chance to control the rollout.

Then Butch Harmon showed me how to hit high, soft bunker shots that release forward, or spin back straight. This makes it so much easier, because you can read and plan for the rollout as if you were hitting a putt. Here's what I do:

I stand with my feet and shoulders dead square to my target line, just like any normal shot. Then I set the clubface flat and take a weak grip, which means the handle is more in the palm than the fingers of my left hand. I check that the clubface points right of my target and that I can see, at most, two knuckles on my left hand.

From there, my focus is to swing the club back on an inside path. With my left hand weak, it feels natural for the wrists to quickly hinge to the top. Then I just "slap" the sand behind the ball with my right hand. Instead of digging, the clubhead skims through the sand on a shallow path. As my right wrist releases, I feel the clubface pointing to the sky.

Because this "slap" is direct, instead of across the ball like in my old swing, I get more speed. With speed comes backspin, and spin is how you make the ball do whatever you like.


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