Golf School: Splash Your Bunker Shots Like Rickie
“He just made me look like I was playing absolutely horribly,” said Patrick Reed, who was paired with Fowler on Sunday at Albany. “Once he got his speed down on the first hole, making the first putt, it just seemed like the hole was about the size of a dinner plate. It was awesome to watch.”
Rickie Fowler woke up Sunday in Nassau, Bahamas eight shots off the lead at The Hero World Challenge. He rolled in birdies on 1, 2, 3 and 4 to kick off his round. On the fifth hole, though, Fowler found the bunker and left himself short-sided to the pin and a potential to break his birdie-run. He then proceeds to hole the bunker shot and shoots a -11 for the day which was enough for the win.
That bunker shot carried his momentum when it could have been lost, so let’s look at how Rickie tackles the beach.
Maybe you’re agitated because you just made a bad swing or it feels like an unlucky break, but the worst thing you can do is let negative emotion carry into a difficult bunker shot. Hate the sand or the moment, and you’ll tend to rush and make matters worse. Instead, laugh a little inside about your situation. Then embrace the chance to hit a memorable shot. Obvious as this might sound, attitude separates more players than talent in this game.
CREATE A STANCE
Sometimes the issue is, you’re not even sure how to stand. Your only options are to put one or both feet outside the bunker or maybe take a knee. Whatever the case, just try to get as centered as possible. Where does your torso need to be so that your hands can hang directly over the ball? If the ball is far below my feet, like it is on this shot (below), I grip the club as long as it can be. If the ball were above my feet, I’d slide my hands down the grip. Also, gravity wants to pull me down the slope on this shot, so I sink a lot of weight into my knees and rear end to stay balanced as I find my footing. Standing extra wide, you won’t be able to put much leg action into the shot, but resist the urge to swing harder with your arms. Swinging out of control will make you fall victim to gravity and hit the shot thin or way too fat.
SPLASH IT HIGH
To clear a ridiculously tall lip, remember two setup keys: (1) Open the clubface as far as it will go before taking your grip. I see a lot of amateurs get confused here. I hold the club lightly in my right hand first, let the face fall open, then I put my left hand on the top of the grip; (2) Drop the hands back, away from the target. This adds even more loft. Once you’re set up properly, it’s really all about speed. Take a full swing, sliding the club under the ball. On the follow-through, keep the clubface pointing to the sky. Hopefully you’ll see the ball up in the air, too.
OK, maybe you got really screwed. On top of everything else, your ball is buried so only the top half is visible. Time to swing hard. I mean really hard. Play it in the middle of your stance, come down steep and enter the sand about an inch behind the ball. You won’t make much of a follow-through, but if you keep the face open, the ball should pop out. Now go sink the putt.
“Accept that awkward lies happen. The biggest thing to control is how you react.”
- Courtesy of Golf Digest