By Tim Mahoney
Fairway bunker shots are regarded as some of the more
difficult in the game. Adding distance,
a high lip and a difficult lie and the task is almost impossible. There are several myths when it comes to
fairway bunker shots, and I hope to dispel some of those this week. Golfers, must keep in mind, when facing a bad
lie (bad lie is defined as when there is question about the lie), the first
objective is to advance the ball to a good lie.
Second objective, never attempt a miracle shot after a poor one. Finally, never attempt a shot that you have
not practiced. Keeping these objectives
in mind, fairway bunker shots will become an easier task.
When faced with a fairway bunker shot, preparation is the
most important element. Keys for the
choice- take enough loft to clear the lip.
Golfers should never hear “ball-thump.”
As a reference 1 more club should be utilized. High lofted fairway woods are an excellent
club of choice, assuming limited loft is need.
the golf ball back in your stance. Your
impact objective is a steeper angle of approach, striking the ball first and
sand after. The rearward ball position
will assist in steepening the angle.
down on the club. Shorten the club about
an inch. The shortened club will reduce
the chance of striking the sand prior the ball.
your feet into the sand about an inch.
The lowering of your feet will reduce the amount of lower body motion
during the swing. Excessive amount of
lower body slide will result in an incorrect bottom of the swing.
your body weight towards the target. As
you lean your weight allow the grip end to move towards the target. The weight and the hand adjustment will move
your swing bottom towards the target, resulting in a steeper angle of approach.
The adjustments in your set-up will steeper the angle
resulting in ball/sand contact.
Checkpoints during the motion:
a balanced swing. Holding your finish
until the ball comes to a rest guarantees success. Inability to hold the finish is an indication
of an out of balance motion.
the upper body to wind against the lower body on the backswing. The lower body must resist and hold. The coil generated is a power source. If the lower body does not hold, the swing
bottom will occur behind the ball, resulting in sand and ball contact.
swing posture throughout the motion.
Turn the upper body on the backswing and clear the lower body on the
forward side. Golfers must maintain
their measurement and posture throughout the motion. A conscious attempt to lift the ball will
result in a shallow angle.
Golf is a unique game, due to the fact; they never face the
same shot twice. Consistency is the
result of developing a repeating swing motion. Pre swing adjustments are
utilized when faced with different lies.
Golfers should 1 swing with different set-ups. Perfect your swing, make a few simple address
adjustments and the fairway bunker shot will be a simple one.
Sand play is often regarded as the easiest shot in golf, due
to the fact, that the club never comes in contact with the ball during a
greenside bunker shot. As a result of
over 30 years in the golf instruction business, I have found that the greenside
bunker shot maybe the most difficult.
There are several myths when it comes to this shot: first of all, “you must hit 2” behind the
ball, actually with the skidding effect of the bounce the clubs enters the sand
approx. 3-4 inches behind the ball.
Attempting to strike 2 inches behind may result in club ball
contact. Second myth, due to the
clubface open at address one must aim to the left. The golf ball is positioned
forward in the stance (off of left heel)
and no club ball contact the golf ball travels in the direction of the swing
path not the clubface. Keeping this in
mind there is no need to aim left. Third
myth, you must swing more upright.
Ninety percent of all golfers slice the ball due to an upright swing;
swing more upright simply produces a weak glancing hit that will travel a short
distance to the right. And the final
myth, you must look and aim behind the ball.
All shots in golf you make every attempt to strike the ball first, now
we are told to strike the sand first. If
you make 2 adjustments in your set-up: ball positioned off of the left heel and
lower your body in the sand you will automatically strike the sand first. Look at the ball and attempt to hit it.
Consistent sand play is the effect of:
the clubface according to the lie. Good
lie open the face, bad lies close the face.
As you adjust the club you must use the entire club. You never grip down on a greenside bunker
the golf ball off the left heel. This
position will allow the club to enter the sand behind the ball.
your body in the sand by digging in.
This adjustment will allow the club to get beneath the ball.
and swing towards the target. The golf
ball travels along the swing path not the clubface alignment.
3 times the amount of swing. The amount
of sand ways 3 times the weight of the ball.
Keeping this in mind you must make enough swing.
Trust the club and your full swing for the green side bunker
shot. Keep in mind that consistency is
the effect of perfecting one swing shape and make pre-swing adjustments for
Utilize Ground Forces for increased clubhead Speed
During my 20 years working with Bob Toski in the Golf Digest
Schools, Bob would state daily during our sessions, “ The hands grip the club
and the feet grip the ground.” As Player
Development activity has improved with the utilization of Trackman, K Vest,
Gears and 2-D video one area of development is lagging: understanding the force
of the ground. As I instruct throughout
the world, one simple ingredient is being utilized in increased club head speed
for all golfers: using the ground throughout the dynamic motion of the swing.
Golf shoe technology has greatly improved and the feet, ankles and toes have
room to launch and grip the ground.
Golfers slight in weight and leverage have found ways to increase speed
simply by using the ground in the swing.
A simple thought, “ are we more powerful with a cannon from a canoe or
from a firm surface?”
Ground forces start at address with a firm ground and
posture. Arms hanging freely, weight on
the middle of the ankles, bending from hips and spine at a neutral
position. Stability at address allows
the body to load and unload throughout the swing. Feet and ankles must have the mobility to
load and unload.
As you wind up into the backswing, allow the upper body to
wind against the lower body and ground.
Spine is tilt away from the target as the body is turned against the
feet and ground. The gluts are lowered
and activated as you wind against the ground.
There should be a slight lowering of the head during the backswing as
you wind up.
Explode during the downswing into impact. All muscles must fire as the trailing leg is
extended and lengthens. This movement of
thrusting upward creates a swing path and angle of approach upward through
impact. Lead glut is turning behind as
the trailing leg is straightening.
Pushing off of the balls of the feet as the heels rise off the ground
through impact. Low to high concept as
the golfer explodes through impact.
Using th3 ground on the backswing and downswing. Ground forces throughout the golf swing.
The most misunderstood concept in golf is the use and
utilization of ground forces. Low to
high as the golfers loads and explodes.
Use the ground as the legendary golf instructor Bob Toski mentions, “
hands grip the club as the feet grip the ground.”
Controlling Trajectory in the Short Game
In executing short game shots, inside 50 yards (pitches and
chips), a player’s ability to control the ball’s flight trajectory can be just
as important as controlling the ball’s direction and overall distance. A golfer has options to create consistent
ball flight trajectory and as a result consistent shot patterns swing after
Option One – Ball Choice:
A golfer’s choice of golf ball will have an affect on a golf
ball’s flight characteristics. It is the
dimples on a golf ball that are responsible for its flight
characteristics. Their design (size,
shape and pattern) will help dictate the ball’s trajectory. The size and depth of the dimples affect
performance. Shallow dimples generate
more spin on a golf ball than deep dimples, which increases loft and causes the
ball to rise and stay in the air longer and roll less, which is advantageous
when playing to elevated greens. Deep
dimples generate less spin on a golf ball than shallow dimples, which decrease
loft and causes the ball to stay on a lower trajectory, with less air time and
greater roll, which is advantageous when playing to low elevated greens.
Option Two – Ball Position:
A correct ball position helps you contact the ball crisply and
achieve the proper trajectory on the shot.
Ball position affects the path and the angle of approach the club takes
into the ball which ensures a consistent loft angle of the club at impact. With the ball positioned too far forward,
your shoulders align left of the target, thus creating a swing path that is too
steep and out-to-in. If you locate the
ball too far back toward your right foot, your shoulders are closed, which
creates a swing path that is too shallow and in-to-out. You will be able to produce consistent ball
flight trajectories only if the ball is positioned correctly in your
stance. For chip shots, position the
ball about two inches back of center.
You want to strike the ball with a descending angle of approach creating
a low trajectory, running shot. For all
wedges and pitch swings from normal lies position the ball in the exact center
of your stance.
Option Three – Swing Technique:
To create a low trajectory chip or pitch shot, set your
hands slightly ahead of the ball. A
forward hand position will naturally de-loft the clubface, helping to start the
ball on a low trajectory. Also,
concentrate on making a rhythmic swing with a slightly slower tempo on the
forward swing. A slower tempo will
produce less spin, helping to keep the ball on a low trajectory. Stay level with your hips as you swing
through impact. Feel as though the
handle of the club leads the clubhead through the hitting area to prevent adding
loft to the clubface at impact. A low
trajectory shot means a low finish. The
lower you want to hit it, the lower you want to finish, not only with the hands
and arms, but with the clubhead as well.
While it is okay to play the ball back in you stance to produce a lower
trajectory, it is not advantageous to play the ball forward in your stance as a
means of getting a higher trajectory.
Playing the ball forward in you stance moves it ahead of the bottom of
your natural swing arc. To hit a higher
shot, the first choice should always be to take a more lofted club and make
your standard swing. The second choice
is to open the clubface, aim your swing line to the left of the target and keep
the ball exactly in the center of your stance.
Keeping the ball in the middle of your stance ensures crisp contact.
Option Four – Club Selection:
The easiest way to vary shot trajectory from a normal lie is
to choose a higher degree lofted club or choose a lower degree lofted
club. If you need a higher soft landing
shot, choose a lob (60 degrees), sand (56 degrees), gap (52 degrees), or a pitching
wedge (48 degrees). If you need a lower
running shot, choose a 9 iron (39 degrees), 8 iron (34 degrees), 7 iron (30
degrees), or 6 iron (26 degrees). It is
easier than creating a different swing or changing your mechanics. Clubs are designed with the clubface having
different lofts. It is loft that makes a
golf ball take flight on an ascending trajectory, not an upward direction of
swing. The club actually hits the ball in
a horizontal or slightly downward angle.
Choose the option that works best for your game. Your golf ball selection will be based on the
design of the golf course that you’ll be playing. Under normal lie conditions, you’ll want to
maintain a consistent ball position for crisp club to ball contact. Vary the length of your swing technique to
produce low or high trajectories. And
choose your club wisely. Practice with
different lofted clubs and observe the ball flight trajectory patterns. Take your observations to the golf course.
Low short game shots
The average professional golfer on any of the world tours
hits an average of 11-13 greens a round.
As a result, 5-7 opportunities are presented for an up-in or an actual
chip in. After 35 years of teaching golf
around the world, mastering the chip shot is the fastest way to lower your
handicap, provide more enjoyment and assist all levels of golfers an
opportunity to exceed their personal objectives.
At the Mahoney and Troon Golf Academy we have eliminated
shots titles: chipping and pitching and have replaced the situation with a low
shot or a high shot. In all short game
situations the player’s goal is to land the golf ball safely onto the putting
surface and allow the golf ball to release to the hole. Successful short game
results are the effect of a correct set-up, swing motion, and club choice.
Club choice is the effect of the lie of the ball, the amount
of green you have to work with and the distance you are away from your desired
landing area. Worse the lies choose a
higher lofted club. More green you have
to work with, take a lower lofted club to allow for more run out. The further you are away from the landing
area, choose a higher lofted club in-order to land the golf ball safely onto
the green. When in doubt, choose the
higher lofted club and produce a lower ball flight.
Preparation in the short game is 90% of the success of the
end result. For a lower lofted shot,
position the ball towards your back foot, lean your body weight towards the
target with the shaft leaned forward.
Keep in mind that the golf club will bottom out directly below your
nose, Position your head in front of the ball and the club will find its low
spot in front of the ball.
During your swinging motion, minimize the amount of hand
action and pivot on the back swing and allow your upper body to turn back with
arm motion. The club head should remain
under your hands. On the forward swing
allow your resisted core hips to initiate the motion with limited hand and
wrist motion. The club head should
remain under your hands. Hold your
finish until the ball comes to rest.
Eliminate the shot titles during your golf rounds and
attempt to the control your short game shots with elevation. Set-up, club choice and motion will give you
controlled results and lower scores.
Controlling distance with your Wedges
Golf is a unique activity where you have the combination of
distance, direction and trajectory control of the golf ball. In the short game the ability to score is
directly related to controlling the distance of the golf ball. Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Rickie
Fowler have the ability to control the distance of their wedges within 95% of
the required goal. For an example, on a
30 yard shot, Spieth has the control of his wedges to hit the ball 28.5 yards,
a differential of 1.5 yards in total distance.
Distance is controlled by club choice, length of club at
address, length of swing, elevation of the shot, solidness of the strike and
the speed of motion. All golfers should
have a minimum of 3 wedges with the lofts of 48, 52 and 56 degrees of
loft. All wedges should have a
differential of 4 degrees of separation.
As you work with the wedges identify the distance of ½, ¾ and full
Length of club at address will have a direct impact on the speed
of the motion throughout. Golfers should
attempt to grip down the shaft, ½ of a grip and a full grip. Combine this with different length of swings
as well. A shortened club will work with
a shortened swing and a long club will work with a long swing. All wedge swings should be balanced or
symmetrical on both sides of the motion.
A partial backswing should match a partial forward swing. The golf swing
needs to be balanced in order to control speed and distance.
A mirrored impact position and address, of the will assist
with controlling the loft of the club. The impact position should be identical
to the starting position. Unlike the full swing where the shaft needs to be
forward leaned for speed in pitching the shafts needs to match.
Solidness of the strike is the effect of the angle or plane
of the swing. A vertical swing motion
will produce a toe hit and conversely a horizontal or flat swing will produce a
heel hit or a shank. The club must be
swung on the desired angle or right angle to your spine.
Distance control in the short game is the effect of the
club, speed, length of swing and solidness of the hit. Control these variables and you to will pitch
Impact for Consistency
As you watch golf on TV across all the different
professional tours, you will see different grips, postures, swing shapes and
ball flights. Regardless of the differences in all the unique swings, there is
one constant in all good ball strikers – they look identical at impact. Perfect
impact and your ball striking will improve.
Impact position consists of: a forward leaning shaft, hips
open to the target line, shoulders square to the target line, left wrist flat
and right wrist bent. Establish the
angles and plane during the backswing and maintain these angles at impact. Anticipation of the strike or an in-correct
mind-set will create impact misery and inconsistenctcy. Simply rehearsing impact or an isometric
exercise will assist you with your impact goals. Start at address and move into impact
A drill that will assist you with the motion of impact and
correct alignments is making small swings into an impact bag. Allow the power sources to accumulate on the
back swing and turn into impact. As the
club strikes the bag, note: a forward
leaned shaft, flat lead wrist, hips open and shoulders square.
All golf swings are different: upright, flat, close faced or
opened face. But all great ball strikers
are perfect at impact. Work on impact
and your scores will lower.
Golf Ball curvature is the effect of a misaligned club face
at impact. Your club face is controlled
by wrist cock, arm rotation and release.
All three of these aspects is directly controlled by the hold or
individual grip of the club. The
quickest and simply the easiest means of improving your game is by perfecting
your grip. A perfect grip will improve
an imperfect swing plane, an imperfect swing path and imperfect impact.
Utilizing a gripping procedure will allow you to position
your hands on the club consistently every time you swing the golf club.
Step 1- allow your arms to hang freely by your sides as you
position the club under the heel pad of your left hand with the club planed and
the club face square.
Step 2-elevate the club and establish the width of the swing.
With the club in front of you position your right hand on the club. Connecting the hands by placing your life
line on top of the thumb.
Grip check points include with the left hand include: heel pad on top, thumb to the right of center
and no gap between the thumb and the base of the hand. Right hand check points include: life line covers the thumbs, trigger finger
to the side of the grip and no gap. The golfer has three options to connect the
hands: overlap grips allows for more
wrist cock, an interlocking allows for more direction control and a baseball
grip allows for a higher trajectory.
Perfect your grip and perfect your game. The only contact you have with the club is
your grip. A perfect hold will perfect
your ball flight.