By Mark Immelman, Special to PGATOUR.COM
There were plenty of birdies and eagles on Day 1 in the Four-ball matches of The Presidents Cup and there were numerous shots worthy of the highlight reel. Indeed being on the call for Sirius/XP PGA TOUR Radio gave me a front row seat for a lot of those.
One shot especially stands out in my mind. It was the one of the last shots of a very long day and it came off the club of the ever-reliable Steve Stricker.
With his partner, Jordan Spieth, effectively out of the hole, Stricker had plugged his approach shot in the face of the bunker that fronts the 18th green. Having to get it up and down to force a potential half on the hole and a victory in the match, Stricker calmly delivered the bunker shot to 3 feet. Given the pressure, the degree of difficulty and the situation, it was the best shot of the day, in my opinion.
Dealing successfully with a plugged lie in a greenside bunker is possible if you employ the correct technique. Stricker certainly did so and there is a lot that we can learn from him:
Close the clubface: Normally it is advisable to open the clubface in the greenside bunker because it allows the best use of the flange and the bounce of the sand wedge. The purpose of that bounce is to not allow the club to dig too far into the sand. With the plugged lie, however, you have to make every effort to get the leading edge of your sand wedge under the ball so as to properly elevate it. Closing the clubface eliminates the influence of the bounce and actives the leading edge of the club. That leading edge makes the wedge dig into the sand more and this will help to get the ball up and out of the lie.
Square your stance a little: Play the ball just a little forward of center and make sure that you do not aim as far open as usual. This alignment adjustment is forced by the squaring of the clubface. An added tidbit of advice is not to dig your feet too far into the sand if the lie is severely buried or if the face of the bunker is very high or steep. This is merely a precautionary adjustment as the last thing you would want is to have your golf ball run back into one of your deeper footprints if you didn’t manage to extricate the ball from the lie and/or the bunker.
Stick the club into the sand: Leverage is key because sufficient clubhead speed is necessary to get the ball out of the lie and out of the bunker. You can build added swing speed without making a violent swing by hinging your wrists fully on the backswing and then releasing them freely on the downswing. As you do so stick the clubhead into the sand about an inch behind the ball and keep the club in there. If there is any follow-through at all it should be incidental and a function of momentum. This downward delivery of the club and the abbreviation of the follow-through direct all of the swing’s energy through the ball and the ball will pop out of the lie with little bother at all.
Remember: One last thing to remember is that the lie will reduce your ability to get any significant spin on the ball so do bear in mind that the shot will likely run out more than usual when it lands on the putting surface.
Mark Immelman, the brother of PGA TOUR professional Trevor Immelman, is a well-respected golf instructor and head coach of the Columbus State University (Ga.) golf team. For more information about Mark and his instruction, visit his web site, markimmelman.com or follow him on Twitter @mark_immelman or “Like” Mark Immelman Golf Instruction on Facebook. He also has a golf instruction e-book called “Consistently Straight Shots – The Simple Solution” available on iTunes/iBooks.