By Travis Fulton, Director of Instruction, PGA TOUR Academy
Another week -- and another win for Rory McIlroy, as the young Northern Irishman is making the game look too easy as of late. As I stated last week, I am running out of things to talk about when it comes to the game’s newest superstar, so I took a moment to think back to all the great golf Rory has played this year. Besides all the big drives, laser-like irons and solid putting, I find myself thinking about some of the great bunker shots that have helped him win four times this year on the PGA TOUR.
A major key to great greenside bunker play is creating enough loft at address so you can create the speed necessary to hit a high, soft shot. One of the most common errors we see at the TOUR Academies is players who don’t open the club face enough and/or lean the shaft too far forward at address. This dynamic creates a lower initial launch angle, promoting the player to create a short arm swing and/or decelerate to counter the lack of loft.
Here are some things to consider at address to help create an environment that allows for enough loft, which promotes the bigger arm swing and acceleration.
1. Put the clubface open with the shaft neutral to leaning slightly back. Look at adding loft not only through the clubface but also by not leaning the club shaft towards the target. Although there are situations that call for this, most greenside bunker shots call for the hands to be more in-line with the club head to leaning slightly back in relationship to the target to create the loft needed for the shot.
2. Ball position forward, in stance with the butt of the club pointing at belt buckle. With the shaft more neutral to leaning slightly back, it is important to position the body so the butt of the club is pointing at the belt buckle. This will help secure a forward ball position, leading to a higher launch.
3. Weaker grip. Oftentimes, I will encourage my players to move both their hands on the grip towards the target (weaker) which allows the clubface to open more during the backswing. This is an advanced approach, but it can help those who normally have a very strong grip and struggle out of the bunker.
Travis Fulton is the Director of Instruction at the TOUR Academies at TPC Sawgrass and the World Golf Village. For more information on the TOUR Academy, click here.