January 22 2013
By Mark Immelman, Special to PGATOUR.COM
Bill Clinton, the tournament host of the the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation, had a tournament co-host this year: Gary Player.
At 77 years young, Player is still in prime physical shape. Always a stickler for health, well-being and physical fitness, Player is a wonderful role model and a great ambassador for the game. He is also a fantastic mentor to a privileged few and I count myself fortunate to have been on the receiving end of some of his advice and counsel.
It is a great honor for me to share a bunker tip that he gave me whilst on a golf course in South Africa. It was a tip that changed my understanding of how to be consistently successful from the sand and one that shaped my approach to teaching bunker and greenside shots in general.
Player’s tip was simple yet profound: Strike every bunker shot that same way you would strike a match.
In other words, the club should accelerate on a sharpish downward arc into the sand and then level off its arc -- just as the match would approach and strike the igniter strip on the side of the matchbook. Just as you would keep the match moving as it met the igniter-strip, you should keep the club accelerating as it meets the resistance of the sand.
So to hit bunker shots like Gary Player, open your clubface and your body alignment slightly and move the ball forward in the stance -- about an inch forward of center. Lean your upper body slightly toward the target and keep the weight on the forward leg as you swing the club up, using the wrists a little more than usual, and then accelerate into and out of the sand on the downswing, just as if you were striking a match.
Player was one of the most proficient bunker players -- from all types of sand and from all types of lies -- of all time. Mimicking his method would be well worth your while.
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.