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July 4 2013

4:01 PM

On the Mark: Fairway bunker wizard

Jordan Spieth has a great ability to make solid contact from fairway bunkers. (Carr/Getty Images)

By Mark Immelman, Special to PGATOUR.COM

It is always an enjoyable week for the players on the PGA TOUR when they get to compete at a major championship venue. Last week near our nation’s capital at Congressional Country Club was no different. Congressional poses the complete examination of a player’s skill set and the course setup for the AT&T National upped the ante just a little more than normal. Lush rough and lightning-fast greens placed an emphasis on shot placement and as a result breaking the par of 71 was a challenge.

Bill Haas continued his fine 2013 form as he posted four solid rounds to win by three strokes from Roberto Castro. Haas surely is a beautiful golfer to watch and learn from – he exhibits super fundamentals and he makes a sound, rhythmic swing of the club no matter its length. I have no doubt that he will threaten in major events in the future. The lesson we can learn from the stars of the PGA TOUR last week, however, comes from one of the TOUR’s freshest faces.

Once again, TOUR rookie Jordan Spieth made his presence known and showed off his very good game. He had another solid outing, finishing in a tied for 6th and he hit a number of impressive shots of which one really stands out. Spieth began his final round in style as he holed out from a fairway bunker on the first hole for an eagle.

Spieth hit the fairway bunker shot from a slightly uphill lie, but the illustrations I would like to make are how to hit the fairway bunker shot more cleanly and more consistently.

The key out of the fairway bunker is to make clean contact with the ball, even to a point where if anything the contact is slightly thinner than what would be ideal. There are a few adjustments you can make to guarantee this sort of contact and as a result better distance control. Before we address these, though, a gentle reminder that proper contact is the function of a squaring clubface and a correctly located base of the swing arc in relation to the ball:

Ball position: In order to make clean contact with the ball it is advisable to move the ball back in the stance for a medium iron shot – somewhere around the middle of the stance would suffice because, ideally, you want the ball to be located where the base of your swing will be.

Quiet leg action: In order to ensure a correctly located base to the arc, a stable hub of the swing is necessary. To achieve added stability, widen the stance slightly, brace the legs (by squeezing the knees toward each other) at address and try to retain that engaged feeling throughout the swing. You should feel a little less lateral movement in the legs and knees and as a result a more stable pivot of the upper body.

Shorter, more controlled swing (pick a longer club): It is highly recommendable to make a swing that is shorter than normal. Picture yourself as if you were standing in the middle of a clock's face with 12 o’clock above your head and 6 o’clock between your feet. Then make a smooth and balanced swing where the handle of the club moves no further than 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock. As you do so you may sacrifice a little power so to counter that, select one longer club (bunker lip in front of you permitting) than normal.

Ball focus:  A really simple way to ensure “ball-first” contact is to keep your eyes focused on a dimple on the target side of the golf ball. At address, narrow your vision on one dimple on the front of the ball and then keep your eyes trained on that very dimple throughout the back-and-downswings. This movement may make your pivot feel a little shorter, tighter and more centered over your feet, but rest assured that in so doing it is helping to guarantee a body location that will promote a more descending arc through impact and hence better contact with the ball.

Good luck.

/mi

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.

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