How to blast from super-deep bunkers
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The greenside bunker on the 16th hole at the TPC Stadium Course at PGA West is deep really deep. Its face rises more than 22 feet in some spots, which means you must blast the ball at least 25 to 30 feet high to have any chance of stopping your shot on the green.
Although you may never play a shot from this specific bunker, odds are you'll find yourself in sand somewhere staring at a Himalayan-like bank. The shot you'll need is one I call the open-faced rip-blast.
To get the ball out of the sand and high up into the air as quickly as possible, make these three setup changes:
• Select your most lofted wedge (hopefully you carry a 64-degree X-wedge) and lay the face absolutely wide open. This adds maximum loft to the clubface, and you'll need every degree of it. Open your clubface before you take your grip.
• Rotate your stance left until the clubface aims just right of your target; your toe line and shoulders should point way left of target.
• Move the ball a half-inch forward of center in your stance, so your rip-swing will naturally hit behind, but close to, the ball.
This shot requires tremendous clubhead speed because the extremely open clubface transfers most of its energy to move the ball upward, so swing as if you were trying to hit the ball 150 yards. That should give you enough height to clear the bank plus enough forward momentum to land your ball on the green. Note: Even Tour pros struggle with this shot, so don't try it without practice. It may be safer to play away from the flagstick, over a lower part of the bank.
Research & Data
Extreme shots call for extreme measures
In one of my Golf Channel shows, I tried every club in my bag to exit the bunker at the 16th at PGA West, and found success from only the two extremes. A few of my full-swing 2-irons, which normally fly well over 200 yards, were low and forceful enough to hit the ground and scoot all the way up the hill to the green, but none ended up close to the hole. All other clubs hit below the top of the bank and rolled back, except formy 64-degree X-wedge. With the X-wedge laid wide open, I had reasonable success. The X-wedge definitely provides the best chance to get up and on the green from this type of bunker.