WHO: Bubba Watson
WHAT: 220-yard seven iron from a fairway bunker to the green
WHERE: 589-yard par 5 18th hole at TPC Louisiana
WHEN: Second playoff hole at the Zurich Classic
Most golfers can’t hit 220-yard shots from bunkers, and most golfers aren’t left-handed. So there won’t be many people copying the amazing shot that Watson hit to reach the green and set up his two-putt birdie to win. But everybody needs to know how to hit a fairway bunker shot, so here are the basics.
The most important thing is to consider your options.
1. How much distance between the ball and the green, or target, can you realistically bite off?
2. Is the green (or target) really reachable?
3. If you decide to go for the green, what are the options if you miss the green?
4. Can you easily fly the ball over the lip of the bunker? With what club?
Answer those questions realistically. Don’t reach for a miracle. That will almost always lead to disaster.
THE DRILL: Here are two tips for playing a fairway bunker shot.
1. To avoid hitting the sand too early (the most common mistake), choke-down on the grip three-quarters of an inch.
2. Twist the right (or back) foot so that the right (outer) edge of the foot is 45 degrees higher than the inside of the foot at address. That will put most of the pressure on the inside of the foot. Do that to avoid the common problem of spinning out in the backswing and losing your balance.
Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher John Elliott teaches at St. Andrews Golf & Country Club in West Chicago, Ill.