How to blast from super-deep bunkers

Dave Pelz, one of the foremost short game and putting instructors in golf, offers schools and clinics across the U.S. Click here to find out more information.

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The situation

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.

The solution

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.