How to hit Phil Mickelson's backward bunker shot

How to hit Phil Mickelson’s backward bunker shot

A few years ago, shortly after Phil Mickelson came to work with me on his short game, I learned two important things about him. First, he's a very hard worker. We often work 10 hours a day, usually for two or three days in a row. Second, he likes to have fun when he practices. He frequently breaks up intense practice sessions with a lighthearted story or joke that comes from out of the blue. With his wide-ranging knowledge and curiosity about the cosmos, combined with my background in research at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, he'll sometimes stop in the middle of a pre-shot waggle to ask a serious question about space, or utter a bizarre statement to test my gullibility.

Not long ago during a practice session, Phil turned to me and asked, "Pelzie, how would you hit this shot?" He had carefully placed the ball on the downslope of the back lip of a bunker — an impossible shot to hit forward. My response was, "Somehow punch it out to one side or the other?"

He then faced directly away from the flagstick and proceeded to launch the ball backward over his head to within two feet of the cup. He smiled, walked away and said, "Why not do it like that?"

After a number of failed attempts to duplicate the shot, I asked, "How did you do that?" The secret is to first get into the stance required, then open the face of a 64-degree wedge to a ridiculous degree, and then finally execute an absolute "rip" swing while not allowing the clubhead to pass your hands through impact. (See him demonstrate the shot in the video below. For more great tips, check out his new short-game instruction DVD at Sounds easy, doesn't it? It's not, but it could break up your practice time and make it more fun — a Mickelson trademark.