September already… it seems like it was only a couple of weeks ago when we first started discussing spring and getting ready for a new golf season.
Now the air is finally cooling off and the kids are back in school and the “sand between your toes” from summer vacation has been replaced by that nasty “fried egg” lie in the greenside bunker on number 11 that you have to get up and down to tie the skins game.
We have in the past covered how to play a bunker shot, but we assumed that we would be given the simplest of lies, lying in the flat part of the bunker with no limitations placed on our results by the condition of the lie.
Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Bunkers have edges and lips, and sometimes very soft sand. This is the most difficult type of bunker to hit out of. When a golf ball lands in the bunker with a very steep trajectory, as is the case when we are hitting short irons into the green, they have a much greater chance of plugging in the sand creating a much more difficult recovery from the sand.
When faced with a plugged lie in the bunker, many of the fundamentals of a bunker shot must change to produce a shot that will allow you to get the ball onto the green.
The first of these is the way we address the ball. Earlier we opened the clubface slightly to allow the club to slide under the ball and “pop” out of the sand allowing it to land softly and roll a very short distance. With a plugged lie we cannot take the same approach. If you opened the clubface you would be exposing more of the flange of the club to the sand and it would skip off the sand producing a shot that would be bladed and not escape the bunker.
To make sure we can “dig” down in the sand and get the ball out we have to close the clubface which will remove the bounce from the club and allow it to descend deeper into the sand and force the ball out of the sand.
This type of address will make the ball come out lower than other shots and also to the left of your target line. To adjust for these effects, we must first align our body to the right of where your intended target, you will essentially pull the ball back on line.
More importantly, you must allow for the additional roll the ball will have since you will not be able to put any spin on the shot. With the ball sitting deeply in the sand your swing will produce a shot that moves more sand than others and keep you from making clean contact with the ball and thus eliminating spin.
There are many bunker shots that are considered not very difficult and an “up and down” is a simple task, there are others that you may even think you can hole out.
This one becomes a sort of survival test. You can save par from one of these lies, but it will take patience and probably a ten foot putt to do so.
There are times on the golf course when we just have to take what was given to us and do the best we can. A plugged lie in the bunker is just that. Practice the technique we discussed and try to save your pars, but be sure you at least get the ball out of the bunker. The only thing worse than a plugged lie in the bunker is having two of them.
Fairways and Greens!