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Jun 27

Hit a Sand Wedge Like Spieth?

h1>Spieth Makes Art of the Sand Wedge and Wins Travelers – But What About the Rest of Us?

When Jordan Spieth won his first PGA event, the John Deere Classic, not too many years ago, he did it by holing out a bunker shot. Last weekend, he did the same thing at the Travelers Championship. He won the tournament by putting a chip within three feet to get himself into a playoff. Then he won that playoff by sinking a bunker shot from the same place. We;ve seen great bunker players through the chronology of modern golf. Gary Player didn’t seem to care what surface he was hitting from. Unlike the weekender’s mentality that most of us recognize, there was no dip in confidence. However, when I saw Spieth do his ‘thing’ on Sunday, his perfect ease with the sand wedge seemed more to me like a course strategy than a clutch shot. It had an air of “No sweat – I’ve got this.” That’s all part of the experience in not being the best at our profession. I will never know the mindset and knowledge that people like this possess. That’s why I watch them on the weekend.

The act of hitting a sand wedge is for me, and for many, the least natural part of the game. Not only does it involve hitting from a foreign surface, but the best techniques for accomplishing success seem to require tying one’s self up into a pretzel, and thinking counterintuitively. One lesson I looked up seemed veery promising by taking out the mystique. In this pro’s opinion, the greatest danger is ‘deceleration.’ He draws a scenario in which we hit two perfect shots from the tee and fairway, going 470 yards. Then we take six shots to go the last forty, and all because of ‘deceleration.’ We’re twenty or thirty feet from the green, and we’re supposed to hit it hard out of sand? We see the water behind the green, and to hit it hard requires the same faith as a leap from a cliff. He reminds us that swinging from hip to hip is approximately a forty yard shot, and doesn’t need a driver’s worth of backswing. He adds that knee to knee is a twenty yard shot, and that shoulder to shoulder is for sixty. We need to learn the difference when we’re in the bunker.
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But then, through another pro’s description, comes the contortion. Feet together at first, open club face. Ok, to me that’s a shank back to the clubhouse but there’s not getting around it. Nothing else will work. Then reset feet at shoulder width before diffing in your toes. Why didn’t I just go to the beach instead? Then open the feet and lock knees. By now, I feel as if someone talked me into a dance class I didn’t want to attend. The derriere goes back behind heels, and if you can’t see your shoes, the knees are too bent. Good – now I’m in…position. Now swing naturally…right.

We might as well go through with it, and stop cowering before the bunker. Unless it’s an all grass course, we’re never going to entirely avoid them. Where’s the joy in hitting short on every hole, intentionally failing to reach the green in regulation and depending on a one and up eighteen times in the same day to save par? Is that strategy smart of cowardly? Is it just settling for a stroke more, or will it save us from a more dire fate?
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Even if I never develop the same sand wedge gift of Jordan Spieth, my summer resolution is to at least become competent with the basics of getting out of that abyss and back onto the grass, preferably the short stuff. Wishing the same for all of you as well.

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.