Charley Hoffman's pure ball striking and solid putting certainly were key ingredients to Monday's final-round 62 at the Deutsche Bank Championship. His 11 birdies clearly helped him run away from the field and vault up the FedExCup point list. But it was two crucial bunker shots midway through Hoffman's back nine that allowed him to gain control of the tournament and seal the biggest victory of his career.
Every amateur golfer out there can learn a great lesson from how Hoffman executed two different bunker shots to keep his remarkable round going. After driving it into the rough on the par-4 13th hole, Hoffman's approach landed in a difficult sidehill lie in a greenside bunker. His miraculous hole-out for birdie (and the ensuing reaction) from this awkward lie will surely go down as one of the greatest shots in tournament history.
Here is how you can execute this shot next time you are confronted with a greenside bunker shot with the ball below your feet:
First, align your feet and body left of the target (for right-handed golfers). Since the ball is below your feet it is imperative that you bend from the hips, ensuring that you get down to the ball. Opening the clubface at address will help you bring the club down on a steeper angle of approach, allowing you to hit the sand with the proper descent. Remember to remain committed throughout the shot, stay in your posture through impact and, most importantly, finish your swing!
One hole later, Hoffman was faced with another challenging sand shot. This time his ball ended up in a relatively flat lie in a greenside bunker 40 yards from the flagstick. Long bunker shots are often regarded as one of the toughest shots in golf, but Hoffman calmly knocked this one to five feet from the hole, made the putt for par, and went on to birdie three of the last four holes.
Here are the key steps to properly hit a long greenside bunker shot:
Align your feet and body slightly to the left of your target and position the ball in the middle of your stance. Your clubface should not be quite as open as it would be for a shorter shot because you are trying to encourage more of a shallow angle of approach. Be sure to take a full backswing and accelerate as you splash the sand. If you are not having any luck with a traditional sand wedge, try hitting this shot with a pitching wedge or 9-iron. Using a less lofted club will allow you to take your normal bunker swing, making the ball travel farther without as much effort.
Charley Hoffman was able to pull off these shots under pressure not only because he has sound fundamentals, but because he has practiced these unique shots over and over. It is no fluke that the best bunker players at my club are those that spend time working on their technique, while challenging themselves with different scenarios in the sand. This year's Deutsche Bank champion hit several phenomenal golf shots in the final round, but none were more impressive than two bunker shots that kept this incredible round going.
Jim Salinetti is the Assistant Golf Professional at the Newport Country Club in Newport, R.I.. If you would like to contact Salinetti, send him an email directly at JimSal22@hotmail.com.