Faced with a massive bunker face? This is how to escape with minimal damage to your scorecard.

By T.J. Auclair
PGA.com
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Problem Area: Bunkers
Series: Lesson Learned

Published: Sunday, January 21, 2018 | 8:26 p.m.
Over the weekend at the CareerBuilder Challenge at the PGA WEST Stadium Course in La Quinta, California, a lot of attention was paid to the par-5 16th hole.
 
More specifically, the massive -- and we mean, "massive" -- greenside bunker that resides just to the left of the green.
 
Unlike a lot of holes on the PGA Tour where finding a greenside bunker in two shots on a par 5 is no big deal, this particular bunker isn't one of those.
 
Find yourself in this bunker and you're looking up at nothing but the sky. It's a completely blind shot back up to the green.
 
 
So what do you do if you're in a bunker that deep with an intimidating face and no way to see the green?
 
We turned to our resident expert Lou Guzzi, the 2013 PGA National Teacher of the Year, for advice.
 
"When you've got a shot like that in front of you where there's a huge bunker face, it all comes down to strategy and execution," he said. "I look back at John Daly in 1995 when he won the Open at St. Andrews. Instead of playing a shot that almost certainly would have hit the lip, he elected to go hard left -- away from the hole -- and two-putted for a bogey. It was the smart play."
 
Evaluating your situation, Guzzi said, will allow you to determine how to approach the shot and whether the risk is worth the reward.
 
Is it worth it to try and get close to the hole like Wesley Bryan did on PGA WEST's 16th in the video above? 
 
If so, here's what you want to do...
 
1. Get a line for the shot.
 
"In a steep bunker, chances are you're not going to be able to see the green," Guzzi said. "Stand at the top of the green and look down at your ball. Figure out where you want the ball to land -- not necessarily the flag stick. From that spot, look down into the bunker and then check out the background. It might just be sky or trees, but pick that spot you'll want to see once you get down into the bunker.
 
2. Ball position should be slightly forward.
 
"This is the kind of shot you're going to want to get up in a hurry. So you'll want the ball slightly forward in your stance and you're going to want to hit the sand 2-3 inches behind the ball. That clubface is going to be wide open."
 
3. Take an aggressive swing. 
 
"I think this is the toughest part about the shot," Guzzi said, "it's committing to that aggressive swing with extreme acceleration. You almost have to trick your brain into swinging the same way you would with an aggressive 8-iron shot and trusting that with that open clubface, it's only going to travel 10-15 yards. When we take a swing like that, we're expecting the ball to go a heck of a lot further. Swing away and don't hold back."
 
 

T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.


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