Golf Instruction

Golf Course Management – How to play a par 5

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How to make the most out of Par-5s is a question we are often asked here at Golftalk.Golfer performs a golf shot from the fairway.

When we get to the Par-5 tee box many of us instantly reach for our driver with a plan of hitting the ball as far as we can. We hope that we will be able to get to the green in two and make an eagle or at worst a birdie, seldom does this happen so is this the right strategy? In this article we look at the course management of how to play a Par-5 and give you some thoughts on your own decision making.

The distance of a Par-5 is 471 yards – 690 yards for men and 401 yards – 575 yards for women and juniors. So the length of the hole and how it plays must be a key decision factor in deciding how to play a Par-5. For example if a good drive is 250 yards for you, and a well struck 3 wood in 220 yards then any hole over 470 yards is a three shot hole for you and only at the shorter Par-5 holes when the circumstances allow should you go for the green in two shots.

So which club should you play off the tee? Well again, this will be determined by how you are playing on the day and the golf hole. You will have to consider any hazards that you need to avoid, and the chances of pulling off that shot consistently well. It maybe that you are striking your driver well and are feeling confident with that club. So if using that club will enable you to hit the fairway even if you have a slight mishit then that may be a good club for you to select. On the other hand if you have consistently missed the fairway with your driver then maybe a 3 wood or longer iron maybe a better choice for you. Hitting the fairway is your number one priority off the tee. We all know that playing golf off the fairway is much easier than out of the rough.

We also need to consider how the course architect has designed the hole to be played. Sometimes they will have designed the hole so the green is fairly open, encouraging the golfer to have a go! Or the architect may have intended the hole to be played in 3 shots to the green and placed hazards strategically in the fairway and around the green. A quick glance at the course planned will soon show you how the hole should be played and what you will need to consider.

Man playing golfFor most amateurs hitting the green in regulation will give them the best chance of making a par, so this must be the your first thought. A conservative three shot strategy onto the green in most cases will outplay the two shot strategy. Think back to your last round of golf, how did you play the par-5s?

Finally, here’s something to try. When you are next on the course playing a practice round. Play two balls off the Par-5s. One where you intend to lay up and one where you will go for the green in two. Mark both score on your card and at the end of the round see where you came out best. In our experience for most amateur golfers the first option usually provides a better score.

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The Golf Talk team

 

Course Management – How can you play your best golf if you don’t know your distances?

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Golf is a game where you play to a target. This means that to hit that target you need to know how far away you are from it, right? In this article we discuss a simple way for you to determine how far you hit each club and give you our recommendations of the best golf GPS devices.

First things first, you need to know how far you hit each club in your bag, excluding your putter. Our recommendation is to choose a calm day and take a bucket of balls to the practice tee. Hit ten balls starting with your Sand Wedge and pace out the average distance. Discard the furthest two and shortest two balls and mark that distance in a notebook. If you mishit a shot, shank, duff etc. then simply take another. Remember, you are just trying to find your average distances. Next choose your Pitching Wedge and do the same. Complete this task right the way through your bag, pacing out the average distance for each club. After 60 minutes you should have a clear picture of how far you hit each club. This will not only give you a boost in confidence when you are faced with a shot that you know you can easily achieve. It will also help you avoid certain obstacles on the course if you know you can either lay up short or play over them. This exercise should be done two or three times a year just to ensure that your distances are consistent.

So now you know how far you hit the ball with each club. Next you need to find a simple way to establish the distances to the green. Many courses will have the two hundred, one hundred and fifty and one hundred yards marked out with a coloured disc in the fairway. Others will have a distance marked from each sprinkler head on the fairway. Some, just have a post for one hundred and fifty yards. All of these are better than nothing, however they are assuming you are on the fairway. What happens when you find yourself out of position, maybe on another fairway?

A simple and effective device is the golf GPS. This will give you accurate distances around the course, for example to the green and to hazards. But there are so many to choose from. So which is best for you?

Firstly, lets look at the cheapest method which is simply an app on your phone. We have used many of these over the years and the one we would recommend is Golfshot: Golf GPS this is an extremely accurate application with distances to hazards, front, centre and back of the greens. It can also give you a fly over of the hole in the paid version. Which you may find useful if you are playing a course for the first time. The only downside to these types of applications is the hardware that they are on. Not only do they zap your phone battery but there is also the inconvenience of keep getting your phone out of your bag. When I have used these types of apps I can sometimes start checking messages and get distracted. Overall though they are better than nothing and usually have a lite version for free so worth giving it a try.

Next is the GPS watches. This is now a very popular choice for many golfers. Mainly because of their convenience. You simply charge it up, select your course and you are ready to play. A quick glance at your watch will give you distances to hazards, and as before front, middle and back of the green.
These devices are now very affordable and look stylish too. In fact when we have tested GPS watches we couldn’t really find a downside to them.

Another device that is popular amongst golfers is the Laser Rangefinder . These devices as the name suggests use laser technology to return distances to anything that you aim it at. We have found that for distances of two hundred yards and over you may need a few tries to return the distance. Again, they are extremely accurate, relatively inexpensive and very easy to use. Where these devices have the advantage is on your approach to the green. With a laser you can aim it at the pin and get the precise distance. With all the other devices you are aiming to a part of the green where you think the pin is located.

Finally, there are the new handheld devices that not only give you GPS data for your round but also tracks your shots as you play. You place a small disc that fits into the grip of each golf club. Start the device, and before you play each shot you tap the disc onto the device. This will then register your position on the golf course and the club that you are using. When you are ready to play your next shot you tap the device again with the club that you are about to play. The device then knows that this is a new shot and will mark the distance and whether you hit the fairway or green.
When you have finished your round you upload the data and you now have a statistical representation of your game. Including number of shots, fairways hit, greens in regulation and putts. It will also give you the distances that you hit each club. Overtime this will help you build up a picture of your game and where you can improve. We have used this GPS device and it works very well to identify areas for improvement. Mainly for the GT team missing fairways with the driver.

In summary there are lots of choices on the market to fit all budgets, so really there is no reason why you should be guessing your distance to the green. Get your device now and start lowering your scores and improving your game.

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The Golf Talk team

Course Management – What to do when your golf ball is in the trees

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If you play any parkland course there is a strong possibility that you will find yourself in the trees at some stage of your round. It’s what you do next that is the most important factor in protecting your scorecard.

In this post we discuss how course management can help you make the correct decision and save valuable strokes out on the course and why the miracle shot is not always the best option.

Male Golfer On Golf Course After Swing

There is an old saying ‘never follow a bad shot with a bad decision’. Just watch the golf professionals on TV when they get out of position. Watch what they do, and how they handle this temporary set back. Now think about your game and what you typically do. If you are like most amateurs you reach for a club and try to play the shot of a lifetime. One that curls to the left and then to the right and lands on the green six feet from the hole to a rapture of applause. Unfortunately the reality is that we seldom play this shot successfully, and it often ends costing us two or three shots. In fact our own GT statistics tell us that you are far more likely to make par chipping the ball onto the fairway and back into play than you are trying to play the miracle shot.

So next time you hit a loose shot out of position and you find yourself in the trees we want you to consider FIRST playing the ball back onto the fairway. Unless your chances of getting the ball onto the green are above eighty percent then this is the shot we recommend.

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The Golf Talk team

 

Golf Fundamentals – How to develop good swing tempo

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We have all seen it, and some of us do it on a regular basis. We stand over the ball, take the club back nice and smooth, and then lunge at the ball in a blur, only to see the ball scuffed a few yards down the fairway.

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In this post we are going to discuss one of golf’s often overlooked fundamentals, swing tempo and give you a better understanding of tempo, and a drill that you can take on the course with you.

So what do we mean when we say a good swing tempo? A good swing tempo allows you time to fully complete your backswing and transition into the downswing without casting the club head at the ball. It means that your hips, shoulders and arms are all working in harmony to return the club head back to the ball. It should feel relaxed, and approximately eighty percent of your effort for a full shot. Also your swing tempo should be the same for every club in your bag you should not be thinking that your swing tempo increases with your longer clubs. However, good swing tempo does not mean slow. Many professional golfers have a quick tempo, that’s just their swing. Look at great players like Nick Price or Jose Maria Olazabal as examples. They both have great swing tempo and a faster than usual swing.  It is important for you to find the correct swing tempo for your game. One that is repeatable and brings consistent results.

Many golfers have a swing thought when they play the game. This includes a saying or phrase to help them with their tempo. One that we have used at Golf Talk is simply saying the words out loud ‘back and through’. ‘Back’ being the start of the backswing, ‘and’ being the transition, and ‘through’ the downswing. Try this out on the practice tee and see if it helps your ball striking. It may also help you out on the course saying it in your head.

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The Golf Talk team

 

Golf fundamentals – How to set up to the ball

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practice golfGetting into the correct position as you address the ball will help you strike the ball more consistently. Your
aim, ball position and posture are essential parts of the golf swing that cannot be overlooked. In this post we look at the correct set up that will help you achieve a better address position and more consistent ball striking.

Your goal should be a square position to the ball at address. Lay a golf club on the ground to act as your target line. Now stand parallel to the club with your feet, hips and shoulder square to that target line. This is what we mean by a square orthodox stance. Many golfers fail to get into this position simply by not having a good pre-shot routine that will help them get into the correct setup position. Please look through our back catalogue for posts on developing a good pre-shot routine.

Next we want to talk about ball position. The correct ball position can vary depending on the type of shot you are trying to play. For example if you are trying to hit a shot with a higher than normal trajectory you may position the ball slightly further in your stance to help achieve an ascending strike and higher ball flight. Or you may want to play the ball further back in your stance to hit a lower than usual shot. For this post we are going to assume that you are playing a standard shot with a standard trajectory for that club.

Lets start with the driver. This club is almost always played off a tee peg so we are trying to hit this shot on the upswing. To help us achieve this ascending hit we must position the ball forward in our stance in-line with our left heel. This will encourage the correct strike on the ball and a high flying shot.

As we move into our fairway woods and longer irons we move the ball slightly back in our stance, just forward of centre, two or three ball widths. These clubs are struck with a sweeping motion so the ball should be positioned just forward of our sternum where our swing reaches its lowest point.

Our shorter irons are positioned further back still, around the centre of our stance. This will encourage a ball then turf contact and apply the correct spin on the ball as it is compressed against the ground.

What about your weight distribution? Many golfers ask whether their weight should be favouring their left or right foot. This is not something that you should consciously do. However, you will feel that you are more behind the ball with a driver and that your weight is more on your right foot. Also when you are playing shorter irons you may feel that you are favouring your left foot because of your smaller width stance.

The set up is much more important than many golfers give credit. If you are finding that your shots are inconsistent then go back to basics with your set up to see if there are some bad habits that are creeping into your game. At your next friendly round of golf ask a friend to video you with your cell phone so you can analyse your set up and find any faults. A good set up is something that the best players in the world work on regularly. Start dedicating some time at the driving range to your set up. Only with constant repetition will you start to build muscle memory that you can take on the course and play your best golf

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The Golf Talk team

 

Golf fundamentals – How to grip the golf club

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grip de golfeurHaving a good golf grip is imperative to playing well. As the saying goes ‘ you’ll never see a good golfer with a poor grip’, after all your grip is the only connection you have with the golf club. A good repeatable golf grip will help you control the position of the clubface and ultimately give you more consistency out on the course. In this article we discuss the benefits of a good golf grip and how you can master one of golf’s fundamentals.

Let’s start by saying that the best golf grip is one that works for the individual player. We have seen many golf professionals with unorthodox grips that can play the game very well. This is usually due to the fact that they practice for many hours and over time have honed this grip to work for them. We are assuming that you are a mid to high handicap golfer who does not have thousands of hours to train an unorthodox golf grip so a more orthodox option may work better for you.

Take your golf stance and hang your arms down in front of you with your palms facing inwards. Now take hold of a golf club with you left hand. The grip of the club should be across the centre of your index finger and the fleshy pad of your palm rests on the top of the golf handle. Close your fingers around the golf grip and feel that you are gripping the club lightly with all fingers but giving more support from the last three fingers. Your left thumb should be slightly to the right of the centre of the golf grip with the ‘v’ formed between your thumb and index finger pointing towards your right shoulder. As you look down at your left hand on the golf grip you should be able to see two or three knuckles. If you are seeing more knuckles then the grip is to strong and may result in a shot that travels to the left or if you see less knuckles then your grip is considered weak and will result in a shot that travels to the right.

Next place your right hand on the golf grip. As you do so your right hand should cover your left thumb. Again the ‘v’ formed between your thumb and index finger will point towards your right shoulder. As a checkpoint you should now only be able to see the knuckle of your index finger on your right hand.

There are three ways in which you can connect your left and right hands on the golf club. The Vardon grip as developed by Harry Vardon where the left hand holds the club as already described and the right hand little finger overlaps the index finger of the left hand. The interlocking grip as the name suggest interlocks the little finger of the right hand with the index finger of the left hand. This is a great grip for beginner golfers and easily give the correct feeling of both hands working together. Finally the Baseball grip is where both hands are placed on the golf grip with no interlocking. The left and right hand butt together. Again a useful grip for beginners whose grip tends to be weak with shots tending to go to the right.

Which ever grip you decide to use one thing that is common thought is how tight you hold the club. You must ensure that you hold the golf club in your fingers with a light grip that allows your wrists to hinge properly and swing freely through the ball. If you imagine a scale of one to ten. One being the lightest grip and ten the strongest. You should be holding the club no higher than a six. Your playing partner should be able to pull the club out of your hands with little effort. If you are holding the club to tight you will struggle to play to your potential and lose valuable distance with your clubs.

Trying to change any part of your golf game can feel very strange. The slightest change not even visible to you or your playing partners can feel very dramatic to you. We suggest that if you are trying to change your grip then have golf clubs around you house and back yard so you can practice your golf grip throughout the day. Alternatively why not try a swing trainer with a grip already formed.

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The Golf Talk team

How to play the putting chip – get up and down

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We know from previous articles that the averagechipping a golf ball onto the green amateur golfer will achieve around three greens in regulation during their eighteen holes of golf. So for us to make any kind of reasonable score will will need to get up and down more often than not. By this we mean chip the ball close to the hole and sink the putt. In this article we will discuss a different way of chipping the ball close to the hole called the putting chip. This should give you more consistency and hopefully lower scores.

So what is the putting chip?

Many golfers find taking a standard chip shot from the fringe of the green a difficult task to hit consistently well. They set up over the ball and take a nervous backswing and stub the club behind the ball, or look up and thin it across the green. Either way the results do not give us a chance of securing a par.

What we would encourage you to try is the putting chip. As the name suggests take a six or seven iron and grip the club with your standard putting grip. Take a few practice swings gently brushing the grass in a sweeping motion. Now set up over the ball and focus on the back of the ball where the clubhead will make contact. You should find that this is a more comfortable set up and now all you need to concentrate on is the contact of the ball. Try this shot with a number of different clubs with the rule of the more roll you need the less loft you will have. For example, if you are hitting a longer chip and just need to get the ball onto the green and rolling then maybe a six iron would be the club of choice. If the hole is much nearer and you are looking for less roll then a pitching wedge maybe the club to choose. For you the grip and set up remains the same the only thing that is changing is the club in your hands.

If you think that this technique maybe of help to you then your next step is to take this to the practice ground. Spend sometime practising with a number of clubs to see what clubs works best at different lengths. Then you will be ready to take this onto the course and start lowering your scores.

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The Golf Talk team

 

 

How to master the art of chipping a golf ball

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All golfers need to be able to chip the ball close to the hole when they miss the green. We know that an eighteen handicapper will hit around three greens in regulation per round and even a scratch golfer will miss around a third of the greens. This means the difference between a good round and a great round of golf is how well you consistently get up and down. In this article we will discuss the art of chipping and give you our three top practice drills to try out on the range.Chip shot golf

Firstly let’s define what we mean by a chip shot. A chip shot is a shot that rises off the ground for a short time and then rolls out to the hole. We have much more control of the shot when it is rolling, so our first thought should be ‘ can we putt the ball’? If not then a chip shot should be our second option.

Next you want to select the club. This will vary from shot to shot and can be any club from a sand wedge through to a seven iron. If the hole is fairly close and you just need to bump the ball over the fringe and roll out for a few feet then a sand or lob wedge would be the club to reach for. However if the hole was further back on the green and you had some distance to cover then a nine or eight iron may be a better club to choose. This will need some practice and experimenting for you to be able to see the shot and select the correct club.

Now you have selected the shot and the club let’s talk about the technique. If you were to play a full shot you would address the ball with you weight evenly distributed between both feet. With a chip shot we want to ensure we hit down on the ball with a clean strike so we shift our weight onto our left foot with something like and eighty twenty weight distribution. We also need to play the ball back in our stance to encourage that downward strike, this will help a clean strike on the back of the ball. One last point with regard to the set up. We want you to aim your feet, hips, and shoulders slightly left of your target line in an open set up. This will help you clear your hips through the shot and prevent any release of the club head. The chip shot is played without any wrist break so keep your wrists as passive as you can.

Now let’s look at our top three drills that will help you on the practice ground.

One handed chipping. This is a great drill to develop feel of the clubhead through the ball. Take six balls and using just your left hand try to chip the balls within a three feet circle of the target. Once you can do this consistently move onto your right hand and do the same. Finish the session by placing both hands back on the club and aim for a smaller circle of eighteen inches. You will soon develop a much better feel for distance control and even start holing a few.

Drill number two is to place a pencil in the strap of your watch on your left hand underneath the watch face. This will prevent you from breaking your wrists during the shot. This is a very effective drill if you have a habit of trying to scoop the ball up to the hole and are consistently hitting bladed shots across the green. Hit a dozen balls with the pencil in place and then remove the pencil and hit a dozen more. Keep repeating this drill until you feel you are getting a consistent strike on the ball.

Our final tip is to help the golfer who seem to shift their weight during the swing and find it difficult to keep their weight on their left side throughout the shot. Get into your set up as previously described and place a golf ball under the heal of your right foot and play your chip shot. Having a golf ball under your right foot will ensure your weight is on your left side and you do not fall back during the shot. Try hitting a dozen shots with the golf ball under your heal and then a dozen without.

These are three great drills that we have seen be very successful. Why not give them a try….

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The Golf Talk team

 

 

 

 

How to play from a green side bunker

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Do you have a look of dread when you find yourself in a green-side bunker? Unlike the professional golfers many amateurs struggle immensely with green-side bunkers and landing in one usually means a dropped shot. In this post we will give you advice and tips on how to escape from a green-side bunker so you can be more confident when out on the course.How to escape from a green side bunker

As we have said in a previous post on fairway bunkers ‘prevention is better than cure’ and our advice for the green-side bunker remains the same. If you can avoid a green-side bunker, do so. OK, so how can you avoid a green-side bunker? Firstly you will need to know where the green-side bunkers are. On some holes it will be pretty obvious to see them from the fairway, but other holes with blind shots it may not be as easy. If it is a new course you are playing our advice is to buy a course planner from the pro shop and study the scorecard to establish where the bunkers are on each hole. Next you need to know your yardages (how far you hit each club) and if a green-side bunker is in play for you. If it is, then perhaps playing a different club may be a smarter move for you. On many par three holes the green is protected by bunkers at the front of the hole so take an extra club and play to the back of the hole this will take the bunker out of play for you.

If you are unfortunate to land in a green-side bunker then here are our essential tips to help you successfully escape the sand trap and hopefully save par.

Firstly you will need to create a solid base. Shuffle your feet into the sand until to reach firm ground. This will help ensure that you stay balanced throughout the golf swing. This also means that your swing arc will be lower than usual and will result in you hitting behind the ball. This is ok, you are looking for a sand then ball contact. The picture we want you to have in your minds eye is the ball coming out of the bunker on a carpet of sand.

The sand-wedge is designed to bounce off the sand so setting up to the ball you will need to open the clubface compared to your target line. If when you line up to your target line you are at 12 o’clock then we would like your feet, hips, shoulders aiming at 10 o’clock. This open stance will encourage you to swing out-to-in across the target line and keep the clubface open. If you are set up square to your target line the clubhead will simply dig into the sand and the ball will bump along just a few feet.

Next we want you to position the ball in the middle to front part of your stance. You are looking to strike the sand around one to two inches behind the ball so the sand lifts the golf ball out of the bunker. Remember when you are in a bunker to hover the clubhead and not to touch the sand. It is against the rules of golf to touch the ground with your club when in a hazard.

Finally swing smooth. You do not need power out of a green-side bunker. By keeping your swing smooth and relaxed you are less likely to dip your shoulder and fluff the shot. Your grip should remain consistently light throughout the swing and a good swing thought is to let the club do the work.

So now you know the theory of escaping from a green-side bunker, lets go to the practice area and try this out ….

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The Golf Talk team

How to play from a fairway bunker

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Some of managing your golf game is the ability to negotiate around the golf course and avoid any hazards. However, from time to time you will be lured into a fairway bunker. In this post we will discuss the technique needed to play from a fairway bunker and avoid dropping a shot.White Golf Ball in a Sand Trap

Prevention is definitely better than cure when it comes to bunkers. So if you can avoid a fairway bunker then our advice is do so. OK, so how can you avoid a fairway bunker? Firstly you will need to know where the fairway bunkers are. On some holes it will be pretty obvious to see them from the tee box, but other holes with blind tee shots it may not be as easy. If it is a new course you are playing our advice is to buy a course planner from the pro shop and study the scorecard to establish where the bunkers are on each hole. Next you need to know your yardages (how far you hit each club) and if a fairway bunker is in play for you. If it is, then perhaps playing a lesser club and laying up short may be a smarter move for you. Also do not aim for a bunker and try to shape your shot away from the hazard unless you can consistently pull this shot off under pressure. You never want to be punished for hitting a straight shot. We recommend for the average golfer to aim away from any fairway bunkers just in case you hit that perfect straight shot.

If you have taken the advice above and are unfortunate enough to find yourself in a fairway bunker then here’s our three top tips to help you escape first time without dropping a shot.

Golfshot from fairwaybunkerWhere do you need the put the ball so that you are in a good position to make par? Is the question we want you to ask yourself. There maybe a good chance that you can reach the green from the bunker or you may need to layup and be on the green for three and try to single putt for par. Whatever the situation you are in, where do you need to be to have a chance of making par. Answering this question will help you decide on what club to play and whether you can successfully elevate the ball over the lip of the bunker and out of the sand with enough distance to reach the green. Now you know the type of shot you are trying to play and where you want to play the ball let’s now look at the technique.

Usually with a bunker shot you are advised to shuffle your feet in the sand to get a stable base. We do recommend that you try to achieve a stable base. However, sinking your feet into the sand lowers you swing arc which has the potential issue of you hitting behind the ball and a fat shot. So to counter this you will need to choke (grip) down on the club around the same distance that you have lowered into the sand achieving a balanced comfortable position.

You are now looking to achieve clean contact. For fairway bunkers you want to hit down on the ball with ball then sand contact. This will ensure that you get some compression on the ball and spin, to give the ball a true flight. To achieve this play the ball a little further back in your stance and swing through the ball. Many golfers think that all bunker shots are the same. A green side bunker is a very different type of golf shot. From a green side bunker you are trying to ‘splash’ the ball out of the sand. Green side bunkers will be covered in more detail in a separate post.

Finally swing within yourself. Why not try taking one more club than you would usually need for the distance and take an eighty percent swing. This ensures that you do not swing to hard and dip into the ball creating a fat or heavy shot. Your swing thought should be to stand tall and swing easy.  So now you know the theory of escaping from a fairway bunker, lets go to the practice area and try this out ….

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The Golf Talk team