Saturday, March 2, 2013

Tiger's Buried Lie: A Lesson in Bunker Play

            Yesterday during the Bear Trap – I mean Honda – Classic, Tiger Woods struggled on the 13th hole with a “fried egg” lie in the bunker.  He managed to escape the bunker, but only because he bellied the ball over the green and into the TV tower.  I’m no one to tell Tiger what he’s doing wrong, but there were a few things he did wrong with that shot.  I’m going to pass on a few tips to help you escape buried lies with as little damage as possible.

Don’t Open the Club Face

            Sand wedges are designed with what’s called “bounce.”  Generally, sand wedges have higher degrees of bounce, created by the angle of the sole of the club, which helps creates the explosion shots needed to escape your average bunker.  The problem is that bounce will make the club do exactly what it sounds like – bounce.  When the ball is lying buried in the sand, the last thing you want to do is play a typical bounce explosion shot.  While Tiger did close the face down from his typical wide-open sand stroke, he still left the face open slightly because he was trying to be a little too cute from a tricky lie.  The bounce caused him to actually contact the ball and blade it over the green.
            To successfully attack a buried lie, you want to keep the clubface square or even slightly shut, depending on your comfort level.  This will allow you to have the leading edge of the club cut through and dig into the sand without bouncing into the golf ball.

Take a Steep Angle of Approach

            One thing Tiger did correctly was rehearsing and using a steeper angle of approach for his bunker shot.  The announcers commented on it, and actually it was quite obvious that he was trying to approach the ball more steeply than usual.  The reason is because of the great golf equation: Down = Up.  For the same reason you want to strike the golf ball on the downward approach (ball then turf), you want to strike the sand with a steep downward blow in order to create a steep upward rise of the ball.  It’s simple physics.  Think of a rubber ball.  When it bounces it creates a V from the downward approach to the upward bounce.  This stroke is no different.  The downward angled approach will create upward thrust at a similar angle.  A good steep buried lie swing will result in a high usually spin-less or even top-spinning golf ball. 
            Tiger had plenty of green to work with and if he had just focused on “popping” the ball out with no spin or top-spin, he could have escaped with a reasonable par putt.
            You do need to make sure not to take this too far.  This isn’t chopping wood.  You want to take a steep stroke, but it is still a golf stroke and requires some impetus forward.

Just Get it Out

            Tiger’s biggest flaw was trying to get too cute with the shot.  He had drawn a horrible lie and it was time to just take the medicine and move on.  When you approach a buried lie you should forget about trying to get it close. The focus should be on safely getting the ball out of the bunker.  If the safest direction happens to take you toward the hole, that’s great, but if the safest direction is away from the hole, take it.  Better to two-putt for bogey with a long chance for par than blade one into the TV tower and have to make a putt for double.

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