For these awkward shots, you will pick up on a theme of balance. Find a way to be balanced and to keep your head still when faced with an awkward lie. Often, you will have a wider stance and stand a bit more flat footed. Another common theme in awkward lies is to be quieter with your body. One way to do that is to use an early and sharp wrist cock and keep your arms close to you as you swing instead of a wide arc.
Today's goal is to figure out how to manage the unusual. Try different stances and balance points. Learn to use your hands effectively to control the face of the club. Move your ball position around. Use your eyes to visualize the shot, the club's motion and to see your target. Finally, and this might be the most important thing, learn what a good shot really is. By that I mean, when you have a really tough lie, figuring out how to get a 15 footer might be the best you can do. Having a 15 footer for par is a lot better than repeating a tough shot and making double or triple.
Even though it is a learning day, give yourself some goals. Play to your level. You can do each challenge until you get all five balls on the green or all five on and 2 within 5 feet, etc. You choose!
1. Find a bunker that is deep. If you don't have one in a practice area, sneak out onto the course early in the morning before golfers are making the turn. shhhh! Throw down five balls on the up slope. Find a steep one. Set your weight on your back foot and get your shoulders on a line that is closer to the slope you are on instead of flat. You won't need much if any follow-thru. Your goal is to learn how much swing it takes to drive the club under the ball and get the sand to explode up and take the ball out.
2. If you can find a grassy bank in front of the bunker, throw five balls down there, too. This shot isn't too different. If the shot needs to travel a short distance, feel your right hand pass under your left as you follow through. If you need a long shot, take a long back swing and create momentum. Your follow through will have firmer hands than the first, but your arms will be close to your chest when you hold your finish. If the lie is in deep rough, don't set your shoulders with the slope. Instead, set up against the slope and swing directly into the hill. No follow through will be needed.
3. Work your way around the bunker. Throw five balls down that stay high and require you to stand outside the bunker with the ball below your feet. The easiest way to get lower is to widen your stance as much as possible.
4. As you continue around the bunker, you find the dreaded downhill lie. This shot requires practice and technique, so stay here and learn to hit it. Find joy in the challenge instead of frustration in the result. When you set up for this shot, all of your weight will go to the front leg.
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5. You are now on the side of the bunker where you are standing in it and the ball is out of it. Grip down on the club and stand tall. Once again, you will need a sharp wrist cock to get elevation on the club path. This club face will be closed at impact, so the ball will come out hot and left. Play for it!
Since today's challenge was about getting the ball as close as possible from awkward lies, follow the challenges with some work on putts from 15-20 feet. Imagine having one of the tough lies you faced in a round of golf. You knock it out to 15 feet, you recognize you did all you could and you calmly roll the putt in the hole. HUGE MOMENTUM is gained from a tough break. When you learn to accept what the course hands you and do your best with it, you have learned to play without judgment. When you take the next step and make the putt, you are a PLAYER!
Putting Challenge: Today, do the Annika Drill. Put 5 tees down around the hole at varying distances from 10-20 feet. Put one ball at each and putt all five using your routine. If you make 3/5 you can move holes or be finished. Find holes with slope and work on getting your ball working into the hole from the high side and dropping into the hole at the right speed. FOCUS
Fitness Challenge: If you read the above instruction closely, you caught the mention of the importance of leg strength to your balance and stability over a tough lie. Here are some lunges and squats that will get you ready for tough stances. Do all three a few times and you will feel it the next day!