Turn it up a notch
By Ernie Els
Golf Digest Playing Editor
with Scott Smith
When I get lazy or tired, I get slouchy. My weight goes back on my heels, and I bring my shoulders forward. That poor posture often leads to a backswing in which the club goes too far behind me on the way back and then comes over the top on the way down. So when I set up to the ball, I always tell myself that I’m 6-feet-3, not 5-feet-3. That way my stance is nice and straight up, and I can get the club in the proper position at the top.
Power and accuracy come from staying behind the ball through impact. To do that I want to hit into a firm left side. I focus on the inside of my left thigh and don’t let go with my left leg or knee. I also want my spine to have the same slight backward tilt at impact as I had at address. Staying behind the ball allows me to swing the club down with my right arm and hand more “underneath” the clubshaft. I can then make contact with the club traveling from inside the target line and going up, the clubface being square longer through impact.
I use this drill to practice staying behind the ball. Place a golf ball under your left heel, and swing at three-quarter speed (inset photo on left). Focus on keeping your left side firm, with your weight shifted onto the ball of your left foot as you clear your hips through impact.
Balance is the key to any bunker shot, whether it’s the crucial up-and-down I made from the deep pot bunker on Muirfield’s 13th hole Sunday or the delicate downhill-lie sand shot I played on the 18th in sudden death. That was probably one of the best shots of my life.
A lot of amateur players have heard they need a “solid foundation” for bunker shots, so they dig into the sand too much with their heels. This off-balance setup encourages you to swing the club back behind your body. From there, you’ll either bury the heel of the club in the sand or hit the dreaded shank.
Set up with your weight balanced on the balls of your feet. This allows you to swing the club back on a more upright plane, your hands and club swinging up along your foot line. From there all you have to do is drop the club behind the ball and spank the sand. Allow the sole of the sand wedge to do what it is designed to do — slide under the ball and propel it out on a cushion of sand.
Greenville, S.C. I tried Ernie’s tip, and it makes perfect sense to me. A lot of people say to dig into the sand with your feet to get stable, but when I dig too far down I get too low and end up trying to take out half the sand with my shot.I’m not a great golfer, but I am pretty consistent. On the days when I’m not consistent, it’s either my tempo or balance or both. So the first thing I try to get right on any shot is my balance.Ernie has great tempo, too. I watch him play on TV to help me smooth out my own swing.