Skills Development: Bunker Play

PGA Instructor Jay Friedman demonstrates the proper technique for hitting a ball out of a bunker.
PGA Instructor Jay Friedman demonstrates hitting a ball out of a bunker.

This morning, we were at Western Skies Golf Club in Gilbert for a Skills Development session on bunker play. PGA Instructor Jay Friedman showed us how to hit different bunker shots from different stances and out of different lies. He also showed us a great drill to demonstrate the bounce of the club. Jay took a 2×4 and teed up a ball on a small mound of sand. Then he opened up his 58-degree wedge and hit the ball right off the wood! I have to say, it was pretty impressive. The bounce of the club made contact with the board first and then slid perfectly under the ball and the sand simultaneously.

We also spent a few minutes on the driving range with PGA Instructor Warren Pitman. We talked about Jack Nicklaus’ “practice like you play” philosophy. Nicklaus would simulate playing different holes while he was on the driving range. He would also walk around between shots just to pass the time because he knew he was going to have to wait between shots during a tournament. Supposedly, it would take him more than two hours to hit 30 balls. I don’t know if this is a practical practice method anymore, but when you’re used to hitting balls in succession, it takes some getting used to.

PGA Instructor Warren Pitman discusses Jack Nickalus' "practice like you play" philosphy.
PGA Instructor Warren Pitman discusses Jack Nickalus’ practice philosphy.

Here’s something I’m not a fan of: hitting balls off of mats. Ever. This is standard practice at Western Skies on Monday.

Then it was on to Moon Valley for a Yellow Ball Scramble. This is a four-person team event consisting of four golf balls, one of them yellow. On each hole, the yellow ball is assigned to a different player, while the other three team members play a scramble. At the end of each hole, two scores are added together for one team score – the yellow ball and the scramble. Teams must complete all 18 holes with the same yellow ball they were assigned when play began and return it to the committee. If the yellow ball is lost, hit out of bounds, or hit into a water hazard where it cannot be recovered, the team is ineligible to win the tournament and play continues under the same format.

I had never played this format before. After getting off to a birdie-birdie start with our yellow ball, we hit it out of bounds on our 3rd hole, and our tournament was over. We still managed to shoot a nine-under par 63 (nine birdies, 0 bogeys) in the scramble portion of the tournament. At one point, we made six birdies in row.

2nd semester student Sean Venesky strips down and goes into the lake along the 17th hole looking for his team's yellow ball.
2nd semester student Sean Venesky goes into the lake along the 17th hole looking for his team’s yellow ball.

It got pretty entertaining out there from what I hear. To avoid disqualification, one of my 1st semester classmates accidentally fell into the pond bordering the Par 4 9th hole while trying to find his team’s yellow ball to no avail. Said Sean Weiss, “I had to play the next hole barefoot just so I could dry off!” Sean Venesky (pictured left) stripped down to his golf shorts and went into the lake along the Par 4 17th. He too was unsuccessful. I wish I could have been there, but the picture is almost as good. Either way, probably not a bad way to cool off on a 95-degree Arizona day.

Blogger’s Note
Tomorrow is one of my classmates’ last day at the Golf Academy until next fall. J.R. Guillan is in the Air Force Reserve, and he recently got orders transferring him to Biloxi, Mississippi. J.R. is a great guy, and he will be missed.

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