A quick golf exercise for a lifelong better game
By Justin Klemballa
Back when I was working as an assistant golf professional at Jim McLean’s flagship golf school in Dorak, Florida, I learned this tremendous drill from McLean himself. Not only is it a great drill for hitting good shots from fairway bunkers, it’s also effective for developing solid ball-striking in general, being that it helps to develop a power-producing lag in the swing. It also provides immediate feedback.
Start by drawing a trench in the sand with the club (illustrated in Picture A). This creates a wall on each side of the trench: a front wall (the edge of the trench closer to the target), and a back wall (the edge further from the target). Then take practice swings while trying to impact the front wall without touching the back wall (Picture B). If the swing wipes out both walls, this indicates that there is not enough lag in the swing to hit a successful fairway bunker shot (Picture C). The key to hitting a solid fairway bunker shot is to hit the ball first and the sand second, so having enough lag in the swing is absolutely essential.
So what is lag? In general terms it’s when one thing trails another in the golf swing, lag is when the club head trails the grip. As one can see in Picture D, the club head is trailing the grip— the ideal pre-impact position. In Picture E, however, the club head prematurely catches up to the grip, thereby causing the club head to take out both walls of the trench.
In Picture D, I am demonstrating a few ways to develop lag, enabling me to impact only the front wall.
1. laterally shifted the majority of my weight onto my forward leg
2. continuing to turn my body through impact
3. maintaining the angle between my left arm and the club
By contrast, in picture E, I am demonstrating a few mistakes that prevent the development of lag, leading to impact that takes out both the back and front walls of the trench.
1. I kept my weight fairly even between my back and forward foot (or if anything I’m favoring my back foot)
2. I stopped turning my body approaching impact, allowing the club head to pass the grip
3. I lost the angle between my left arm and the club.
Once you start consistently making proper practice swings that only impact the front wall of the trench, place a golf ball on the front wall and swing away. You’ll find that this drill not only helps produce crisp shots out of a fairway bunker, it also will help you hit it farther and more consistently from the fairway.
Do yourself a favor and find the time for this drill at your local practice facility. Even if you can’t actually hit golf balls (perhaps it’s a green side bunker), take the time to blast through the front wall while avoiding the back. If you can do that, I guarantee you will get out of fairway bunkers with ease, and improve your overall ball-striking at the same time.