Q&A with Jason Fiore – Pt. 2
In Part 2 of our Q&A series with Jason Fiore, we gave the PGA head professional at Forest Hill Field Club scenarios involving greenside bunkers and putting. He offers a tip for each level of player: The Beginner, The Weekend Player, and The Single Digit Handicapper. Read Jason’s responses to help advance your game!
Out of the Greenside Bunker
Scenario – The ball is resting in the middle of a greenside bunker. It’s a good lie, but the player has a four–foot lip to clear. The pin is near-side, approximately 20 feet from the bunker. What is the primary point of focus you would suggest to:
The Beginner – The primary objective is to get that ball out of there! If we focus on two things and two things only, we will advance the ball out of the bunker and safely onto the green.
A bunker shot is one of the few shots that we want to hit the ground before the ball. As a general rule of thumb, make contact with the sand an inch–and–a–half or so behind the ball. Is the sand compact or fluffy like a beach? The more compact the sand is, the closer to the ball you want your club to enter the sand. The second point of focus to make sure you follow through! A swing that decelerates will almost certainly result in your next shot being played from the same bunker.
The Weekend Player – Employ the same tips given to the beginner with two wrinkles. With a four–foot lip in front of us and a pin near side, keep your weight forward on the left foot to ensure a descending blow. Also, create a slightly steeper angle of descent (think V shape swing, not U) on your downswing to enter the sand at the proper angle. This will produce a high trajectory shot, so it clears the lip and lands softly near the hole.
The Single Digit Handicapper – Get up and down to save that par! First, check the green to see where the break is around the hole. Ideally, you want to leave yourself an uphill putt for par. In your set up, align your feet slightly left of the target and open the clubface so the leading edge is perpendicular to the target. This should produce a higher trajectory shot with more check (or backspin) when the ball lands.
If the sand is compact (or wet), square your feet to the target and hit slightly closer to the ball.
On the Green
Scenario – The player has an 8–foot putt for par. It’s a straight line, but slightly downhill to the hole. Each player has struggled with their putting during the round and lacks confidence. What would your advice be to:
The Beginner – One of the most important things to remember about putting is repetition and creating a routine, much like a basketball player at the free–throw line. A routine creates confidence in establishing lines of break on the putting green, trusting the putter to return to square at impact, and developing distance control. Completing your routine signals you’re ready to putt.
Eight–foot putts are made by the best players in the world only half of the time, so let’s not be a hero here. Lag the ball up to a foot in any direction and have your buddy tell you to pick it up. Proceed to the next hole with honors on the tee box!
The Weekend Player – Much like the beginner, a pre-shot routine is essential. Once established, give this putt a chance to go in. Envision a tee roughly 18 inches behind the hole. Give this putt enough pace to end somewhere between the back of the cup and the tee. Yogi always said 90% of the putts you leave short don’t go in!
The Single Digit Handicapper – Many of my experienced students who are struggling with the putter are lacking a commitment to the putt. The player tends to lift their head too soon and “peak” at the ball rolling. This often results in steering the putter face and not finishing or releasing the head. Keep your head down and watch the putter head go through impact. And remember to relax your grip to avoid tension!
We hope these suggestions will help you out on the course. Stay tuned for our next round of tips from Jason Fiore.