Golf

In 1 minute, one of golf’s best bunker players dishes on how he escapes sand easily

Elevate your love of the game with….
Tommy Fleetwood hits out of a bunker last month during the Dubai Desert Classic.
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Tommy Fleetwood, after a couple of waggles and a couple of looks up, hit. And he was happy. 
To a target maybe 25 yards outside of the bunker he was in, his ball rolled to within a few feet. 
“Love that,” Rick Shiels said. 
Indeed. How can you not? Fleetwood was playing on a video recently posted to the Instagram account of Shiels, an online golf sensation, and you can watch the video here and find other videos from Shiels’ account here. Thing is with Fleetwood, between him and sand, it’s a love story, if statistics are your guide. Have a look his rankings on the PGA Tour in sand-save percentage over the past five full seasons:
2022-23: 20th (57.85 percent)
2021-22: ninth (62.22 percent)
2020-21: 71st (52.50 percent)
2019-20: 29th (56.92 percent)
2018-19: fourth (63.54 percent) 
Of course, if you’re more of a believer in how skills perform under big moments and big tournaments, there’s also this below — where Fleetwood holed out for eagle from a greenside bunker in his Ryder Cup singles match against Rickie Fowler. Fleetwood went on to win that match — which clinched the Ryder Cup for Europe
Good stuff, and we’ve now established some credibility. Because also in the Shiels video, over the course of just about a minute, Fleetwood reviewed his bunker play, and it’s worth a review here, too. 
In the video, his steps were three. First, you should watch the video, and it’s below. Below that, we’ll talk about it. 
A post shared by Rick Shiels (@rickshielspga)
1. ‘Hit one golf ball behind’
In the video, Fleetwood said he wanted to make impact behind the ball in the sand, and he was specific where. 
One golf ball behind the golf ball. In the video, he placed a ball down behind the ball he was intending to hit, shaped a line in the sand with his iron behind the second ball and moved the second ball out of the way.  
“Everybody talks a lot about bunker,” Fleetwood started in the video. “It’s one of the only golf shots that you’re not gonna hit the golf ball. This is how I set it up quite often. So here’s the ball I’m gonna hit. Now I’ll put one ball directly behind it and that will be one strike mark. 
“So as a general rule, I’ll try and hit one golf ball behind.”
2. ‘I want my left heel on that line’
In the video, Fleetwood next positioned himself to where his left heel and his club were lined up  on the sand line he had created above. 
The thought again was contact behind the ball. 
“While we stick on setup,” Fleetwood said in the video, “I’m not trying to hit the golf ball. So every time you actually set up to any other shot, your ball position is relative to actually trying to strike the golf ball. So if you’re on an iron or a chip shot, you’re actually hitting the back of the ball and compressing down after that. 
“Whereas in the bunker, you’re trying to hit the sand. So I want my left heel on the line that I’m going to strike and I want the club to actually match that line.”
3. ‘Set the weight nicely on that left side’ 
In the video, Fleetwood also put weight to his left side. His club, his left heel and his sternum were all on his sand line, behind the ball. 
“So we’re going to set the weight nicely on that left side,” Fleetwood said in the video. “So now all of a sudden, I’ve got left heel, shaft and my sternum, they’re behind the ball, but they’re all on this mark and they’re all going to be ready to hit down.”
He then hit to within a few feet of his target. 

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.
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