‘Probably the hardest shot in golf’: Top 100 Teacher says this club can conquer it

Welcome to Shaving Strokes, a new GOLF.com series in which we’re sharing improvements, learnings and takeaways from amateur golfers just like you — including some of the speed bumps and challenges they faced along the way.

There are plenty of tips to help players get out of greenside bunkers, but what about those traps that aren’t quite protecting the green, but aren’t technically fairway bunkers either? You know, the ones from about 50 yards out that can either make or break a hole for you.

If you’ve ever had a 50-yard bunker shot, you know how tricky these suckers can be, as they require so much strategy for a shot that, at first glance, shouldn’t be that difficult.

Player hitting from bunker

The 10 hardest bunker shots in golf (and how to hit them)


Kellie Stenzel, Top 100 Teacher

Golfers not only need to analyze the ball’s lie, but they also need to figure out which club to use, how to dial in their distance control, and how aggressive they want to be in order to save as many strokes as possible.

For average golfers, there’s usually a preconceived notion that using a wedge here is the best play. However, GOLF Top 100 Teacher Brian Mogg recently gave me a lesson that completely changed the way I looked at 50-yard bunker shots.

Swap your wedge for an 8-iron on 50-yard bunker shots

In the video above, both Mogg and I set up for a 50-yard bunker shot — with the former even going as far as describing it as “probably the hardest shot in golf.”

Not only is this type of shot difficult on its own, but as Mogg points out for this specific one, “we’ve also got a lip here… Nick, good luck.”

As Mogg watches, he asks me to walk through my approach.

“So I’m going to get kind of low, try to keep my weight forward, and I’m using a 60-degree wedge from here.”

As I take my swing, the result is less-than-stellar: The dreaded chunk shot, with the ball not even traveling halfway to the green.

Unfortunately, this is likely a familiar scene for many amateurs at my skill level (a 13-handicap).

derek swoboda hits fairway bunker shot

Immediately improve your fairway bunker shots with this 1 setup change


Zephyr Melton

This is where Mogg goes into full-fledged teacher mode, explaining to me why swapping a wedge for an 8-iron on this 50-yard bunker shot can produce a much better outcome.

“Let me show you how to hit this shot,” Mogg says.

“I’ve got an 8-iron, and what I’m going to do is open it as though it’s a sand wedge. The key is you’ve got to take sand, OK? You’re not trying to pick it.”

With the bunker’s lip mere feet from his ball, Mogg reminds me that opening up the clubface on the 8-iron is the only way to hit this shot properly.

“I need the loft of an 8-iron turned up,” he says. “I’ll take a big wide stance, and now I can’t baby it. I’ve got to make a big swing, keeping the face open.”

As Mogg takes his turn hitting this tricky 50-yard bunker shot, he sticks his attempt about 15 feet from the pin by using an 8-iron — and explains what made the shot so effective.

“I took a full swing and blasted an 8-iron with the face open,” he explains. “It came out a little high, with a soft cut.”

So when you can’t quite land on the right strategy when facing a 50-yard bunker shot, Mogg suggests using some “outside-the-box thinking” to stay aggressive, opting for an 8-iron versus your normal wedge.

“Make a big swing and just play a very long bunker shot,” he says. “Now you’ve got a new weapon in your short game that you can play if you find yourself in a very awkward position.”

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Nick Dimengo

Golf.com Editor


The 4 golf statistics that are the most important to track

GOLF Top 100 Teacher Jim Murphy shares the four most important golf stats that players can learn from in order to improve their game.

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While your score doesn’t always reflect what you did well or where you struggled on the golf course, statistics from your round are like an MRI — they will tell you exactly what you need to know.

Since the quickest way to see improvement is by working on your weaknesses, you first need to figure out what those are.

With so many golf apps available that can track every shot during a round, GOLF Top 100 Teacher Jim Murphy explains which stats are the most important to focus on in order to see improvement. And, since not all numbers are created equally, Murphy provides his insights below.

These golf stats are the most important for instant improvement

From fairways hit to greens in regulations to the amount of putts during a round, most players enjoy keeping track of their stats throughout a round. It makes sense, too, since this is the best way to find your strengths and weaknesses. But Murphy says the four golf stats below are the ones you should focus on the most!

1. 3-putts

It’s hard to get better at this game if you can’t putt — and 3-putting is like throwing away strokes, so it’s important to track the amount of time you do it during a round.

Every player should have a goal of avoiding 3-putts, so work on things like lag putting and speed control, as well as 3-footers, to start seeing some improvement.

2. Unobstructed drives

Many players like tracking the amount of “fairways hit” during a round, but, in Murphy’s opinion, it’s an overrated golf stat.

Instead, he suggests slightly altering that stat to how many drives you have in a playable position for your next shot without impediment (like a tree, deep rough, or a difficult lie).

Fairways hit is too limiting, and a player may only hit four fairways in a round and feel like they aren’t good off the tee. But if the other drives were all playable, then they’re better than the numbers would indicate.

3. Unforced penalties

Golf is already a tough game as it is, but it can be crippling when you come across penalties that add unnecessary strokes to your scorecard.

These types of penalties are things like going out of bounds, hitting into water hazards, landing in penalty areas, or doing things that add strokes during a hole (which can even be mishits like chunked iron shots from the fairway).

4. Mental mistakes

One of the more challenging things about golf is this: You have to be locked in for every shot.

Just when you hit a beauty of a drive and only need to chip it onto the green for a chance at a birdie, you decide to get fancy by using the wrong club — mishitting it and costing you a stroke (or more!).

Or when you find yourself in the rough with trees in your sight line, you try hitting a hero shot instead of simply punching back out into the fairway.

These are both examples of bad mental mistakes, which will inevitably cost you strokes throughout a round.

After your round, go back and add up the number of times this cost you a shot or two — if it’s over one per round, it’s imperative that you play smarter next time.

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Jim Murphy

Golf.com Contributor

Nick Dimengo

Golf.com Editor


Expert says only golfers who can do this should carry a high-lofted lob wedge

Parker McLachlin joined Fully Equipped to discuss the short game, including the lob wedge.

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Why do you need this club? This is a question Parker McLachlin typically asks his amateur students when the conversation turns to set makeup and gapping, because as much as someone might think they need to carry 14 clubs, there are certain situations where a maximum of 12 might do the trick.

The same goes for the lob wedge, a club we’ve discussed extensively on this site in recent years. The general consensus from experts polled is that mid-to-high handicappers should remove anything with 60 degrees of loft (or more) from the bag. The club is designed for golfers who have better-than-average hands and know how to consistently deliver the head at impact. For the rest of the population, the club typically comes with more headaches than it’s worth.

In most cases, something with 56 or 58 degrees of loft is far more reliable — it’s easier to play a high-percentage pitch shot with less loft — than a full-blown lob wedge.

As the short-game instructor revealed on the latest episode of GOLF’s Fully Equipped podcast, McLachlin typically uses driver distance to determine set makeup, as well as the possible inclusion of a lob wedge.

“If you don’t hit the ball longer than 270 yards off the tee, there’s no reason to have anything more than a 60 degree,” McLachlin said. “If you hit it 240 yards, I’d probably want you to have a 58 as your highest-lofted wedge. How far you hit the ball is an important factor, because that’s how we’re going to back you into how high your highest-lofted wedge should be.”

To be clear, this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. If you hit it 260 yards, there’s nothing that says you can’t play a lob wedge. What’s important to keep in mind is the length of course you typically play and how often you actually use a lob wedge during the round. In some cases, it might make sense to add another club at the top of the set and go to a three-wedge setup.

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“If you hit it short, you’re going to want to include more high-lofted clubs. You’re not necessarily going to want a 64 degree,” McLachlin continued. “For someone asking about the 60 degree they need to get, I’ll normally tell them we should start with clubhead speed and ball speed to see where they’re at. If we can start there, you may not need a 60. You might want a 58, 57 or 56 as your highest-lofted wedge. If you’re shorter [off the tee], you need clubs to hit it further. Further will be your friend.

“Maybe you go down to a driver with 7 degrees and learn to hit up on it. Then you add a 12 or 13 degree — maybe a mini-driver or 2-wood — and a 5-wood on the stronger side. You want to stack the high end of the set, but it leaves less room for the wedges. That’s a good thing for someone who struggles with length. If you can address that, then we can address the wedges. Because you might need only three wedges.”

The next time you head to the course, pay attention to not only the number of times you pull a lob wedge from the bag but also the number of times you execute a successful shot with the club. If getting up and down feels like a coin flip with a lob wedge, then it might be time to take a closer look at the set makeup.

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Jonathan Wall

Golf.com Editor

Jonathan Wall is GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com’s Managing Editor for Equipment. Prior to joining the staff at the end of 2018, he spent 6 years covering equipment for the PGA Tour. He can be reached at jonathan.wall@golf.com.


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