Use Butch Harmon’s keys to simplify bunker shots

Written by: Butch Harmon

When most golfers climb into a greenside bunker, it’s like an out-of-body experience. They lose all sense of what they need to do, fear takes over, and a few hacks later . . . triple bogey.

The good news is, most of the mistakes I see come at address, and those are the easy ones to fix. A lot of golfers play the ball back and push their hands ahead. Typical miss: chunk. Others set up tilting away from the target. Typical miss: skull. So let’s check your setup.

First, open the clubface. That adds loft and helps the club slide through the sand. Rotate the face open, then grip with your top hand, setting your thumb on the top of the handle. Add your bottom hand. Opening the clubface before you grip helps keep it open during the swing.

Second, play the ball forward in your stance, in line with your front foot. That pre-sets hitting the sand a few inches behind the ball. The shaft should be straight up and down or leaning slightly away from the target—another key to maintaining loft and promoting that sliding action.

Third, dig in your feet a little and lean your body over your front foot. That’ll give you the descent you need on the downswing to drive the club through the sand and under the ball.

Focus on a spot a few inches behind the ball, that’s where you want the club to touch down.

Now you’re in a great position to hit the shot. All I want you to think about is spanking the sand and keeping up your speed to the finish. You’ll be amazed how your fear disappears after you see a few good ones.



Pre-Fixe Dinner

Join us for our Three Course Dinner from 4:30pm – 9pm on Friday and Saturday.

We strongly suggest reservations – spots fill quickly!

Call us at (845) 564-3220 to reserve your spot.

Click below to see this weekend’s menu.

Pre-Fixe Dinner

Join us for our Three Course Dinner from 4:30pm – 9pm on Friday and Saturday.

We strongly suggest reservations – spots fill quickly!

Call us at (845) 564-3220 to reserve your spot.

Click below to see this weekend’s menu.

The Big Shift: How to master pressure and the golf transition using prior sports training

Written by: Matt Strube

If you’re an #AverageJoeGolfer, work a day job, and don’t spend countless hours practicing, you might be interested in knowing that sports you played growing up, and even beer league softball skills, can be used to help you play better golf. We’re sure you’ve heard hockey players tend to hit the ball a mile, make the “best golfers”, while pitchers and quarterbacks have solid games, but baseball/softball hitters struggle with consistency. Did you know that a killer tennis backhand might help your golf game if you play from the opposite side? Dancers are way ahead of other athletes making a switch to golf because they understand that centeredness creates power and consistency much more efficiently than shifting all around, unnecessary swaying, or “happy feet.”

Lurking beneath fat shots, worm burners, and occasional shanks, are skillsets and motions you can pull from the old memory bank to apply on the golf course. Yes, you heard us right; your high school letterman jacket can finally be put to good use and help you improve your move. You just need to understand some simple adjustments different sports athletes need to make to be successful golfers.

In golf, shifting from your trailside into your lead side is what we’ll call the TRANSITION. Old School teachers refer to this motion, or shift, as “Foot Work”, New-Fangled-Techno-Jargon-Packed-Instruction uses “Ground Pressure/Force” to refer to the same concept. Don’t worry about the nomenclature; just know, as many GolfWRXers already do, that you must get your weight to your lead side if you want any chance at making solid and consistent contact. TRANSITION might be THE toughest motion in golf to master.

The good news for you is that TRANSITION happens in all other sports but in slightly different ways, depending on the sport. Golfers can more quickly learn TRANSITION, and speed up their swing learning process by understanding how prior sport experience can be applied to the golf swing.

[The basics of a solid golf move are; 1) you should have a SETUP that is centered and balanced, 2) you move your weight/pressure into your trail side during the TAKEAWAY and BACKSWING, 3) TRANSITION moves your weight/pressure back into your lead side, and 4) you FINISH with the club smashing the ball down the fairway. Okay, it’s not quite as easy as I make it sound, but hopefully our discussion today can relieve some stress when it comes time for you to start training your game.]

Baseball/Softball Hitters

Hitting coaches don’t like their hitters playing golf during the season, that’s a fact. The TRANSITIONS are too different, and if they play too much golf, they can lose the ability to hit off-speed pitches because their swing can become too upright. Golf requires an orbital hand path (around an angled plane) with an upright-stacked finish, while hitting requires batters to have a straight-line (more horizontal) hand path and to “stay back or on top of” the ball.

Now we apologize for the lack of intricate knowledge and terminology around hitting a baseball, we only played up through high school. What we know for sure is that guys/gals who have played a lot of ball growing up, and who aren’t pitchers struggle with golf’s TRANSITION. Hitters tend to hang back and do a poor job of transferring weight properly. When they get the timing right, they can make contact, but consistency is a struggle with fat shots and scooping being the biggest issues that come to mind.

So how can you use your star baseball/softball hitting skills with some adjustments for golf? Load, Stride, Swing is what all-good hitters do, in that order. Hitters’ issues revolve around the Stride, when it comes to golf. They just don’t get into their lead sides fast enough. As a golfer, hitters can still take the same approach, with one big adjustment; move more pressure to your lead side during your stride, AND move it sooner. We’ve had plenty of ‘a ha’ moments when we put Hitters on balance boards or have them repeat step drills hundreds of times; “oh, that’s what I need to do”…BINGO…Pound Town, Baby!

Softball/Baseball Pitchers, Quarterbacks, & Kickers

There’s a reason that kickers, pitchers, and quarterbacks are constantly ranked as the top athlete golfers and it’s not because they have a ton of downtime between starts and play a lot of golf. Their ‘day jobs’ throwing/kicking motions have a much greater impact on how they approach sending a golf ball down the fairway. It’s apparent that each of these sports TRAINS and INGRAINS golf’s TRANSITION motion very well. They tend to load properly into their trailside while staying centered (TAKEAWAY/BACKSWING), and they transfer pressure into their lead side, thus creating effortless speed and power. Now there are nuances for how to make adjustments for golf, but the feeling of a pitching or kicking motion is a great training move for golf.

If this was your sport growing up, how can you improve your consistency? Work on staying centered and minimizing “happy feet” because golf is not a sport where you want to move too much or get past your lead side.


My wife was captain of her high school dance team, has practiced ballet since she was in junior high, and is our resident expert on Ground Pressure forces relating to dance. She has such a firm grasp on these forces that she is able to transfer her prior sports skill to play golf once or twice a year and still hit the ball past me and shoot in the low 100s; what can I say, she has a good coach. More importantly, she understands that staying centered and a proper TRANSITION, just like in Dance, are requirements that create stability, speed, and consistent motions for golf. Christo Garcia is a great example of a Ballerina turned scratch golfer who uses the movement of a plié (below left) to power his Hogan-esque golf move. There is no possible way Misty Copeland would be able to powerfully propel herself into the air without a proper TRANSITION (right).

Being centered is critical to consistently hitting the golf ball. So, in the same way that dancers stay centered and shift their weight/pressure to propel themselves through the air, they can stay on the ground and instead create a golf swing. Dancers tend to struggle with the timing of the hands and arms in the golf swing. We train them a little differently by training their timing just like a dance routine; 1 and 2 and 3 and…. Dancers learn small motions independently and stack each micro-movement on top of one another, with proper timing, to create a dance move (golf swing) more like musicians learn, but that article is for another time.


Hockey is a great example of the golf TRANSITION because it mimics golf’s motions almost perfectly. Even a subtlety like the direction in which the feet apply pressure is the same in Hockey as in Golf, but that’s getting in the weeds a bit. Hockey players load up on their trailside, and then perform the TRANSITION well; they shift into their lead sides and then rotate into the puck with the puck getting in the way of the stick…this is the golf swing, just on skates and ice…my ankles hurt just writing that.

If you played hockey growing up, you have the skillsets for a proper golf TRANSITION, and you’ll improve much faster if you spend your time training a full FINISH which involves staying centered and balanced.

Now we didn’t get into nuances of each and every sport, but we tried to cover most popular athletic motions we thought you might have experience in in the following table. The key for your Big Shift, is using what you’ve already learned in other sports and understanding how you might need to change existing and known motions to adapt them to golf. If you played another sport, and are struggling, it doesn’t mean you need to give up golf because your motion is flawed…you just need to know how to train aspects of your golf move a little differently than someone who comes from a different sport might.


How to hit better tee shots

Written by: Tom Stickney, PGA

Better tee shots mean hitting the ball straight.

There’s nothing worse than standing up on the tee setting up for your “normal” shot shape, then hitting the deadly double-cross! So now you are left picking up the pieces of a shot that went left to left or right to right…not fun!

Here at Punta Mita we have a hole where this can happen quite often: No. 18 at Pacifico. The hole design bends gently left to right with out of bounds left and the ocean to the right. There’s plenty of room to move the ball left to right or right to left, depending on your “normal” shot pattern, but if you double-cross it, you’re back on the tee hitting three, or dropping the ball out of the hazard and hitting three as well. Neither situation is a great option.

Now that we understand what a double-cross is (playing for a fade and hooking it or playing for a draw and slicing it), it’s now time to figure out how and why it happens!

So, let’s set up for each shot shape.

better tee shots photo 1

In Photo 1 I am set up for a left to right shot where I am on the right side of the tee box and aiming down the left side of the fairway.

For the right to left shot pattern I am setting up on the left side of the tee box and aiming down the right side of the fairway (Photo 2).

better tee shots photo 2

These two alignments will give us the best opportunity to use the entire width of the fairway so we can hit it in the short grass. Now let’s investigate what each shot shape player tends to do when they hit a double-cross.

better tee shots photos 3-4


The main reason you will double-cross your fade is when you fail to get off of your back foot on the way down. When you hang back as shown in Photo 3, the body stops and the arms and hands fling by closing the club face through impact (Photo 4). As we all know, when the face angle is left of the path, the ball will start left and hook with a centered hit.

To make sure you do not allow this to happen again, you must make sure you move through the ball, allowing your weight to move into your forward foot earlier. For this I have a simple drill.

Place another tee (the same height) about three to four inches in front of your current golf ball on the same target line (Photo 5). Your goal is to hit the ball and the top of the second tee with the clubhead on the way through.  This will help you to move the weight into your lead foot earlier, thus keeping the face right of the path, and you will see the ball move left to right.

better tee shots photos 5-7


The main reason why you will double-cross your draw is when you lose your posture through impact, standing the club shaft upwards and opening the face.  When you stand up as shown in Photo 6, the hands also raise; when this occurs the face of the club will stay right of the path (Photo 7). As we all know, when the face angle is right of the path, the ball will start right and then move further right with a centered hit.

better tee shots photo 8

Now that we understand what is happening, how do we make sure it won’t happen again? Find an alignment stick and place it in the ground as shown in Photo 8 (which is just a touch in front of the ball.)  If you stand up and raise your hands, you will be the first to know! By keeping the club shaft closer to its address angle you will find that the club has an easier time closing, which will help the face to be slightly left of the path during impact, causing the ball to gently move right to left.

Understanding the double cross is the first key to stopping it for good. The second step is to use the appropriate drill to stop you from either hanging back or standing up. Alleviating these issues will go a long way to helping you have more confidence that the ball will indeed move in the direction you want — and stop you from hitting the ball left to left or right to right, causing you headaches.



We will not be serving dinner this Friday or Saturday due to private parties. We apologize for any inconvenience.

We will, however, be serving lunch and Bites at the Grille!

Lunch is served Thursday thru Sunday 11:30AM-3PM
Bites at the Grill is served Thursdays 4:30PM-9PM

Senior golf: Let’s tackle the back nine!

Written by: Dennis Clark

Lee Trevino once said: “The older I get, the better I used to be!” Even though golf is our game, most all of us have our fisherman tales as well! How good we were is no longer relevant; how good we are is a function of our conditioning.  When we’re young, exercise can be an option, as we age it is a necessity!

So first, we take a good look at where the swing and game is right now. You may get with an instructor to diagnose the current state of the swing and game. I think video is the best way to take a good, close look at what is actually happening (as opposed to what he/she feels might be happening). When the problem has been identified, we need to decide if the issue is physical, that is a limitation due to aging or injury OR, if the swing flaw is an old poor habit (not necessarily related to age).  If we are dealing with a poor habit, we make suggestions for improvement. If the problem is physical, we can address the restrictions with the aid of a fitness professional. I make this distinction because too many of my senior students are too quick to blame age for the problem. Age might be the problem, but poor swing habits are likely involved as well.

Senior golf is the time when we begin to attempt to compensate!  No one, regardless of how good of condition they are in, for their age, can do at 70 what they could at 30. The arc of the swing becomes shorter, the swing speed decreases, we cannot transfer weight as well as we once could, and as we are now learning, we certainly cannot push off the ground as a younger person might. As a result, it is not unusual to throw the clubhead at the ball from the top in an attempt to get back the lost distance; it is not unusual to “hang back” on the rear leg in an attempt to get back lost trajectory, the list goes on and on.

Case in point: I have chronic back issues, as many near my age do. Arthritis and a severely herniated disc create a fair amount of discomfort much of the time. These do not allow me to turnor move as freely as once I did. These issues have forced me to find ways to swing as pain-free as possible, which is a problem. One thing I noticed clearly on my video was a loss of posture in the backswing. It is difficult for me to maintain my posture as I turn, so I raise my torso to make the turn easier.  I could not feel that and was surprised to see it on video. I was a good couple of inches taller at the top of my swing, creating all kinds of issues particularly in my iron play. I now do yoga, stretching and work with Darin Hovis to stay as flexible as my aging body will allow. We can play better and feel better about it, if

  • We know the problem.
  • Are willing to change.
  • Have realistic expectations.
  • Are willing to improve physical fitness.

Returning to the focus of this series: Let’s start at the beginning. Turning is a critical component is any golf swing. It is critical to approach the ball from inside, and a very often a good turn away with the torso allows one the opportunity to get there. Hitting from inside is difficult, if not impossible, without a good backswing turn. Same goes for turning in the downswing.  Again the path is an arc, from inside and back to inside. The hip turn in the downswing swings the club back to the inside. I have asked Darin Hovis, of Par 4 Fitness to demonstrate a few drills that can increase one’s ability to turn at any age.

Let’s get started. Watch the video here and get to work on your swing issues, and your body as well. Remember, the alternative is to put the clubs in a garage sale, but if this game is in your blood like it’s in mine, I’ll take the exercise alternative!


Brooks Koepka: My Advice to Make Your Second Shots Matter

Written by: Brooks Koepka

feel like my accuracy stats with irons are a bit misleading. I play fairly aggressively week to week and fire at a lot of pins. So I might miss more greens than other pros, but I’m still only a few yards from the hole when I do. That being said, when I really need to hit a green in regulation, I’m confident in my swing. In winning my second consecutive U.S. Open, at Shinnecock Hills in June, only three other players hit more greens in regulation than I did—and trust me when I say that hitting greens there was like trying to stop a marble on a kitchen countertop. Here I’m going to share some of my tips on hitting better second-shot irons, a part of the game where I see a lot of golfers struggle. Let’s start with alignment. Lately my coach, Claude Harmon III, has me checking to make sure I’m not setting up open like you see here, with my feet aligned left of my target. On the Monday of U.S. Open week, he was all over me saying, “Aim more right; aim more right.” I told him I couldn’t aim any more right. Then he put a club on the ground to check my alignment.

Wouldn’t you know it? I was still aiming left. The lesson is to make sure you’re set up to hit the shot you want. Here are some more of my tips. – With Ron Kaspriske

You drove the ball into the fairway and have a real chance of a green in reg. Now what? Assuming your alignment is good, focus on making a better backswing. A lot of golfers take the club back with almost no upper-body rotation—they’re all arms. And even when they do rotate back, it’s usually on a flat shoulder plane. If your shoulders turn back fairly level with the ground, it’s hard to swing down from inside the target line and hit an accurate shot. You’ll probably slice or pull it and miss the green. Instead, turn so your left shoulder moves back and down. See how mine is pointing at the ball (below). Look at all that space I’ve created to swing down from inside the target line. Essentially, it allows you to swing on plane and hit it straighter.

A question I get asked a lot in pro-ams is how I’m able to swing the club as hard as I do. Honestly, I’m not swinging that hard. I’m using about 75 percent of my maximum effort. If I swung any harder, I’d probably spin right out of my golf posture and miss the green big time. I bet when you swing your hardest, your accuracy goes out the window. That’s why I recommend you take one more club than you would from a particular distance—say, a 6-iron instead of a 7-iron from 150 yards—and make a swing at 75-percent effort. You’ll know you’re doing it right if it feels like the club is trailing your body’s rotation toward the target like it is here (below). What you’ll find is, this syncs your swing and improves your chance of hitting it solidly.

It’s great if you’re able to hit your shots fairly straight, but when it comes to second-shot accuracy, that’s only half the equation. Putting the ball on the green is a blend of hitting shots in the right direction and the correct distance. The direction part comes from controlling the clubface’s position at impact in relation to the path. The distance part comes from hitting down on the ball and compressing it, getting that great sound and feel off the face. To flush iron shots, work on improving what your dominant hand does as the club moves through impact. Here I’m showing that the right palm should never turn skyward (below). This allows you to strike the ball and keep the clubhead moving downward into the turf. Consistently do that, and the ball will fly a predictable distance.

I typically opt for a fade when I’m hitting into greens. It’s just an easier shot to control. That’s why Claude keeps an eye on my alignment to make sure I don’t aim too far left and overcook my iron shots. I’m telling you this because it relates to the photo you see here of my finish position (below). Notice where my chest is pointing in relation to where I’m looking. It rotated well past the green and is facing almost 90 degrees left of it. The point is, I kept my body moving as long as I could, which is a key to accuracy when controlling a shot’s curve. If I stop turning my body sooner and the club keeps going, I probably would hook the shot. And if I stop turning my body and club too soon and at the same time, my fade will turn into a nasty slice. That’s a move I see a lot from amateurs. In the hopes of hitting it somewhere toward the green, they don’t let the clubhead close, and they stop the swing cold when their arms and club are facing the target. We call that steering, and it rarely works.

My advice: Keep the body moving to match the swinging of your arms and club. Whether you hit a draw or fade—or a straight ball if you’re one of the lucky ones—keep everything moving until all the momentum is gone and the club’s shaft finishes wrapped around your body, as you see here. If you swung at 75 percent of your max speed like I recommended, it’s easy to get into this trophy pose. Or should I say, your club-championship trophy pose?