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Battle of the Bunker

Dec 31, 2008 04:00PM ● By Super Admin

Getting out of the bunker would seem to be a simple task.  However, it’s quite the contrary. Many golfers would credit “getting out of the bunker” with having a good sound short game. On the other side of the equation, I’ve seen a golfer take 14 strokes to get his ball out of the sand trap during one of our member tournaments. Walter Hagen once said,  “The bunker shot is the easiest shot in golf.” What was he thinking? Truth be told, those shots are not easy and I will give you a few tips on how to improve your bunker skills on a greenside bunker. 

Start with your footwork. Once you’re in the bunker, you should establish firm footing that will support your swing, without slipping. You can do this by slightly twisting your feet back and forth into the sand until they are between one and two inches under the surface of the sand. Give yourself an open stance (feet should be lined up slightly left of your target). Now that you are entrenched in the sand with an open stance, you are ready to think about the swing.

Most bunkers will have “lips” or high “faces.” This type of bunker design will require you to hit the ball higher in order to get out. You’ll want to swing your club on a target line that matches the alignment of your feet. In other words, you will be swinging the club left of the flagstick. However, you’ll want to swing with an open clubface (head of the club facing to the right). If you’ve ever hit a shot with an open clubface, you will notice that your shot will go higher and to the right of your target. So, if you are aimed left of the target and your clubface is square to the target, you now have an open clubface, and you’re ready to swing.

Line up to the left with an open faced sand wedge (56 degrees loft) or lob wedge (60 degrees of loft), try taking a full swing at the ball. That’s right, A FULL SWING! The biggest hang-up with many golfers is that they do not accelerate through the ball and follow through to get the ball up and out of the bunker. A full follow-through is the most important part of getting out of that hazard. 

Now imagine that your ball is lying on a one-dollar bill. You want to scoop that dollar with your club. Your club should enter the sand approximately two inches behind the ball and leave the sand about two inches behind the ball.  Hence, your club will dig into the sand roughly one inch under your ball. Most golfers are unaware that (when you hit a good bunker shot) your club will never physically touch the golf ball during the shot. 

Finally, wrist usage during the shot is key. Ideally, you don’t want your clubface to close (toe of the club should not pass the heel of the club). You also do not want much wrist action until the follow through. This will ensure the height of your bunker shot. If you close the face during the swing, the ball will reach the optimum height of that bunker shot. I leave you with this: Bad bunker shots are caused by poor technique paired with a lack of confidence, which leads to apprehension.
<hr>Jim Stewart  is PGA Head Golf Professional at Granite Bay Golf Club. To reach Jim, call 916-791-7578.