The green side bunker shot has long been one of the scariest shots for beginners in the game, whereas, top players consider bunker shots one of the easiest shots to play. In a bunker shot, you can hit the ball three different ways and end up with the same result in terms of distance. You can catch the ball slightly thin (too little sand), and the ball will carry farther and have more spin. You can hit the ball a little too heavy, and the ball will fly out shorter and have more roll. Lastly you can hit it just right and it will fly out with optimum distance and have the correct amount of spin. As you can see, there is room for error when playing this shot. But if your overall technique is poor, the result can be quite punishing and costly to your score. So, how do you dial in your bunker game?
You must first understand the proper technique for the shot. For weekend golfers, I generally recommend developing one bunker swing, and learning to control distance by dialing the clubface. Follow these steps:
- Evenly distribute your weight; or slightly more on front foot.
- Position the ball off your front cheek (forward of center);
- Center your hands in the body;
- Dial the clubface for the distance and height of the shot you need (for longer shots, little-to-no dial and for shorter shots, more dial);
- With your right thumb and index finger, open the clubface to the right as if you are turning a dial on a radio and then take your grip;
- After you have dialed the clubface the desired amount, walk around the circle the equal amount until the clubface points back to the target. The proper opening of the stance allows you to maintain the same ball position. Danger: Do not step off the circle – this will move the ball position towards the back of your stance when opening the body. Bad move!
- Hands should be chest height (between 9:00 and 10:00 for a righty);
- Butt of the club should be pointed on the determined plane line (on plane).
- Rotate your body through the shot (specifically your chest) until your weight is shifted to your front foot;
- Emphasize blasting the sand from under the ball while maintaining acceleration; (Your thought should be to take equal amounts of sand from behind and in front of the ball)
- Remember that you need 2-3 times more swing speed (rotation of the body) in the bunker because you are not hitting the ball, you are hitting the sand.
Tip for bad lies (buried and packed wet sand) – The only change you need is to lean more weight and the club handle towards the front foot. This promotes a steeper angle of attack. You also need to expect a much shorter follow-through.
When you can successfully calibrate your clubface dial and the opening of your stance, the fear of bunker shots will be a thing of the past.