Few things are more unsettling than hitting into a greenside bunker. If you have problems hitting out of greenside bunkers, you could probably cut a stroke or two from your golf handicap just by improving your bunker play. Unfortunately, weekend golfers almost never practice bunker shots. Most golf ranges don’t have practice bunkers. As a result, they lack the confidence needed to hit a good bunker shot under pressure. In bunker play confidence is half the battle.
But building confidence isn’t difficult. If you simplify your sand strategy, learn the basics of the shot, and trust in your ability to execute, you’ll get out of most bunkers without difficulty. As you gain experience, and perhaps take a golf lesson or two, you’ll find bunker play getting easier and easier. After awhile, you won’t be intimidated by the shot. That’s the point at which you can start thinking about getting close with your sand shots.
Simplify Your Sand Strategy
No one likes to see his or her ball roll into a greenside bunker. But when it does, you have one goal and one goal: minimize further trouble. You don’t need to hit a miracle shot or go for a tightly cut pin to do that. You just need to get the ball out of the sand and onto the green. That alone will save you a stroke or two, depending on how often you hit into bunkers.
Too often golfers with high golf handicaps try to hit the perfect sand shot, a high soft shot that leaves them inches away from the cup. While hitting the perfect shot is great, it’s not always practical for high handicappers or for beginners who lack experience hitting out of greenside bunkers. Instead, simplify your sand strategy down to the most basic of goals, getting out of the bunker in one.
Use The Basic Explosion Shot
Obviously, it’s harder getting out of some bunkers than others. If the lip of the bunker is low and the green is not far away, you can putt your way out. You can even chip your way out of a low-lipped bunker in certain situations or use a lob wedge to get out. But the simplest, most efficient way escaping bunkers is hitting your basic explosion shot. Learning how to do this with a sand wedge is critical.
Keep in mind that the wedge is designed specifically for hitting out of bunkers. The sand wedge has a flange on the sole that extends below the leading edge. This flange is called the club’s bounce. To hit a good sand shot, you must use the club’s bounce effectively. The key is remembering that you want to hit the sand not the ball. You want the club to enter the sand behind the ball, displacing both the sand and the ball and throwing the ball onto the green.
Because the sand rather than the club throws the ball into the air, the shot is softer than usual, as I’ve mentioned in my golf tips. The shot requires a more forceful swing than a shot from the fairway. Below are the basics of the shot:
- Position the ball near the middle of an open stance
- Open the clubface and hover it above the ball
- Swing the club back on a steep upright plane
- Enter the sand two inches behind the ball
- Maintain grip pressure in the left hand
- Don’t allow the clubface to roll over at impact
- Finish high with your weight on your left side
If you need to hit a high shot over the bunker’s lip, move the ball forward an inch or two and keep your weight on your back leg. By keeping your weight back, your sand wedge maintains its original loft at impact. The ball pops out high and settles quickly on the green.
Don’t hurry a bunker shot. Take your time. Make sure your setup is perfect, your feet are firmly planted, and you don’t touch the sand with your club. Then, take a short, steep swing. Practice bunker shots whenever you can. Practice makes perfect and builds confidence. You’ll soon find it easier to hit a bunker than you thought. Improving sand play is a great way to cut strokes from your golf handicap.