There are two keys to mastering bunker shots. The first is setting realistic goals when practicing. Instead of trying to place it a foot or two from the pin, work on just escaping the bunker and hitting the green every time. After you’ve reached this goal, set a new goal of getting the ball within 10 feet of the pin. Then, set a goal of six feet. Keep setting new goals until you’re able to place the ball within a foot or two of the pin every time.
The second key to mastering bunker shots is perfecting technique. If you’re hitting bunker shots with the wrong technique, you’re not going to improve. In fact, you’ll probably get worse. So make sure you’re technique is sound. If you’re not sure, take some golf lessons or study golf tips from a magazine or a newsletter. Just makes sure your using the right technique. Good sand play can chip a stroke or two from your golf handicap.
Hitting A Typical Sand Shot
The foundation for good technique, as I’ve explained in my golf tips newsletter, is your setup. The standard bunker shot setup is simple. But it’s imperative you do it correctly. If you don’t, your chances of escaping the bunker are slim. Below is the standard bunker setup:
Position the ball toward the front of your stance, near your forward heel. Open the clubface slightly to add loft, depending on the bunker’s depth. And position your feet fairly wide apart using an open stance. Now, flare your front foot slightly, place most of your weight on your front foot, and dig your feet into the sand slightly, increasing stability. Choke down slightly on the club to improve club control.
But what if the ball is above or below your feet? Then, you need to adjust your set up slightly.
If the ball is above your feet, set up with the ball back in your stance and choke down on the club. Make sure you aim well right of the target (left, if your left-handed) because a shot from this type of lie tends to go more left than you expect. The higher the ball is above your feet, the further right you should aim.
If the ball is below your feet, set up with the ball forward in your stance and use the club’s full length. Aim well left of the target (right, if your left-handed) because this lie forces the ball to the right. The lower the ball is below your feet, the more left you should aim. The ball has some left to right spin on it when it comes out, which helps it stop quickly.
Uphill and Downhill Lies
The standard setup for the bunker shot is ideal when you have a good lie. But what happens if you have a not so good lie? Then you need to make a couple of other critical adjustments:
If you have a downhill lie, set up with the ball in the middle of your stance, with your shoulder angled evenly with the bunker’s slope. Choke down a bit on the club to make up for the ball’s location and the slope’s steepness. Expect the ball to come out lower than normal with plenty of spin. Aim accordingly.
If you have an uphill lie, set up with the ball in the middle of your stance, with the clubface square or even a bit closed. The worse the lie, the more closed the clubface. Swing hard on this shot to make sure the ball gets out of the sand. The ball comes out with little spin and rolls quite a bit when it hits the green. Aim accordingly.
The setups for all other sand shots are based on the standard setup. Setting up correctly is critical to achieving the right technique in sand play. That’s why teaching professional emphasize it so much in their golf instruction sessions. It makes no sense practicing sand shots using the wrong technique.
If you’re not sure about your technique, take some golf lessons. Once you verified your technique, set realistic practice goals and work at achieving them. Also, study golf tips to pick up the little things on improving sand play. Mastering bunker shots will lower your average scores and chip a stroke or two off your golf handicap.