The sand trap. This simple course feature has been a thorn in the side of many golfers, especially beginners. More often than not, a professional however, relishes the chance to hit from a greenside bunker when faced with the alterative of a chip from deep rough. Why? Because, with a few simple rules, hitting a bunker shot is rather easy.
You have more control over the direction of your shot, where it lands, the spin it holds, and how much it’s going to roll. You can be on the offensive, not defensive and getting up and down is a mere formality. Does this sound like your sand play? Likely not… but here’s how to get your game there.
You need to open up everything – this basically means align everything to the left of your target (assuming your right-handed) your feet, hips, shoulders everything. The most common fault I see, is a body that is aligned well, but shoulders that are not. Your shoulders dictate your swing path, so your shoulders are the most important area to fix. The clubface needs to be open as well, it, however, should face the target. Your open body and clubface make it easier for you to swing with a shallow path which is our next secret.
Shallow Swing, Sand First
Unlike shots from the fairway, where your swing comes into impact with a steep descending motion… a bunker shot requires a shallow swing that hits the sand behind the ball and bottoms out right below it. A steep swing in the bunker will dig into the sand, reducing your backspin and control on the shot. A shallow swing has repeatable results and thus it is reliable and dependable. Your open address position and clubface should help you shallow out your swing a bit… consider using an out to in swing into the ball to help shallow it out even more.
A rather basic element of a sand shot is the sand first contact. With some practice using the fundamentals described above you can start to fiddle around with how much sand you take at impact. To maximize spin, take less sand and just nip the ball off the sand, for more roll, take more sand and hit further behind the ball. With lots of practice, you’ll begin to learn what style of swing and impact position you need.
Don’t Slow Down
With every shot taken from the sand, acceleration is everything. Time and time again I see poor bunker players digging their clubs behind the ball in hopes of popping it out. Rarely are they successful. Like shots from the fairway, a bunker shot needs to finish with a full-follow through. This is the number one fault of all poor bunker players, they either try to get too cute with their shot, or have little faith in their swings – avoid this fault, and you’ll do just fine in the bunkers.
With everything though, practice is key! Practice these fundamentals and with time you’ll start to gain some confidence in the bunkers.
Give it a try!