Lose Your Fear Of Greenside Bunkers With These Six Simple Strategies
By John Green
1. Do you have the right wedges in your bag?
For greenside bunker shots, I always recommend having two wedges in your bag: a traditional sand wedge (54 to 56 degrees) and a lob wedge (58 to 60 degrees). Bounce angle is dependent on each golfer’s style of play and the type of bunkers your course has.
2. Assess your lie.
Level, uphill or downhill? An uphill Lie will generally give you the most backspin and will increase the loft on your wedge. With a downhill lie, the loft will decrease a bit plus you will have the least amount of backspin from this shot.
3. Condition of the sand.
Moisture content: Dry or wet? Wet sand presents a unique challenge: the sand becomes thicker which requires a steeper approach at the ball with your wedge and more effort to get the wedge through the sand. Focus on two things: picking the club up quickly on your backswing, which will help your club’s approach the ball at a steeper attack angle and finish your swing to ensure your club head speed doesn’t grind to a halt as the club enters the sand.
Type of sand: Fine or thick? Even dry sand can be thick. Look at the size of the grains of sand: powdery or thick river sand. If you play mostly private clubs and/or high-end public facilities, they generally have fine grade sand, which would require a higher bounce angle, as you don’t want the leading edge of the wedge to dig in too deep. And everyone else has the thicker sand; lower bounce angle helps the leading edge of the wedge to dig into the sand a little more.
4. Height of the lip.
Normal: One to three feet high.
High: Over three feet high: A lob wedge makes this shot somewhat easier. The additional loft gets the ball up quicker than standard sand wedge.
5. Pin location from your position in the bunker.
Front, middle, or back of green? Pin location will dictate which wedge you will use. Like #3, a lob wedge makes the front pin position an easier shot as the ball gets up quicker with this club and therefore will not go as far as a normal sand wedge.
6. How much backspin do you really get out of the bunkers?
Be realistic with whether you can actually get backspin out of bunkers. Once you figure this out, it becomes a very important strategy in how you’ll play the shot at hand. If you really don’t get much or any backspin, then play for the ball to run. Your target then becomes whatever spot you picked out short of the flagstick.
For more help with greenside bunkers, see your favorite PGA or LPGA Golf Professional.