Plain Vanilla Bunker Shot
By Jimmy Rockelman
Too often we all try to make a bunker shot harder than we need to. We have all seen the magazines, golf channels and other outlets talking about how we have to make a completely different swing and set up for a bunker shot. That may be true for players of a very high skill level trying to have the golf ball react and spin in different ways on the putting green. For the majority of players (all of us), we can learn to hit consistent and productive safe bunker shots with some simple principles. We can play this game with one swing for all situations, the only changes need to come in our setup for different situations. Here is what we want to change in our bunker set:
1. Open the club face of the SW from 12 o’clock to somewhere between 2 & 3 o’clock, this will allow the bounce (skidder) of the SW to bounce off the sand. Make sure you open the face on the club before you place your hands on the grip.
2. Position the golf ball slightly forward of the center of your stance and dig your feet into the sand your desired depth of the amount of sand you would like to have thrown out of the bunker. By digging your feet into the ground it should insure that you strike the sand prior to the golf ball. When you are hitting a full swing or pitch shot your feet and the ball are on an equal level, in the bunker if you lower your feet below the ball you should automatically strike the sand before the golf ball.
3. Align your body lines to match your target line, the same way you would in a full swing situation. To review, at setup for your upcoming bunker shot, you will have the club face open, feet buried a desired depth, and your body alignments parallel to your intended target line.
4. Propel the sand. I think the most important part of the bunker shot is to understand that the sand is actually propelling the golf ball out of the bunker. When you strike the sand and propel the sand out of the bunker the ball is just going for a ride.
Most golfers biggest fear in the bunker is to hit a shot where they miss the sand and strike the ball first and watch the ball either run into the lip of the bunker or sail well over the green. The key to hitting more consistent bunker shots is making sure that you make contact with the sand and propel the sand out of the bunker. For a shorter bunker shot, we propel the sand a short distance and for longer bunker shots, we add swing and speed to propel the sand further onto the green. Remember to think that the golf ball is only going for a ride.
Almost all golfers dislike having to play from a green side bunker, professionals generally prefer to play from a bunker versus a lie in the rough. Generally a ball in a bunker is much more predictable than one in deep rough. The average golfer fears the bunker on the course and nearly never spends any time practice the shot they fear the most. Get out and try these principles and help yourself get over your fear of playing bunker shots.