THE BUNKER SHOT
By Greg Schulze
The most important aspects to improving your ability to hit successful bunker shots are 1-An understanding of the design of the sand wedge. 2-A set-up conducive to an effective bunker shot. 3-The basic fundamentals of full swing. 4-Understanding that the texture of the sand actually INCREASES your success rate. 5-Accepting a potentially embarrassing result when attempting to “do it like the pros on TV” which is a REQUIRED step to becoming an improved bunker player.
PROPER UNDERSTANDING OF YOUR EQUIPMENT
- If you do not currently own a sand wedge, I recommend that you look into a purchase.
- Understand the two major components of the sand wedge; the “bounce” and the flange. Why is this club built different than all the others?
- What loft should I need?
AN EFFECTIVE SET-UP
- Clubface pointing at the target.
- Feet, hips and shoulders aligned in an open position (left for a right-handed player).
- Weight distribution even to slightly favoring the front leg.
- A ball position forward enough to allow your “normal” swing to enter the sand behind the ball.
- A near full swing is needed most of the time to cancel out the “lost” energy due to the goal of “trapping” sand between the clubface and the ball. And the “open” body position will also reduce direct energy to the ball due to the glancing swing path along your adjusted bodylines. Make a SWINGING MOTION NOT A HITTING MOTION!
- Make no conscious attempt to figure out how far to enter the sand behind the ball; the forward ball position in the stance will dictate the amount of sand to be dispensed.
- Picture the clubhead like a saucer or flat plate, which you must slide under the ball and out the other side, but it is VITAL that you avoid tilting your upper body backwards to do this. Again, trust the full swinging and body pivot motions to extract the ball from the bunker.
- Your first goal is to get the ball out of the bunker, and this cannot be done with a small, low-energy swing.
HOW DO I VARY THE LENGTH OF THE SHOT?
Simply by “trapping” more or less sand between the clubface and the ball. By placing the ball position more forward in stance, you will “trap” more sand between the clubface and the ball, making the ball travel a shorter distance. By placing the ball just forward of the centerline of your body, only a small quantity of sand will be trapped, causing the ball to travel farther. DO NOT change the size, shape or speed of your swing.
WHAT IF THE BALL IS BURIED?
- Return the clubhead to a square position since we now want to use the front edge of the club to become a “digger” to extract the ball and not glide the club under the ball.
- Move the ball behind the centerline of your body so that the club shaft is leaning slightly forward.
- Keep your chest (swing center) in front of the ball throughout the entire swing, NEVER allowing your chest to tilt backward away from the target.
- Simply, fold and unfold your back elbow. Due to the angle of this descent, the clubhead should stay buried in the sand with only a slight “skidding” look to the divot.
- The ball will leave the sand with very little backspin; it will travel lower and farther. You do not need to “muscle” the ball out by swinging harder; this leads to shots going over the green. Its geometry and physics, which escapes the ball IF you utilize the address and swing described above.
Practicing your bunker shots should be fun and bring out your creativity. Do not just practice “easy” bunker shots… bury a few, place balls around the perimeter of the bunker and use your imagination and understanding for their success