Like playing from rough, one of the main difficulties of bunker shots is their unpredictability. The sand’s texture has a major effect on how the ball behaves coming out, so you need to know how to play under different conditions.
Here’s a primer on handling various sand textures.
This can be a good-news/bad-news situation. The good news is, compact sand allows you to put extra spin on the ball and stop it quickly on the green. The bad news is, your club may bounce or skid when it hits the sand, causing a thin shot that sails over everything.
What to do? First, check the bounce angle on your sand wedge. If it’s more than 10°, consider using a different wedge. Too much bounce will cause the club to literally bounce off the surface.
To play the shot, open your stance slightly and dig your feet in just enough for stability. If you dig in too much, you’ll lower the swing arc in relation to the ball and hit too far behind it. Next, aim the clubface at the target.
An aggressive swing is called for in order to knife the clubhead into the sand and produce spin. Aim for a spot slightly closer to the ball than you would for a normal sand shot – about an inch or so behind it. Keep your eye on the spot and make a firm swing, making sure to follow through rather than stopping the club in the sand.
This is where a high-bounce sand wedge (12-14°) is very handy. Regardless of your club’s specs, proceed like this:
Dig the feet into the sand an inch or so to build a firm base, with an open stance and clubface. Choose a spot in the sand a couple of inches behind the ball and focus on the spot, not the ball. Swing to hit the spot and accelerate through to the finish. Otherwise, the soft sand will swallow the clubhead and cause your shot to fall short – perhaps into the bunker.