Most golfers know they’re supposed to hit behind the ball in a greenside bunker, causing the sand to toss the ball up, out and onto the green. Many get into trouble, however, by hitting the sand on too steep of an angle.
When you chop down sharply behind the ball, clubhead speed is lost and the ball goes only a short distance – often not far enough to escape the bunker. Instead, the clubhead should enter on a shallower angle and continue through to a normal finish position, rather than staying stuck in the sand.
The common swing fault is to use the arms and wrists exclusively, picking up the club abruptly and smacking straight down. It’s important to remember that, just like a shot from grass, you must make an actual golf swing in the bunker.
If you have a tendency to chop down and come up short, try these tips to improve your bunker play:
- Stand farther from the ball: If you’re right on top of the ball, your swing will be too upright (vertical). Moving back a few inches will flatten out your swing and the angle of approach.
- Open the clubface: Often, players will address the ball with the clubface square to the target line or even slightly closed. Instead, set up with the clubface pointing just right of your target in an open position, which will add loft and help you get the ball up.
- Take the club back low: As you hover the club behind the ball (remember, touching the sand, called “grounding” the club, invokes a two-stroke penalty), focus on keeping it close to the surface on the backswing. This will shallow out your motion and the clubhead’s path.
- Turn your body through the shot: Probably the No. 1 fundamental golfers forget on bunker shots is that your body must turn all the way through to the finish. Choose the spot behind the ball you want to hit – about 2 inches is standard – then swing through the spot, not into it. Finish with your chest facing the target and your arms in front of your body.
Here’s an easy reminder: Digging is for the beach. Proper bunker play is about throwing the sand, not chopping it.