Playing a really effective long greenside bunker shot is one of the most difficult shots that you can face when out on the golf course.
When faced with this situation, it can be difficult to know whether to play the shot like a bunker shot where you strike the sand to play the shot effectively or whether to play it more like a pitch shot from the fairway where you would clip the ball cleanly off the turf. If you get caught in two minds between these shots, you can end up doing half of one thing and half of the other and not playing a great shot at all. If you are going to hit the sand, you will need to do this with a really high club head speed to generate the distance required for the shot.
However, if you are going to play the shot more like a pitch from the fairway, you would play it much more gently and clip the ball cleanly off the top of the sand. If you get caught between the two shots, you will end up playing the shot either with a fast club head speed that catches the ball cleanly and hits the ball over the green by some distance, or you will play the shot with a gentle swing that strikes the sand first and doesn’t transfer enough speed into the ball to get it out of the bunker. Playing a 30-40 yard long greenside bunker shot like a bunker shot is a very high risk strategy so for most effective results, play this shot as you would a gentle pitch from the fairway.
Use your pitching wedge, or even 9 iron depending upon the distance required for the shot and the trajectory required to clear the bunker face. Set up with the club face aiming at the target and then take up your stance so that your feet are shoulder width apart. Wriggle your feet into the sand to give you a firm base to play the shot from. Wriggling your feet into the sand has lowered you down into the surface and you need to play this shot so that you cleanly strike the ball rather than the sand. To counter the fact you are lower in the sand, hold lower down on the handle to shorten the distance between yourself and the club head and encourage a clean connection between the club head and the golf ball.
Play the ball from the middle of your stance and as you swing, work on maintaining your head height and posture. If you lower your spine angle during the swing, flex your knees more or drop your head height, the club head will strike the sand before the golf ball. As you swing, maintain your posture and keep the same amount of flex in your knees throughout the swing to encourage a clean strike.
Have your weight evenly spread between your feet and swing the club head away from the ball at a gentle angle around you, so that you can return the club head at a shallow angle as you strike the golf ball so that you clip the ball cleanly off the sand.
Ensure that you rotate your body towards the target as you swing through the shot and finish with your body rotated left of the target, your right foot rotated so that the sole is off the sand and your shoes laces are towards the target and the club head is higher than the target.
If you work on achieving these points and play a gentle, clean shot that clips the golf ball crisply off the sand, you will have a really effective long greenside bunker technique and with a little practice, your distance control will improve and you will be able to play really accurate shots into the green.