A bunker shot out of a sand trap can provide many challenges, from how the ball lies, the angle of the surface, how far you are away from the green, to how close you are to the lip of the sand trap. While not all situations are ideal and you could end up with a bad lie, it’s important to approach your bunker shots with a consistent approach that gives you the opportunity to make the best out of any sand situation you’re in.
Here are 4 tips I teach my students on having a consistent and solid approach to their bunker shots.
1. Keep Your Wedge Shaft Vertical at Setup
I see this as a common problem when my students set up to the ball in the greenside bunker. Before they even swing, there is a good chance that they will leave it in the bunker or skull the ball into the bunker face or over the green.
Mis-alignment from the shaft to the clubface will likely lead to a poor sand shot. All golfers know to open their sand wedge face up to get the sand and ball up and out of the bunker. Only problem is that in the process of opening the clubface, they forward press their hands which results in the shaft having a forward press as well.
What I often see at setup is that their body alignment may be fine but the shaft and clubface is aligned well right of the target.This will also lead to the swing path angled away from the body and not parallel with your body alignment. This can also result in a raised higher lead shoulder which can lead to a raised clubface at impact which we want to avoid.
When you get your shaft more vertical and aligned with your spine (I like to explain to my students more perpendicular to the target), you will create more of a square setup even with the clubface open. You may also have to re-adjust your body to make sure your hands don’t set up behind the clubhead.
With this setup, you can now swing the club back more around your body rather than straight back and behind your body. You will also allow the clubhead to release so you can create more speed to splash the sand out and get the ball out higher.
2. Stabilize Your Lower Body
After having a better setup to allow a better club path and more clubhead speed, what do we do with the body? We want to create fast clubhead speed to help get the sand out higher and farther without much help from the body. When the body gets involved, there will be too much movement which will result in inconsistent contact in the bunker and a closed clubface.
3. Lean Forward, Towards Your Target
In order to keep your lower body quiet during the swing is to lean forward towards the target. This means to put about 75% more weight into the forward leg. This will make you swing more with the wrists in order to create more speed during the entire swing. Let the arms and shoulders go along for the ride. Your backswing and downswing will feel quiet. Your lower body will slightly move with the clubhead as it gets closer to impact with the sand.
4. Trust Your Swing
Whatever you do, trust your swing. You will still finish on your left side and transfer most of the weight over to your forward side. What I mean about trusting it is that you will think your ball will go farther than you think because of the increased clubhead speed. But don’t forget that we are just trying to push the sand up and out so it takes the ball out for you. Speed will only help you in the bunker so you have to trust and finish your swing!
How to Hit a Great Bunker Shot – Summary
While bunker shots can provide numerous challenges, the swing itself is rather simple after some practice and focus on the practice range.
Make sure you stand perpendicular to the target and have your shaft follow your vertical stance. Keep your lower body still. Lean towards your target. And then commit to your swing that you should have refined in practice.