One of the toughest shots for the amateur is hitting out of a bunker/sand trap. A big reason is because you just don’t practice that shot very often. Unless you belong to a club with a practice short game area there aren’t a lot of public courses that contain a practice bunker. And with how booming golf is currently and how packed the courses are, you probably don’t have much time to drop 3 or 4 balls in the greenside trap on #4 without the group behind you jamming tees into your voodoo doll and damning you straight to hell. When it comes to sand technique the best advice is “keep it simple, stupid” and not try and do too much or over think the scenario. It’s not the hardest shot in golf, and with the correct technique you’ll be Seve Ballesteros in no time.
Finish high I always try to not overload my student’s with 75 swing thoughts, no matter what we are working on. We play our best golf with a clear mind and only a couple good things to focus on. From a greenside bunker I want you to always concentrate on having a high finish. Finish low the ball will come out low, like when you punch out of the trees. I know you’ve mastered that shot. Finish high and the ball will come out high and land like a bird with sore feet; soft.
Accelerate The reason you often have the same club in your hands for your next shot is because you’re either still in the bunker or have a chip shot. And this is because you’re not aggressive enough through the ball at impact. And the reason you’re not aggressive enough is because you have no confidence in the shot. You’re afraid of skulling it over the green or leaving it in the trap. So what do you do? You decelerate on the downswing, take a bunch of sand, and hit it 9 feet. Or you swing all arms and only take the club back knee-high because last time you bladed it over the green onto the next tee. Speed at impact is what splashes the ball out of the sand. Speed adds spin which makes the ball stop when it hits the green. Speed adds velocity which increases the height at which the ball comes out. Speed in the bunker is your friend. A lot of times your short low finish is because you’re getting the club stuck in the stand as oppose to “exploding” through it
Use your body In an explosion shot from a greenside bunker you have to smack the sand pretty hard behind the ball and keep that clubhead moving. The splash of the sand is actually what advances the ball forward and out of the trap. You do not hit ball first in this scenario. The goal here is to splash sand onto the green. When you do get to practice this shot do it without a ball. Practice splashing the head through the sand with a nice high finish spraying sand out of the bunker onto the putting surface. A lot of players think because this is a short shot they should make a short, arms only, chipping like swing. The sand will stop an arms only shot and you’ll stick the club in the ground. Use your body and rotate your hips and upper body through the shot. Your chest should be facing the target while you hold onto that high finish.
Ball position Since we are strictly talking greenside bunkers in today’s piece, we are dealing with a 56° or 58° wedge, especially if you have a lip in front of you to get over. You can play a gap wedge if it’s a longer shot, but that’s for a different time. Stand wide, lower your center of gravity, and give yourself a nice sturdy base to turn through the ball. Because we open the face here you will want to aim your feet a little left of target; open. This adds some steepness to our swing and makes us take the club back a little to the outside. This will help you swing across the ball on your downswing and really splash the ball up and out. Play the ball more forward than middle so you can really use the loft of the club. The further back you play it, the lower the ball will come out.
Free your mind Don’t try to be perfect. This will make you tense and try way too hard. Broaden your landing area and lower your expectations. A good bunker shot means you have a putter in your hand for the next shot.
Enjoy the game and each other,
Seth Zipay – Head Golf Professional