How to Improve Your Bunker Play

Seve Ballesteros  1988

A common mistake of amateurs in bunkers is getting “ball-bound”—focusing so intently on the ball that they become tense to the point of being unable to swing fluidly. The strategy that best helps me stay loose is to consciously focus and keep my eyes on the point where I want the club to enter the sand, once I’ve assessed its consistency by wriggling in my feet. Incorporating this simple procedure into your bunker routine will give you a very specific target, instead of just a vague idea of where you want the club to enter the sand. Natural Golf

Wes Ellis Jr.  1967

In cases where the sand is still friable but wet, take your sand wedge and aim so that the clubface enters the sand closer to the ball than you would normally. Grip firmly. Swing firmly. Use more backswing than you usually do. As in any bunker shot, dig in solidly. Play the ball off your left heel. Let your hands lead the shot; keep your wrist break to a minimum. All-Weather Golf

Dow Finsterwald 1961

On uphill and downhill lies frequently encountered in bunker play, follow the same procedure you would with similar shots in the fairway. Play the ball a bit ahead on an uphill lie, a bit behind when it is downhill. You can overcome the disadvantage of hanging lies to some extent by digging hard with the foot which takes position on the slope, even going so far as to obtain a normal flat position if you wriggle in the foot firmly enough. Fundamentals of Golf

Mike McGetrick  2000

When playing from a fairway bunker, you’ve got to be sure to contact the ball first. Grip down about an inch on the club, which will help you control the club better so that you don’t dig into the sand before striking the ball. Widen your stance, which will help you hit the ball cleanly by keeping your lower body stable and “quiet.” Finally, make a three-quarters arm swing back and through. Clean contact—not power—is the objective. The Scrambler’s Dozen

Jim McLean  1990

This drill, which I got from Al Mengert, will ingrain the sensation of making the proper shallow cut through the sand. First, lightly make some footprints in the sand. Then make practice swings, simply trying to erase those footprints. Do not slam your club down into the sand. Just try to lightly brush through the length of the footprint with the flange, or bottom, of your club. Now place a ball in the center of the footprint and try to make the same swing, concentrating simply on erasing the footprint. Golf Digest’s Book of Drills

Phil Mickelson  2009

Accelerate your hands through impact and you have a much better chance of preserving the clubface position you programmed at address. The clubhead will penetrate the sand at the correct angle and will move through the sand without too much resistance. Remember, when I say “accelerate,” I don’t mean swing with a tremendous amount of effort. I simply mean that the pace of your swing should increase steadily throughout the downswing so that the momentum carries your hands into a full, free finish. Secrets of the Short Game

Bill Moretti  2002

On greenside bunker shots, your weight should favor the target-side foot. The torso stays over that foot throughout the swing. If you lean back to your opposite foot, you risk the swing bottoming out too early. When that happens, either you will hit too far behind the ball, or worse, your sand wedge will skip through the sand and contact the ball with a thin, skulled shot that flies over the green. To avoid the tendency to lean back, make sure the ball position is forward, not toward the middle. Turn Three Shots Into Two

Gary Player  1996

There are three things to remember when playing from a buried lie in the bunker: You need a steep angle of attack, you need to square the clubface, and you must allow for run on the ball as there is no possible way to get backspin from a ball nestling in the sand. You should address the ball back in your stance, toward your right foot, which automatically sets your hands ahead of the ball and helps to create a very upright swing plane. Then, take the club up steeply and chop down firmly into the sand, about two inches behind the ball. Bunker Play 



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