Do you dread golf bunker shots? If your set stops at a pitching wedge, you are already making the bunker shot even more challenging.
If your set stops at a pitching wedge, you are already making the bunker shot even more challenging.
Do you dread the bunker shot? Well if you’re like most ladies, you do. Here are a few tips to help you become more comfortable when you are in the beach and to reach our No. 1 goal: Get out!
Before I begin with explaining the shot, you must first determine if you have the correct equipment to play the bunker shot. I highly recommend investing in a sand wedge. If your set stops at a pitching wedge, you are already making the bunker shot even more challenging. A sand wedge is designed to glide or slide through the sand. If you use a pitching wedge in the bunker, you’ll dig. Also, if you are hitting out of a green-side bunker, you usually need height on the ball.
Typically, a pitching wedge loft is from 45 to 49 degrees. A sand wedge loft is between 54 and 56 degrees and a lob wedge is 60 degrees. Keep in mind, the rules only allow for 14 clubs in the bag, so you might not be able to carry the lob wedge.
Now that you have a sand wedge, it’s time to practice a green-side bunker, so jump in and let’s “hit the beach.” When I say “hit the beach,” I mean it. When you practice your green-side bunker shot, you need to take some full swings and throw that sand out with your club.
I suggest first to draw two lines in the sand, perpendicular to your feet, playing the first line off of your forward foot, left instep for righty golfers. The second line should be an inch or two behind and parallel to the first line.
Now, focus on hitting the back line while taking a full swing. That back line will be called your hitting/impact line. When you hit the sand I want you to hear a “thud” noise. Don’t just stop your swing when you make the “thud.” Always, accelerate through, throwing the sand out to the target. It is OK to make a mess of the green.
Keep in mind, the sand is what will throw the ball out. So, if the sand doesn’t get out, the ball isn’t getting out either. Also, if you don’t hit the sand, you will hit the ball and most likely that ball is going to sail over the green, possibly into another bunker.
Once you’ve practiced the line drill making good contact with the sand and consistently throwing it out onto the green, repeat the same swing, but with a ball. Place the ball off of your front foot. Before you swing, do not look at the ball. Focus on a spot of sand 1 to 2 inches behind the ball.
Take your full swing, hitting the spot and throwing the sand out onto the green. Complete your swing with your hips at the target.
Keep in mind, if you are playing by the rules, you would incur a 2-stroke penalty if you ground your club in the sand before you make your swing. When you practice, I suggest getting used to having the club above the ball and not on the ground before you swing. You’ll create a bad habit if you ground the club in practice. So visualize and focus on your hitting spot.
The fairway bunker is very different than the green-side bunker. With the green-side bunker, you don’t want to hit the ball, you hit behind the ball, letting the sand throw the ball out, usually producing height and not much distance. With the fairway bunker, you must hit the ball and ideally want distance. I suggest playing the ball in the center of your stance. This will help you to hit all ball and no sand, producing more distance.
Also, club selection is extremely important. I see so many ladies just try and get the ball out by using a sand wedge. Yes, our first goal is to get the ball out, but how about getting some distance too, especially if you are 150 yards away from the green.
So, first analyze your situation. If the lip on the bunker is really high, then maybe the only option is to just get the ball out and not worry about distance. In that case you’d use your sand wedge. But if the lip isn’t very high, pull out a longer iron, maybe a 7-iron, a hybrid or even a 5-wood.
Once you’ve determined the best club for your situation, make a full swing, accelerating through the ball, finishing with your hips at the target. If you hit low on the ball, not taking any sand, you should be pleased with your results.
Now that you have a better understanding of how to produce a bunker shot, the only way to improve these shots is to practice; just taking one swing during your round is not going to help.
Most facilities in town have a green-side bunker to practice out of but not a fairway bunker. My suggestion for practicing a fairway bunker is to take it to the course. I’d recommend calling the golf shop a day prior or even the morning when you want to go out and ask them if they have any slow periods during the day. That’s when you want to go out and practice.
When you are out there practicing, try different clubs. Now is your opportunity to experiment with one of those fairway woods or even a hybrid in the bunker. Or maybe try a downhill fairway bunker shot. Your ball position will be in the back of your stance for a downhill shot.
Hopefully these basic tips will help improve your bunker play, making that shot at the beach enjoyable and no longer dreadful.
Kristin Sunderhaft is an independent contractor at the beautiful Anthem CC. She offers a two-students-for-the-price-of-one special, with all private lessons. To schedule a lesson with Sunderhaft, contact her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org