How to play greenside bunker shots.

So you ended up in a greenside bunker following your approach shot into the green.  For many golfers this is where their score starts to balloon as they take extra wedge shots to get on the green.  Though bunkers are designed to be penal for poorly struck shots, bunkers do not have to become hazards.   However, if you know the basics, contrary to what average golfers think, the bunker shot is not the most difficult shot in golf.

The basics of bunker shots

Grip and Clubface.  First open your clubface, or in terms of direction, have your clubface pointing to the right of your target.  From here grip club as you would normally do for any shot.  By doing so you’ll be adding extra loft to the clubface.  Also by setting the clubface in this manner will allow you to “splash” the ball out of the bunker.

Address.  As you setup your address alignment to the golf ball, instead of being parallel left of your target line, adjust your feet, knees, hips and shoulders slightly more left.  As for the width of stance I prefer one where the insteps are the width of your shoulders.  I also recommend that instead of the pressure in your feet being 50/50 that the pressure is more into the left foot around 70/30.  Due to the intent of hitting the sand first before the ball, the only time I suggest playing such a shot, wiggle your feet into the sand.

Warning, if you wiggle your feet into the sand and then choke down on the club, you have basically offset the cause and effect of wriggling your feet into the sand.  So, do not choke down.

The Swing .  With the clubface aimed right of your intended target and your body lines left, swing along your body lines the same as with your regular swing.  This will provide you with an outside-in swing path or maybe better stated a more left swing path through the golf ball.

What do I mean by outside-in?  When you draw a straight line from your golf ball to the target, this would be called your target line.  The following pictures demonstrate the 3 paths though the degrees of variance could be many.  With your setup you have effectively set yourself up for and out to in swing if you swing along your body lines.  By doing so you also don’t have to apply manipulation of the club.

Aiming Point Concept.  You should blast the ball out of the trap by making contact with the sand from 1-2 inches behind the ball.  To do this one does not look at the golf ball.  Instead, your focus should be at the spot in which you desire the clubhead to enter the sand.  By doing so you are aiming and focusing on the spot where you want to deliver your hands and such the clubhead.  Speaking of the golf ball, play the ball just forward of center of your sternum.  Ball position can be moved around though so experiment with ball position during your practice session.

Distance.  When splashing the sand behind and under the golf ball, the ball will come out with and ride on the sand.  With this being the case imagine the amount of power you would need to propel or blast the sand a certain distance.  By doing so the ball will go with the sand and the ball too should carry the required distance of your intent.  The length of swing will also be adjusted to accommodate the amount of power required for the shot at hand.        

Finish your swing.  Many golfers struggle from the bunker because they jab at the ball and just stick the club into the sand.  To avoid this problem make sure you finish your swing by transferring more pressure into your left foot and rotating your belt buckle to the left of the target.  Avoid becoming impact happy by keeping your hands and arms swinging through the shot.  If you’re having problems leaving the ball in the bunker focusing on these few tips will assist you tremendously.

The above suggestions and tips will be quite helpful but to become a better bunker player takes practice.  Jumping into a bunker and working on these techniques for 20-30 minutes will not only improve your bunker play but also your confidence.  And residual effect of being confident from greenside bunkers will also free you up for your approach shots into the greens.

Good golfing!