In all our Golf Schools, people consistently identify bunker shots as the area with which they have the most difficulty. Without exception, the difficulty people have with this shot is founded in poor technique and an overwhelming fear of not being able to execute the shot well.
Like any shot in golf, if you fear it, if you believe that you can not execute the shot before you even step up to the ball, then the chances of you playing the shot well are almost zero. You must approach the bunker shot the same as any other shot, and believe that if you take the time to set up correctly and execute with good technique then the shot will be a good one.
So what is a good technique for bunker shots and how can you effectively practice this shot so that the next time you face one on the course you can be confident of playing a good shot. Your practice should be broken into two equal parts:
During technique practice you will be hitting balls to no set target. Rather the focus is solely on reproducing a sound bunker action that consistently takes a small amount of sand from under the ball and throws that sand and the ball onto the green.
Stand with your feet fairly close together and slightly open to your target line. The ball position is forward in the stance with your weight favoring the lead foot. The clubface should be rotated so that it is slightly open to the target line and then take your grip. This will increase the effective loft on the club through impact and encourage the sole of the club to strike the sand before the leading edge. Thus the club will slide through the sand rather than dig in.
The club is swung along the line of the shoulders with the wrists hinging the club up in the backswing. Into impact the club will enter the sand before reaching the ball, but it is crucial to allow the arms to swing past and through to ensure the ball flies high and out of the bunker.
During performance practice the focus moves to games that simulate what you will encounter on the golf course, and thus helps to sharpen your bunker play to where you can get out of the bunker consistently and even play to varying targets. A couple of drills to help you achieve this are:
- Consecutive shots – From a greenside bunker drop a ball and go through your full pre-shot routine before playing the shot. The goal is to see how many consecutive shots you can get out of the bunker. Too easy? How about consecutive shots on the green? Still too easy? Then try for consecutive shots inside six feet.
- Varying targets – Once you have started to master the consecutive shot drill, then try to see how many consecutive shots you can get on the green while changing your target for each shot. Too easy? Then try consecutive shots inside 10 feet to varying targets.
- Nearest the pin competition – Play against a friend where you take turns at choosing a target and then score a point for who gets closer to the chosen hole. First person to 10 points, wins.
Work through this practice routine the next time you are on the range. I am sure you will find the performance practice fun and over time you will see the improvement in your bunker shots.