Thursday 24 January 2013

Tips on Bunker Play

One golf shot that strikes fear into the hearts of many amateur golfers is the bunker shot.  Nevertheless, it has been said by no less a champion than five-time PGA winner Walter Hagen that, "the bunker shot is the easiest shot in golf - you don't even have to hit the ball."  But if the player lacks the knowledge and skill for execution of this shot, apprehension prevails.  Combine poor technique with a lack of confidence and failure is imminent.  However, those who understand the principles of bunker play can, with a modest amount of practice, become quite comfortable in playing the shot.
The following are some techniques to keep in mind for playing the most common bunker shot from a greenside bunker with the ball sitting up:
  1. Use a sand wedge (56 or 60 degree) as these clubs are specifically designed to glide, skid or bounce rather than dig.  The wide flange and inverted sole of the sand wedge helps prevent the toe or heel from catching or digging into the sand.               
  2. Establish a firm footing that will support the swing without slipping, yet will not dig the feet too deeply into the sand.
  3. Take an open stance to restrict backswing length and to steepen the swing.
  4. Ball placement should be forward in the stance (in line with the instep of the left foot for right-handed golfers).
  5. Open the clubface to match the address position.
  6. Start with the weight favouring the left side (for right-handed golfers) at address.
  7. Swing the club like a full "cut pitch shot" matching the length of the backswing and the follow-through to the force needed for that shot.  The swing path should match the line of the body (open position) and will feel like you're cutting across the ball from outside to in.  
  8. Strike the sand from two to four inches behind the ball.
  9. Do not let the face close (toe past the heel) until after impact, if at all.  Imagine balancing a coin on the clubface from the start of the swing until the the clubhead exits the sand.
  10. Continue to accelerate through the ball to a natural finish with your weight on the left side (for right-handed golfers).
The hardest thing to overcome is the fear of the bunker shot.  This fear is a result of past failures, a lack of confidence and a feeling of uncertainty.  The best way to avoid that frame of mind is to understand the principles behind executing the shot and practicing until you have enough confidence in a method, like the one above, that will get the ball out on a consistent basis.  Visualizing a successful result is one of the most important steps in playing the shot.  Fear of making a mistake produces muscular tension.  Tension produces shortening of muscle fibre or tightening up.  When one tightens up, he inhibits the swing and reduces the chance of making a successful shot.  Thinking negatively and seeing poor mental pictures can destroy one's ability to make a good swing in the bunker.  A player must stay loose and relaxed, and that comes only when he knows he can successfully execute the shot.

The following are some ways to control the distance of a bunker shot:
  • Angle of Approach:  use a steep angle for short distances and a shallow angle for longer distances.
  • Blade Position:  add loft by opening (or laying back) the face for short distances and reduce loft by closing (or hooding) the face for longer distances.
  • Backswing Length and Pace:  a long backswing has the potential for creating more force than a short backswing and, therefore, will generally send the ball farther.  The pace, however, also affects that result.  A player could use a slow pace with a long backswing or a fast pace with a short backswing and hit the ball as far or farther with the short swing than the long one.  Thus, pace and length of backswing need to be blended.
  • Amount of Sand:  shorter shots result from taking more sand by hitting farther behind the ball and longer shots result from taking less sand and hitting closer to the ball.  Keep in mind, however, that hitting close to the ball, though sending the ball farther in the air, will spin it more and make it stop quicker on the green.
  • Length of Follow-Through:  a short follow-through is generally the result of reduced speed at impact whereas a long follow-through usually means more speed and greater distance.
Learning how to successfully play from a bunker can be a very rewarding experience, especially if it has been your nemesis.  You'll be able to notice dramatic improvement almost instantly when using the proper technique while developing a sense of confidence.  Remember, visualizing good results is one of the tools to create confidence.  I hope these tips help you with your bunker game and please feel free to share this post with your fellow golfers.  Don't hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have or any clarification about the techniques for successful bunker play.

1 comment:

  1. You need great skill to play bunker shot, if player have great golf playing skill then bunker shot is one of the easiest shots in golf. i like the information you shared for playing a bunker shot.
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