Being in the bunker should not be a problem. The main reason is, I joke, because it’s the only shot in golf where you don’t hit the ball. When teaching people to play bunker shots I use a progression of shots until you can finally get the ball out of the sand as follows:
Start by hitting sand out of the bunker. Just swing the club so that the sand flies out and onto the grass. Do that about 10 times, hitting the sand every time.
Next, draw a small circle about 4 inches in diameter in the sand and make a swing that removes the entire circle so that no trace is left. Do that at least five times and make sure none of the circle is visible after the shot. Try to make five in a row.
Last, draw a circle and put a ball in the middle. The goal remains removing the circle. Forget that there is a ball there. If you successfully hit the circle of sand out of the bunker, the ball will fly out too.
For more advanced players, here are a few tips that I use in my teaching:
Try to make the same swing every time. You can control distance by opening or closing the clubface.
Keep your weight more on your front foot and emphasize your upper torso turn through the ball. Your legs will be pretty quiet in bunker shots.
Keep your chin in front of the ball (closer to the target) throughout the entire swing.
Try to feel that the trailing edge of your sand wedge is contacting the sand, not the leading edge.
Finally, if you are considering buying a new sand wedge, make sure that it has a bounce of at least 10 degrees. The bounce is usually engraved on the wedge next to the loft, so you will see 56-12 or 58-10 or some combination like that. The second number is the bounce. This will make bunker shots easier and make the game more fun.
Next week – what wedges should I have?
Ian Grant is a PGA teaching professional and a member of the teaching faculty of the PGA of America. He can be contacted at Oak Brook Golf Club 630-990-3032 in the summer and White Pines Golf Dome in Bensenville 630-422-1060 in the winter. You can contact Ian directly at 708-917-8951, or at Iansgolf@aol.com.