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Sweet Bunker Success

One of the most enjoyable things you can do on a golf course is hit a sweet bunker shot. No other shot in the game is quite like it. The way you dig your feet in, open the face of the club, splash through the sand and “intentionally” miss the ball, all make it such a unique part of the game. In addition, there’s really no feeling like experiencing the bounce of the club smack the earth as you produce a high, soft spinner that hunts down the cup. Here are some tips you’ll see exhibited by competitive players across the world each week.

SQUARE IT UP

You’ve probably been told to play bunker shots with an open stance and to make an out-to-in swing to hit a high, soft spinner. Although this method can work, the unusual setup alignments and perspective to the target makes this technique nothing but a big mess for most players. The good news is you don’t have to make these awkward adjustments to hit this shot. An easier way is to address the ball as you normally would, with your body aligned squarely to the target.

In practice, draw a line in the sand directly back from your ball indicating a straight line of flight to the flag. Next, draw a second line perpendicular to the ball as if to create the corner of a square.

Set up with your feet and shoulders square to your target with your lead heel on the perpendicular line. This will position the ball forward in your stance ensuring sand-first contact. Open the face on your sand wedge so that the “scoring lines” on the face point just to the inside of your front foot (between your toe and heel). This open position adds “bounce” to the face regulating the depth of your divot, creating a nice shallow cut through the sand. The key is to understand the ball basically goes where the sand goes. Even though the face is set a bit open, the ball won’t jump way to the right as you might imagine.

The unusual setup alignments and perspective to the target makes this technique nothing but a big mess for most players.

LEVEL AND LOW

It’s important to create a consistent strike into the sand just behind the ball. One way of accomplishing this is by leveling your shoulders at address. To develop this feeling, I like to have my students practice an exercise where they place their left hand onto the left knee (right-handed golfer). This puts weight onto the front foot, while making the upper body lean more toward the target.

Once the shoulders are set, take your grip and lower into your final setup position. This means sinking down more with the knees and dropping the handle of the club down toward the ground. This lowered handle and leg position, coupled with the leveling of the shoulders helps create the perfect combination of entry point and angle of attack. From Tiger Woods to Seve Ballesteros, you’ll find all great bunker players adopt this level and low position.

Click Here for Golf Digest video showing how to get level and low!

FOLD AND THROW

Since you’re creating your normal swing shape versus the old-school “out-to-in” effort, it’s imperative to get some steepness into the strike. To do this, simply think of your swing arc as being a bit narrower back and through.

In the back swing let go of the notion that you need a straight left arm and instead allow both arms to fold a little, drawing your hands in closer to your body. On the follow-through, forget any ideas about creating extension. Feel the club head swinging or “throwing” itself past the handle as you allow the arms to fold close to the body into the finish. By narrowing your swing arc and feeling some club head throw, you’ll be able to laser in your point of entry while still maintaining an effortless skipping of the club head through the sand.

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