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A Bunker Technique That Works - Part 2
Building a Proper Set-Up

Last Friday, I started this dialog on bunker play, and gave you some PGA Tour statistics to get your mind right with regard to your expectations. So now let’s get into helping you build a bunker approach and technique that can help you improve in this area.

I was always told that “bunker shots are easy; you don’t even have to hit the ball”. Well, fine, except that every other shot that I hit, I DO want to hit the ball. My mind and body are trained to hit the ball cleanly . . so maybe, just maybe, that makes the bunker shot different and therefore harder.

I’m a big believer that every golf swing is largely a function of our set up and posture, so if I don’t want to hit the ball, the easiest way to ensure that is to set up so that the ball is unlikely to be hit. Stay with me here.
We know that with most of our shots, if the ball is too far forward, we tend to hit behind it. And that if the ball is too far back, we tend to make a steep descending blow that causes the club to dig. So, the first step of bunker logic would be to make sure the ball is forward, right?

We also know that if the clubhead passes our hands through impact, we tend to hit the ball thin, another killer in the bunker. So, it would make sense that our bunker technique needs to be built around a set up and posture that puts the ball forward in the stance, and a swing that makes sure the body core and arms lead the club all the way through impact. So, let’s take those two fundamentals and carefully build a reliable technique for greenside bunkers.

There are four key elements to proper bunker set up – the target line, ball position, swing path and angle of the clubface. Those are all established at set-up, and I have seen that you can learn this bunker technique in 15-20 minutes in a practice bunker once you have your body and the ball in the right spot to practically force success.

The easiest way to understand and learn all this is by taking some masking tape and going out into your back yard or even on your carpet in the living room or den – anywhere you can make a half swing without taking out a lamp or coffee table.
1. First, lay down about a 3’ piece of tape that represents the target line -- the intended line of flight for the ball.

2. Now, lay down another piece of tape angling left of this line about 30*[left hand players reverse these rules]. This is your body alignment line.

3. Finally, place a ball or mark that location on the target line, and lay down a third piece of tape from the ball to intersect the body alignment line at a 90* angle. Your alignment grid is complete.
As you approach the bunker shot, realize that your clubface will be open to the target line, but your swing will be along the body alignment line. That will make the ball come out right down the target line, splitting the difference. Ball position is critical to success and is established by the third line.

So, let’s see how this shot is executed. First, step into the grid with your toes parallel to the body line, and where the third line runs from the ball to just inside the toe of your left shoe (for RH players. That toe should be flared out a little by the way. Your stance should be a little wider than for a pitch of similar distance – feet about shoulder width apart. This helps keep the legs “quiet” during the swing and lowers your club path a little. Also, dig your feet about an inch into the sand to provide stable footing and lower your swing path.
Now, actually lay your sand wedge on the target line about 2” behind the ball, with the leading edge open to that target line, and then take your normal grip.

When laying the face open, you have to grip the club in that position, and not rotate the hands to open the face!

In the bunkers you always want to set up with your weight slightly favoring your left side, your backswing should be about half length, your tempo slow, and your body core must rotate to a full finish, with the arms leading the hands and the club through the “splash zone”. The goal here is not “impact”, because you are not going to actually hit the ball. The goal is to make the sole of the sand wedge “splash” out an area of sand, in which the ball sits, so that the ball floats out and onto the green.

On Friday, we’ll get into the swing itself, and explore some common faults that I see all the time as average golfers try to escape bunkers.
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.

[ comments ]
Virtuaframax says:
thanks a lot for the nice write up! cant wait for friday's issue... I've always found the bunker shot as a challenge. I'll practice your advices and hopefully improve in getting out of it in 1 shot close to the hole... :)
bducharm says:
Easiest shot in golf - you don't hit the ball!!!
blackhawk says:
I have to try this next time out. The hole in the picture is insane. Where is that?
Kickntrue says:
Not sure where the picture is from. Mr. Google Images found it for me.
Lefty'sRule says:
So if you don't hit the ball at all, how do you creat backspin on shots that you need to stop from the sand like if the green is running away from you and the flag is just out of the bunker. Is there a different approach to this type of shot? I just count on my Eidolon wedges to take care of the spin for me???
wedgeguy says:
The sand between the face and the ball still imparts spin to the shot. Managing spin on your sand shots comes AFTER you master the basics. We'll get to that, OK?
BK88 says:
Is is good stuff, Maynard. For years I've been playing the ball back in my stance off my right (rear) foot...usually gets out, but high and short.
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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