Bunker Play Follow-Up
Since we’ve been on the subject of bunker play the past week or so, I thought I’d address one of the questions I’ve been getting on the subject. Mark of Nashua, NH asked (I paraphrased a little, Mark):
Could you please provide some insight on how to hit greenside bunker shots that require more than average carry (>20 yards) and less than average carry (<5 yards)?
Well, Mark, those are two shots that give many golfers trouble, even after they’ve worked on developing a sound technique like the one I outlined the past few articles. But let me share with you my approach to either.
First, the close-range bunker shot that only needs to carry a few yards. I’m a big fan of using a longer slower swing on all shorter chips and pitches and making the whole thing in S-L-O-W - - M-O-T-I-O-N. A very deliberate back and through allows you to gauge clubhead speed and still make a long enough swing to have some rhythm to it, and that applies to the sand as well.
My approach with wedge play is to develop a sound “half swing” where the hands and arms go back at least waist high, and then learn to gauge distance with soft hands and by varying the rotation speed of your body core. It is not as difficult as it might sound. On these shorter shots, you feel like you are almost “dropping” the arms and hands . . . and therefore the club . . . into the ball with the force of gravity alone. It produces a nice soft shot with good spin and in no time at all you’ll learn to gauge distance pretty well.
As for the longer bunkers shots . . . well, those are much tougher. I remember long ago watching a PGA event on TV and a player was in a bunker about 50 yards from the flag. The announcer said something like:
“I don’t know why architects put bunkers at that distance because there’s only one player in the world that can hit that shot – Tom Watson.”
I tend to agree with that assessment of difficulty, but here’s my tip for you to try. On bunker shots of 50 yards or more, I think it is best to try to play a clean pitch from the sand and allow for just a little more force to the swing to allow for the resistance of the sand. I choose a gap or even pitching wedge and only open the face a little. Of course, you’ll need to aim left because of that.
On the “tweeners”, say 20-40 yards or so, you can hit a basic bunker shot, but you’ll have to make a fuller swing. And if you face a shot that length, you probably have lots of green to work with so a shot that flies 10-15 yards and rolls the rest should work fine. Next time you have a practice bunker available, try hitting your basic bunker shot with your gap and pitching wedges, and even your short irons down to your 7.
Regardless of the club, open the face like we talked and “splash” the sand behind the ball. The lower lofted wedges and short irons will make the ball come out lower with less spin, so you’ll get more roll to get all the way back to the flag. And because you are not swinging them with as much force, you’ll find that the risk of blasting the ball way over the green is reduced.
And remember from the first article in the series, manage your expectations. If you are in a bunker in that mid range, your only goal should be to save the hole, not try to snug it close. Anything that lets you get down in two more shots is good.
Thanks guys, and keep those questions coming.
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Great article wedge guy! I'm a low handicap player, but those mid range bunkers shots drive me crazy. I didn't know OobGolf had articles like these. MyGolfSpy.com sent me over here.
parker, Thanks for the kudos. I try to address golfers' questions and issues, as well as sound off on things I get from our "Ask EIDOLON" question feature on the site. If you have something you'd like me to address, just click on the link below and ask away -- you might win a new EIDOLON wedge!
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