A simple fundamental technique, frequent practice, and a positive, anticipatory attitude are easily acquired attributes of the successful bunker player
As we create the bunker shot, we begin, as always, with the grip. We hold the club in a fashion very similar to the pitch shot: the club is held in the fingers, the hands match, the palm positions are neutral, and the grip pressure is medium-light. Only two differences exist:
- Rather than gripping down on the club, we hold the club in the middle of the handle.
- With our hands “matching” and “neutral”, we rotate the club within our hands to a slightly open position.
The address position, likewise, is quite similar to the pitch shot address. We assume that position, then;
- Widen our stance until the outside of the shoulders is over the heels.
- Align our body slightly open to our target line to accommodate the open clubface.
- Dig our feet into the sand to provide a firm and stable base, and finally,
- Determine the point where the club first touches the sand when taking our natural swing, then position the ball two inches ahead of that point.
We now create the motion in the same way that we did in pitching and chipping. The triangle formed by the hands, arms, and shoulders turns away from the target to start the backswing. Due to the “cushioning” effect of the sand on the shot, the backswing must be of sufficient length that the hands will begin to lift the club upward toward the rear shoulder, causing the wrist to break. Coming forward, the triangle will rotate toward the target; the hands swing the club back to the address position, contact the sand, and continue onward bringing the club upward toward the front shoulder.
Perhaps the biggest fundamental in bunker play is an attitudinal one. Most people approach a bunker shot as a young child does a trip to the dentist. Fear and apprehension dominate. Upon entering the sand, tension is so prevalent that any chance of making a smooth, relaxed swing disappears. What results is a tight, jerky swing whose purpose is to “not hit the ball first.” “not leave it in the bunker,” or “not take too much sand,” capitulating to whatever the fear of the moment might be.
Rather, this shot should be viewed as a child sees a pending trip to the candy store; with eager anticipation of approaching delights about to be savored. The explosion shot appears much more complicated and dangerous than it actually is. Smooth the ball out of the bunker in close proximity to the flag and even your opponents eyebrows will be raised in (perhaps) gruding acknowledgement of your skill. Your thought upon entering the bunker should be, “I know a secret; this shot is really easy. I have practiced it, and relish its simpli
Written by Rolf Deming Class A PGA Member
Head Teaching Professional at Arnold Palmer Golf Academy Saddlebrook Resort