Bunkers are some of the scariest shots in golf, but when done well they are an awesome compliment to great driving. Followed by a solid approach. The key is keeping the bunker short, long, or just right. This is hard to do.
Short bunker shots: this is done by driving slightly right and lowering the club into the sand, at impact. It’s not a perfect pitch, but it’s the closest you will get to a perfect bunker shot.
The distance control in this shot is pretty good, but you will not quite have the power you need for the bunker shot.
Let’s say you’re playing with friends. The club path will be different. The sand is different. You will have to shape your swing in order to achieve the distance. I will do this by driving the ball 30 yards right off the tee and then 40 yards left off the green, which will hopefully give me an open stance. This will allow me to throw the club at the sand a bit longer, without leaving myself with too much backspin.
The key to the bunker shot is knowing where the ball will end up. Many players have a huge following because they never take that key fact for granted. Many see players in contention finish under par in a tournament, but when it’s all over they will have something more to say than whether or not a player played well. “Why didn’t I pick the number of clubs I should have? Why didn’t I leave the house a little earlier?”
The secret to great bunker shots is the approach. These shots are simple.
Long bunker shots: It’s all about getting to the ball first. Be patient. I have seen players take a really wide stance. They are waiting for the ball to end up near the hole. But, it never happens. You can put a big number on someone by hitting this shot. Don’t get anxious, keep your swing short and the club short. Just move the ball to the hole.
A Long bunker shot is a very hard shot. The tee shot will be about three yards short of the bunker. You’ll have a lot of sand to be able to strike the ball.
The key is knowing the distance you are taking. If you are in a bunker that is 25 yards long, and you decide to take a five iron, you should be fairly happy. Don’t overthink it. Just start the club to the ball and backswing to face the ball. You will have a nice kick at impact.
You’ll have plenty of speed. Then again, if you take a seven iron, you’ll be in trouble.
If you make this shot, take three times. This is what you should be doing, for the sand saves you for an open or long approach.
How often have you seen someone hit their bunker shot and just see the ball stall in front of the hole? This is where knowledge can be a good friend. That player has a great understanding of the length of the club he is using. Just remember: a long sand shot is usually going to be less than a good drive.
Hit the ball three times, in the same spot. It’s less that you have to aim, and more that you have to do something with the ball. As long as you feel like it’s coming out the same spot as you hit the last one, you can count on it. Just be careful when you move the ball. If you do too much, you will not have any control. It’s easy to kick your ball into the creek or past the green. Be patient and you will find your ball.
This is about turning an ugly shot into a slightly better shot. You want to do this by going as far to the right as you can (you won’t hit it off the green, but close enough to the green to get it close to the hole), and then back. This is the key.
You may have just a touch of backspin on the shot, so you want to be careful and not get too far right. Don’t just cut the ball and shoot it across the green.
Be patient. Take your time and stay relaxed.
The hardest shot to hit is the bunker shot. This is the toughest shot for beginners.
If you do get a good hit, and you’re in the hole, give yourself a big pat on the back. You made an excellent bunker shot. But, don’t get too cocky.
Be careful with your feet. You don’t want to step in the same spot on your approach to the hole, or else you will be in even more trouble. It’s also important that you stay balanced. Your weight is coming forward on your back leg, but you should be leaning forward on your front leg. This will allow you to set up with the club parallel to the green.
With a wide stance, you will have a decent amount of space to back-swing and turn around for the second shot.
This shot can go bad if you play it too aggressive. When you feel that you have a good shot at the bunker, don’t try to force it.
You want to go up on the ball, but not too far. You want to be able to hit this shot again.
Remember to try to make the next shot. If you can hit the bunker shot, you can make that four-footer. If you miss, you can hit the next one, and this will turn into a three-putt.