This month I have had a lot of bunker lessons, as people are finding the wet compact sand difficult to deal with, so here are my key points on both the regular bunker shot from nice fluffy sand and the bunker shot from the compact lie.
Before I go any further though, I would like to explain the principal behind the bunker shot, as I find a lot of people don't actually understand what happens in the bunker shot through impact and if you don't understand it you certainly won't achieve it!!
NB - THE CLUB DOES NOT CONTACT THE BALL AT ALL IN A REGULAR BUNKER SHOT!!!
So now I hear you say, how does the ball get out of the bunker then, Leo??
Well, what must happen is that you splash the sand the ball is sitting on out of the bunker; if the sand the ball rests upon leaves the bunker so will the ball. Once you understand that this is what actually happens I think you should be more accomplished in achieving success!
REGULAR BUNKER SHOT: POINTS TO NOTE:
The first thing I do when entering any bunker is to take a good wide stance (much wider than my usual shoulder-width stance) and as I do so I wiggle my feet into the sand. This is done for two reasons:
- It gets me to be very stable from the base up in such soft sand.
- It also tells me how soft or how hard the sand is in that particular bunker.
Once I feel the sand is soft and playable I then carry on as I would with a normal bunker shot, but if I feel that it is hard and my feet don't really get into the sand I then totally switch how I play the shot for the hard sand. (Explained below)
Now I have taken my stance, I then decide on how far I want the ball to travel, so I either open my clubface for a short bunker shot or else I leave it square as I would in a normal set-up for a longer distance bunker shot.
The ball position for all bunker shots should be just inside your left heel, so you can contact the sand first not the ball first, which is crucial and is what I see people doing wrong the most in my lessons. Remember the principal is to splash the sand out of the bunker, not the ball; having the ball more forward in your stance will allow you to do so consistently!
The final thing I must do at set-up is shift my weight onto my left leg, approx 75% of your weight should be on your left leg at address and throughout the swing!! The steadier you stay on your left leg throughout a bunker shot the easier it will be to contact a specific point in the sand 2 inches behind the ball. I like to use the Fried Egg idea when playing all bunker shots. I imagine that I am trying to remove a fried egg-size amount of sand from under the ball out of the bunker, I don't even look at the ball. I look at the start of the fried egg (2 inches behind the ball) and I hit that point good and hard. When practising, draw some fried egg-sized oval shaped circles in the sand and try to splash that piece of sand out of the bunker. Once you can remove the exact piece of sand (no more & no less) out of the bunker then you can play a bunker shot correctly!
COMPACT SAND BUNKER SHOT: POINTS TO NOTE
Once I have wiggled my feet into the sand and realize the sand is very hard I immediately get back out of the bunker and CHANGE MY CLUB!! I get rid of my sand wedge and change to any of my other wedges (lob wedge, gap wedge or pitching wedge are all fine to use). The reason I do this is that your sand wedge has what's called a 'bounce' built into the sole of the club which is there to help the sand wedge skip through the fluffy sand with ease. If I then use my sand wedge in compact sand this bouncy sole makes it skip off the top of the hard sand and blade my ball miles over the green or into the lip in front of me. None of your other wedges have such a bouncy sole, so they will actually dig into hard sand much easier and the shot can be played as normal.
One thing to change in your hard-sand swing will be to hit down into the sand much harder than normal; don't even worry about a follow-through, just get the club into the sand with sufficient downward force. A steeper downward swing can be achieved by cocking your wrists much earlier in your backswing!!
I hope all that makes sense and if you have any questions please feel free to ask me in the shop or book a lesson!!
All the best with your practice,