This spring I’ve spent more time in the “beach” than on the greens. And, let me tell you it’s been discouraging. There are days when I think all the sand bunkers on my home course are magnetized and every ball I hit has no choice but to land in at least one sandy “beach” on every hole. The worst part of it all is not that I get into the bunker, it’s that I can’t get out!!! Flat sand, rocky sand, hard sand, wet sand, fluffy sand… it doesn’t matter. Once in, it takes me four or five swings to get out! And that’s been the story of my spring season.
BUT!!!! All that is about to change. I’ve just finished taking a lesson with PGA Pro Bob Quirk at Jane Frosts’ Golf Academy. Four of us spent an hour or so buried in the bunker with Bob, and I learned a few key things. I think I’ve got them straight here, but don’t take my word for it. Try these steps, and see if they work for you, and watch the video below for some hints from one of the best bunker players in the business, Phil Mickelson.
#1. First and most importantly, you’ve got to RELAX!!! Tension is the killer. (This is really important for me to remember. I get in a bunker and I tense right up. I’ve had such a hard time getting out and I don’t want to look like a fool, so I get all tense, I put a death grip on the club and try to blast the ball out by slapping at it as hard as I can. Trust me, that technique doesn’t work.)
#2. Squat down and dig in. Get your feet into the sand and bend your knees enough so you can easily touch the back of your knees with your hands. The ball should be about in the center of your stance. Your shoulders should be parallel to the sand. And don’t stand too close to the ball.
#3. Hit about an inch – two inches behind the ball, hitting sand first and letting it blast the ball up and out of the bunker. Take a nice easy swing, hinge your wrist, and get up and down. Be sure you finish the shot, let your club swing through the ball. And your hips should turn so that at the end of the swing your belt buckle is facing the target.
To practice this, draw a line in the sand, then hit the sand about an inch or two to the right of the line (for RH golfers). Once you’ve got the swing down, add 5 or 6 golfballs along the same line and see if you can’t get them out, hitting behind the ball and letting the sand carry the ball up and out.
A couple of important concessions: If the ball is plugged “fried egg” style or under an overhang that seems impossible to overcome, take an unplayable, and drop the ball into another spot in the bunker, in line with the pin but no closer to the hole.
If the sand is hard as a rock with little fluff to “blast,” then take out a pitching wedge or even a 7 or 8 iron and hit the ball out, bouncing off the “hard as a rock” surface. You can’t lift the ball with fluffy sand if there’s nothing but hard pan in the bunker.
Still looking for the answer to bunker play??? Watch this short video to find out how the master of the bunker, Phil Mickelson plays the sand.
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Pat Mullaly, Editor