In all my years of teaching I have found the Bunker Shot to be the hardest technique to teach. As golfers, we are all trying to hit the golf ball with the best possible contact during practice and play. Now we hit into a greenside bunker and when executed properly we will contact the sand a minimum of 3 inches behind the golf ball using a swing that usually hits the shot 50 to 70 yards, that now, because of this resistance from the sand, only hits it about 30 to 50 feet. That is hard for the average golfer to accept and commit to and that is why so many don't.
The best thing we can do to make greenside Bunker Shots more enjoyable is to understand the design of the Sand Wedge and how it works through the sand, along with the overall technique of hitting this shot.
When hitting a Bunker Shot you can use any of your wedges, but for this article I am going to use the standard 56-degree Sand Wedge used by a right-handed golfer.
Bounce: The Sand Wedge has Bounce, and Bounce is designed to keep the leading edge of the club from hitting the sand first, which would create "dig", something we don't need when hitting a bunker shot. In effect, when contacting the sand about 3 inches behind the ball the club will slide underneath the ball pushing the sand and ball out of the bunker and onto the green.
Set up: The Bunker Set-Up can get tricky so I have created a real easy way to understand this set-up position without all the confusion. Determine where you want the ball to land, this becomes your Line Of Play. Now aim 10 to 15 feet left of your Line Of Play (this is your Swing Line) with a standard address position with the clubface square to the Swing Line. Now all you have to do is to roll the face open and re-grip the club, look about 3 inches behind the ball, favor a little more weight onto the forward foot, and you are ready to swing.
Execution: Now that you have the proper Set-Up you are ready to make your swing and hit a beautiful Bunker Shot. Make the size of your swing 3-quarters back and 3-quarters through with a full wrist hinge in both directions, keeping your arms and hands relaxed, with grip pressure just firm enough to keep the club from twisting in your hands. Look 3 inches behind the ball and make contact with the sand, accelerating the club through the sand and into the 3-quarter finish position.
Remember, once in your Set-Up position you will be making this swing just like you are trying to hit the ball along your Swing Line. With the club face in an open position and contact 3 inches back of the ball, your shot will go to the Line of Play, not the Swing Line.
In closing, I need to bring up some important statistics about Bunker Play at the PGA Tour level. In 2005 the best Bunker Player, to successfully get the ball onto the green and make the putt (up and down), was Pat Perez at 63%. The average Tour Player gets it up and down just under 50% of the time. Now that we know these statistics what should we expect when hitting these greenside bunker shots?
My advice is to get the ball onto the green safely with good technique, make no more than two putts and you will be as good as the tour players 50% of the time, and who knows, maybe more up and downs will just find their way into your game.
I would like to thank you for taking the time to read my article and my hope is that you will find some of this information useful, making your golf game the best it can be.