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Sandstorm: Brilliant Bunker Play at the PGA Championship

By Keith Stewart, PGA
Published on

Rickie Fowler hits his shot from a bunker on the seventh hole during the first round of the 2022 PGA Championship.

The bunker play at Southern Hills has been on point. Playing from bunkers can be hazardous for all types of players, but between the first two rounds we have had several hole outs. One of the great advantages to bringing ninety-six of the top one hundred players in the world ranking together is you will spectacular shots.
Amateurs across the country are always asking their PGA Coaches for bunker help. When I work with students, there are three areas I approach to assist them. The first part of our discussion is how to measure the lie and their stance. Bunker sand is different from course to course. Next time you find yourself in the bunker, make sure you just don’t look at the lie of the ball. Feel the sand under your feet. Follow these rules:
  • How deep do your feet sink in the sand? If they go deep, you can take more sand with your shot. If they sit on top - the sand is shallow, then make sure you strike closer to the ball.
  • If the ball is buried, keep that face square to work more like a shovel so you can get it airborne. With a good lie on top of the sand, open the face and slide it right underneath to splash it on the green surface.
Once we establish a blueprint for setup success, the next trick is making sure you hit the sand. This sounds simple, but amateurs get anxious in the bunker. Try this drill, it will improve your ability to strike the sand where you are looking.
  • Draw a straight line in the sand. Straddle the line with your stance and place the line between your legs where you intend to hit the sand for the shot. Now take practice swings.
  • If you keep hitting behind the line, turn through more, if you miss the line, make sure your weight is getting into that lead foot.
Once we complete those two steps it’s time to talk bunker swing. The goal is to strike the sand with the leading edge of the club; that’s the bottom and not the front edge below the grooves. To do that effectively, follow these techniques.
Make sure the ball goes in the front of your stance. This will force you to turn and shift your weight forward while hitting the shot. Always keep that ball position a couple inches forward of center.
When you open the clubface, you must open your stance as well. Opening the face means you turn the toe (end) of the club away from the target. Opening your stance involves taking your lead foot and pulling it away from the target line.
Being a good bunker player isn’t impossible. With good technique and a solid approach getting in the sand will be much more like a day at the beach.
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