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What to Do in a Wet Bunker?

By Keith Stewart, PGA
Published on

Robert Karlsson of Sweden hits his shot from a bunker on the 12th hole during the second round of the 82nd KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship held at Harbor Shores Golf Club.

Cooler conditions changed the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship in Round 2. Alongside the shores of Lake Michigan, the weather can challenge you. As the PGA Tour Champions players and PGA Club Professionals competed on Friday, they all got wet. Whether they were in the morning or afternoon wave, no one was free from Mother Nature’s new course conditions.
Scoring conditions on Thursday had given way to survival conditions on Friday.
The last time the Senior PGA came to Benton Shores, Michigan, Paul Broadhurst won the championship at nineteen under par. On Friday during the second round, he displayed a little of that famous form when he holed out from a greenside bunker on seventeen.

When weather comes in during your round, course conditions can change severely. One of the places where wet weather can make the biggest change is in the bunker. Most amateurs find bunker play hard enough when the sand is dry and fluffy. I know I have personally written a dozen diatribes on bunkers as a PGA Coach. While watching the coverage Friday, I thought about the best steps for getting out of wet sand.
  • Step One: Understanding successful strategy from a wet bunker begins with how the shot works. If the sand is wet and heavy, you must take less of it to move the ball out of the bunker. Too many amateurs take the same amount of sand out of the bunker for each shot. To be a good a bunker player, you must understand how the texture and density of the sand affects the shot. When the sand is compact and packed down, you have to strike the sand closer to the ball. It almost becomes more like a pitch shot off a tight lie.
  • Step Two: Make that swing a little more steeply. Swing the arms back and hinge the club aggressively like Broadhurst does here. Then in the follow through, make sure you repeat that move. If you get the club too shallow on a very hard lie, the club can hit the ground prior to the ball and skip into it causing a rocket shot into the bunker face. By creating a sharper angle of attack, we can hit the sand closer to the ball and take less of it. We need to create lift. This is the most effective way to do so with the widest margin for error.
  • Step Three: Make sure you have a solid stance. Hard packed sand can be slippery when we start turning. This applies to greenside or fairway bunkers when they are wet. Get those shoes planted in the sand so you can keep your balance through the entire shot.
Playing from wet sand in many ways is easier than playing from dry sand. You know that you must hits directly behind the ball. The sand is coarser when it is wet so it will add more spin stopping the shot and the ball won’t plug in the bunker. Bunkers aren’t fun, so take any advantage you can to get out!
The KitchenAid Senior Championship will continue to be televised Saturday and Sunday on the Golf Channel and NBC. For the most complete coverage, go to https://www.srpgachampionship.com/.