Master those bunker shots

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It isn’t the most common shot in golf, but it is still an important one to work on.

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The dreaded bunker shot can really make or break a good round. If it is something you haven’t practiced, you could find yourself in a lot of trouble when trying to hit out of the sand and you could be taking multiple strokes just trying to get out of it. I have researched some of the best tips to help you avoid sand trouble and save a few strokes.

Here is this week’s golf tips:

Never blade it again
The worst thing that can happen in the bunker is blading the shot. Too often players will go to take a swing out of the sand and end up killing it over the green because they do not connect with the ball properly. There are two causes to blading a bunker shot: trying to scoop the ball out of the sand much like a shot from the fairway and taking too hard of a swing. When swinging hard, you shift your weight to your back foot so it makes it nearly impossible to shift it back to your front foot on your downswing. Make sure you keep your weight on your front foot at all times. Swing through the ball by holding the clubface open sliding under the ball and following through completely. This should help get out of the sand clean and set up a good putt.

Jason Day of Australia plays a bunker shot on the 16th hole AFP PHOTO

Have no fear
There is one big reason why golfers have so much trouble getting out of the bunker and it all has to do with fear. Fear causes you to be defeated before you even swing the club. Approach each bunker shot with no fear and a clear mind. If it will help, hook up with the course pro and take a lesson on the bunker shot to help you get rid of that fear. The less fear you have with a shot out of the sand, the better the result will be when attempting the tough shot.

Practice, practice, practice
Sure it may be the most annoying golf tip out there, but it is true; practicing the bunker shot will only make you better. If your home course has a practice bunker, spend a half hour or so just hitting balls out of the sand. Get your swing speed and ball striking down to a science. If your course does not have a practice bunker, go out on a slow day and ›nd a green-side bunker to practice out of. No one ever said it was illegal to use the course when you are wanting to practice. Work on different lies and clubface angles. The key to this is figuring out what works best for you and giving you con›dence so the next time you find yourself in the sand, you can approach the shot with a clear mind and the confidence in your ability to hit a good shot.

Lies, lies, lies
Keeping with the practice theme, be sure to practice hitting your ball out of the sand from every imaginable lie. Bury your ball so only a little bit shows and hit 10 of them like that taking note as to what each shot does in connection with a different swing speed or clubface angle. Find the best one that works for you and use that to your advantage. Bury the ball half way and do the same thing. Lay the ball on top of the sand so that the entire ball is on the surface. Even the easiest of lies need practiced. Doing this will prepare you for just about anything you can think you may encounter in the sand.

Ignore the pros
It may sound like a horrible tip because those guys are professionals for a reason, but if you are reading these tips, it is very likely that you are not a professional. Trying to mimmic the pros on TV is bad for a recreational golfer like you and me especially when it comes to the bunker shot. They tend to have a closed stance, swing with all of their might ›opping the ball on the green within a few inches of the cup. If I try to do that, you will see my ball bladed 40 yards part the green and I will have a worse shot than what I started with. Do not make the shot harder than it has to be. Take a wide stance and use your shoulders when swinging. Hit a few inches behind the ball with enough power to get the ball out onto the green. You will be happier with your results than if you try to do what Jordan Spieth does on a regular basis.

Study the sand
Different lies and sand conditions affect a bunker shot more than putting the right swing on the ball. Soft, ›uffy sand calls for a contact spot further behind the ball. After some rain, a bunker can become hard and compact. If you try a normal bunker shot, your club could bounce off of the hard sand, make solid contact with the ball and send it ›ying over the green. In this case, use a pitching wedge and play the ball back in your stance. Pitch the ball out, making contact with the ball ›rst then the sand. The ball will come out with less spin, so allow more distance before the hole for the ball to land. This shot is better than trying to pitch it back onto the green after soaring it over.

Too fancy footwork
A good bunker shot can be executed by having some good footwork in the sand. When setting up to your ball, dig both feet into the sand but try not to go down too far. If you dig down too far, you could end up with a worse shot that not digging your feet in at all. Digging in too far will cause you to have limited movement and could affect other parts of your body you need in order to hit a good bunker shot. Dig your feet in slightly to avoid slipping and allow your lower body to help the club pass under the ball. Put most of your weight on your front foot and make sure it stays there. Open your stance a bit so you can clear your front hip. Don’t open it too far, as it will create an awkward swing and off-line shot.

TNS

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