Whether you are a new golfer or a seasoned pro, you'll enjoy these quick tips on how to deal with bunkers. It's never a good feeling when you see your ball land in a bunker hazard.
But, when a bunker shot is executed perfectly, it can be wonderful to see how far your skills have progressed. Your clubface swings down, sand flies in all directions, the ball soars high into the air... eventually landing softly on the green...right near the hole.
It's 1/2 art & 1/2 science.
If you are a beginner golfer, the above scenario may seem out of reach for now. But, with enough practice, you can get to the point where every bunker shot gets the hole after just two swings. For the sake of argument, this mini-report starts with the assumption that you're now trying to get unstuck in a bunker & trying to get out.
Let's get right into it & give you some quick pointers on how to deal with bunkers the right way.
No two bunkers are the same, and neither is the sand that they are made from. When your ball lands in a bunker, you need to make an informed assessment of the situation. You must know the type of sand the bunker is made of and the lie you are dealing with. Although every bunker is a different size and has different sand characteristics, you will typically encounter two different types:
A."High Lip" Bunkers - Some bunkers are very small and circular, but run deep. These bunkers have a big lip that you must overcome between the ball & the green. The key to overcoming high lip bunkers is to swing back steeply & then follow through.
B."Wide Flat" - Bunkers Other bunkers will not be nearly as deep, but instead very shallow. However, these wide flat bunkers run extremely wide – and they can be difficult to manage because they can end up being quite expansive. You will not need to pop the ball up as high as the previously mention high lip bunkers. Instead, go for a low loft & let the ball travel a longer distance.
The sand used in bunkers varies greatly from course to course. Some locations use very soft, fine sand while others have tight, firm sand. And some courses may use less sand in their bunkers than others. All of these conditions will require different techniques if your ball lands in a bunker.
A. Look But Don't Touch - If you are playing by the rules, you should know that the regulations dictate that you cannot test the sand's texture before playing a bunker shot. *However, you are allowed to estimate whether the sand is wet and hard, or soft and light. In your own mind, of course.
B.Hard Sand - Bunker sand that appears to be on the hard side will require you to slow down your swing speed a bit. This means that you shouldn't take the club back as far as you normally would. The ball will pop out faster because there is no cushion of soft sand between the clubhead and the ball.
C.Soft Sand - Soft sand will require more speed from your swing. Because the sand is light and fluffy, there may be a lot of it that gets between the ball and your clubhead. Soft sand actually slows down the club as it follows through so it must be managed accordingly.
More advanced golf players have the advantage of doing some creative ball positioning when setting up for a bunker shot. For the rest of us, it's best to stick with the basics and play the ball in the middle of the stance until the shot can be mastered. (Once you can step into a bunker with the confidence that you can make the ball onto the green, you are then ready for more advanced techniques.) However, some bunker shots may not allow you to take an even stance with the ball positioned in the middle, like these two following scenarios:
A.Downhill Bunker Shots - If you are facing a downhill bunker shot, move the ball slightly behind the center of your stance to be sure that the ball flies up. (The reason is that gravity will naturally pull it down.)
B. Uphill Bunker Shots - When dealing with an uphill bunker shot, move the ball slightly forward of the center of your stance to ensure that you splash the sand in the front of the ball.
Most bunker shots require the player to hit the ball into the air with just enough distance to clear the lip in order to reach the green. Less distance & more height is the key. The club you choose should be the shortest and most lofted club that you have in your golf bag. The sand wedge is almost always the best choice. In order to play your bunker shots effectively, you have to watch the clubface. Remember that you are using a high lofted club. It needs to remain lofted as it scrapes it's way through the sand and scoops the ball upward.
When you grip the club and take your swing, you don't want to do anything that ruins the technique and de-lofts the ball. This includes attempting to help the ball become overly airborne, breaking your wrists, or changing up the angle.
Bunker shots can be extremely difficult if you don't know the technique. Most amateurs would rather be in the long 6" rough instead of the bunker (sand trap) because they don't know the correct way to get out of one. Therefore, taking 3-4 extra shots because they are now in the extra-long rough by the green.
If you were to ask ANY PGA TOUR player they would tell you that they would rather be hitting out of a bunker near the green any day of the week, versus hitting out of the long rough by the green. They have the technique down and have the "touch" and "feel" from a bunker. While hitting from the long rough, there is no touch or feel.
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