Tons of amateur golfers cringe at the sight of their ball in the bunker. They’d prefer a gnarly lie in the rough over a flat spot in the sand trap all day.
The problem, as Oak Hill Country Club Director of Instruction Jeff Urzetta points out, is that most players can’t avoid the sand for all 18 holes.
“Very rarely are you going to play a round of golf and not find yourself in a greenside bunker,” Urzetta says. “It’s an easy shot if you know how to set up correctly.”
Urzetta calls greenside bunker shots “an altered setup with a normal swing.” There are a couple things you must do to make that swing work.
First, a player should position the ball slightly forward in their stance. The second thing to do is dig the feet in. “This lowers your center of gravity and takes care of how much down you need to hit,” Urzetta says.
Once the feet are ready, a player should open the clubface a bit. When you hold a club up from the ground pointing straight ahead, the toe of the club would point to 12 o’clock. Urzetta says to open the face so that the toe would point to 1 o’clock and then take your grip.
Like almost any short shot, the player must trust that a correct swing will result in a correct ball flight.
“Avoid the temptation to lean back and help this up. Let the loft of the club do the work,” Urzetta says. “Someone that struggles out of the bunker will generally tend to bottom out to early and they end up backwards all the time or just scoop under it.”
Keeping the weight forward helps the player’s center of gravity. “That will ensure your club is bottoming out in the correct position relative to the ball.”
It’s the sand that’s trapped between the clubface and the ball that sends the ball out of the bunker. The club should never contact the ball and you shouldn’t stop swinging once you’ve hit the sand.
“You really want to make sure you’re hitting down and moving forward,” Urzetta says. “Good bunker players will actually finish and they’ll be toward the target,” after the follow through.
Hopefully, the ball will be, too.