Bunker Escapes

Get Out and Onto The Green

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At impact, notice that despite my steep swing and huge divot, my body shows no sign of trying to scoop or lift the ball from its submerged lie. Instead, I’ve hit down and hard behind the sand with a square clubface at impact. To practice this shot yourself, try hitting from a few buried lies in the sand and copy my flat-footed position at impact. It’s a sure sign I didn’t overrotate through the shot and I’m able to dig hard behind the ball. As for the flight, buried lies are unpredictable, so expect just about any ballflight to happen. The key is to excavate the ball from the sand at whatever cost.

The High-Face Bunker Shot

To hit a bunker shot over a high face (or high lip), there has to be enough soft sand under the ball to slide the wedge underneath through the shot. If there isn’t, play the safer shot and bail out over a lowered area of the bunker face. But if you can hit the shot, and the lie is good and the sand feels soft enough, play the ball forward in your stance and open the face to expose the bounce of the wedge. Finally, stand a little farther away from the ball than normal, as this will help make it easier to make a full swing with an inside-out path (a must-do to hold the face open through the hit). As you swing and clip the sand before and under the ball, it’s imperative you keep the clubface open (as it was at address) through the shot. If you close the face, you’ll reduce the loft, and the shot won’t make it over the high face. But with an open face at impact and an open face through the shot, you’ll see it’s a lot easier to pop the ball up and out of the sand.

Low Bunker Shot

Not the most typical shot, unless you need to hit a greenside bunker shot that has some forward roll, the low bunker shot is one that takes a lot of practice. To pull it off, play the ball in the back of middle in your stance, open the clubface and make a flatter swing through the shot. It’s almost a direct opposite of the high-face bunker shot, with this shot requiring you to close the face (almost as if you were hitting a hook) through impact. The ball then flies out of the sand much as an aggressive bump-and-run shot does—with a low trajectory and plenty of forward roll. Again, this isn’t an easy shot, and it requires practice, but you never know when you might need to hit from the sand under a tree or to an uphill pin location on the green.

Uphill Bunker Shot

When faced with an uphill lie in the sand, don’t fret. It’s probably the easiest type of bunker shot around. To hit it effectively, play the ball just as you would a normal bunker shot, only align your shoulders to the slope of the bunker. As for your weight, try to balance it evenly over both feet. This will prevent you from digging too much into the sand. As for the ballflight, the ball will fly higher and shorter than normal, meaning you either need to swing harder or hit a lower-lofted wedge or iron. Remember, because you’re hitting uphill, the body will want to hang back on your right side through the hit; so anticipate hitting more sand and hitting the shot harder than normal for this reason, too.

Downhill Bunker Shot

To hit the downhill bunker shot, one of the toughest shots in golf by the way, instead of adjusting your shoulder to match the downhill slope, try to stay level. Because your weight will now favor your front leg, expect to hit less sand and watch for a very low, hot ballflight. The key here, as with all bunker shots, is to get the ball out of the sand.

Not all bunker shots will lead to tap-in pars, but with good, simple mechanics, getting up and down from the sand will become easier and easier. Make sure you get out there and practice in the sand!

Jeff Yurkiewicz, PGA, is the head golf instructor at the Grayhawk Learning Center in Scottsdale, Ariz. To learn more and to book a lesson, visit grayhawkgolf.com.


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