It’s always a big question for teachers when they’re working on the all-important sand game with their students: Should you use the same swing plane for all types of greenside bunker shots?
The answer is no, not at all. Different situations call for different swings, and it all comes down to how far you want the ball to carry or roll after you blast it out. A close pin (“short-sided”) usually demands a higher-lofted and softer-landing shot. A pin located on the far side of the green from where you are usually requires a lower-running shot. And the amount of lip you need to clear obviously figures into your options, too. The bottom line: If you can control steep or shallow trajectory out of the bunker, you can play the game pretty well.
Picture the ball sitting on a block of cement. In Photo 1 I’ve drawn a box around my ball in a bunker to illustrate that block. If you were allowed to pick up the ball and bounce it off the cement to create the trajectory of the shot you want, you’d bounce it a steeper angle to go higher and shorter, with an overhand arm motion, as I demonstrate in Photo 2; therefore your swing would match that (Photos 3-5).
If you wanted to create a shot that would run lower and a little further and running, you’d create a shallower bounce off the cement with a sidearm motion, like skipping rocks (Photo 6). I would also want my swing to mirror that look, as in Photos 7-9.
The more open your stance and club face are, the more you’ll allow for the higher and shorter bounce and throw. The more square or even closed I make the stance and face, the more it well help to throw or swing shallow.
When you have really fluffy, soft sand, shallow with a more open face works better (Photo 10). When it’s harder and more compact, steep works better, with a bit less of an open face (Photo 11).
Tom Morton is Director of Player Development for Haggin Oaks Golf Complex in Sacramento, Calif., and also heads the Morton Golf Foundation. For information, visit www.hagginoaks.com