The greenside bunker shot is one of the most intimidating shots for the amateur player, while at the same time being one of the easier shots for touring pros. Why? The reason is simply because professionals understand how to manage sand properly and actually use the sand to their advantage. As for amateurs? For some reason, most amateurs make matters more confusing than they ought to be.
When hitting from a bunker, there are two things that you should try to do above all else. First, strike the sand with the bottom of the clubhead (the sole) about two inches behind the ball. Second, create a divot from one to one and a half inches in depth. Too often, I see amateurs either afraid to make a sand divot or, on the other hand, take too much of a divot. In actuality, the right amount of sand to dig is generally only an inch deep!
The main job of the clubhead is to create a pocket of sand between the ball and clubhead. As the clubhead digs, you can see the sand between the clubhead and ball actually start lifting the ball upward. There's no need to try to lift the ball from the sand; instead, you should simply let the sand do it for you. If you dig too much, the clubhead will lose momentum, making it hard to get the ball out. Any less sand will prevent a soft landing, often resulting in skulled shots.
Practice taking divots in the bunker using the guidelines I've provided and you'll soon see that hitting great bunker shots isn't as hard as you once thought.
John Stahlschmidt, PGA, is the Head Instructor at the TOUR Academy at the TPC of Scottsdale in Arizona. To book a lesson or for more information, visit www.pgatourexperiences.com.