Struggling with your bunker play? Long or short bunker shots can be executed with ease through a different mindset and choosing the right club.
The standard approach to a bunker shot has always been, “hit two inches behind the ball and EXPLODE the sand!” This mindset causes tension in the hands and a tendency to stick the club into the sand, leaving the ball in the bunker or blading it over the green. (Photos 1-3).
Try this mental approach: take your normal stance and normal swing you would use for a full golf shot. Select the appropriate club according to the length of the bunker shot. That could be anything from a 60-degree wedge to an 8- or 9-iron, depending on how far away the pin is and how much green you have to work with. (Photo 4)
The mindset will be SPLASH the sand instead of EXPLODE or HIT. The sense and feel of constant pressure in your hands is crucial to the specific splashing sound. You need to vary your angle of attack until you can produce a splash divot of six to eight inches and about 1/2 inch deep (Photo 5).
For a longer bunker shot, the same swing with the same approach with a less lofted club. Also, the harder the sand the less of a swing you need, as I demonstrate in Photos 6-8.
There is a misconception that you should only use a sand wedge when you’re in a bunker and you MUST open your stance and open the face of your club. That’s clearly not the case!
Keep constant grip pressure and SPLASH the sand with different lofted clubs and your normal full golf swing.
Randy Chang, PGA, is Director Instruction at the Journey at Pechanga Golf Academy and Aloha Academy of Golf at Talega Golf Course, both in Southern California