One thing I notice when coaching golfers is a fear of the greenside bunker shot. As soon as their ball gets in the bunker, there is immediate tension and anxiety about how to play the shot. While the bunker shot has unique elements, it is actually just a derivative of your full golf swing.
I have found that the way people practice bunker shots actually makes gaining confidence with the shot very difficult to achieve. The problem is that golfers try to play by the “rules” when practicing their bunker play. They worry too much about grounding the club during practice swing. Trying NOT to hit the sand during a practice swing actually changes the free flow of the swing and introduces unwanted tension in the hands, shoulders, and arms. These are the very things that lead to skulling or chunking the shot.
Next time you practice your bunker play, do this instead. Forget you are in a bunker and make nice full comfortable practice swings. Allow the club to find the sand without forcing the club down. (HINT: The divot of your most comfortable full swing should never start behind the center of your stance.) Do this over and over and get familiar with how YOUR swing can naturally make a nice divot that will blast the ball and sand out.
Once you actually FEEL the swing that connects with the sand in a natural manner, simply position the ball about 1-2 inches ahead of where the divot of your comfortable practice swing occurs. Then simply focus on repeating your practice swing feel. I promise if you “break” the rules in the bunker during practice, you will be well on your way to great bunker play!
Dan Martin, PGA Director of Instruction @ Rustic Canyon Golf Course
US Kids Golf Master Kids Teacher & Golf Tips Magazine Top 30 Instructor
USA Junior Team Certified Coach firstname.lastname@example.org @danmartingolf
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