Paul Foston has put together a beginners guide to bunker play to simplify the technique and help you escape the sand everytime
As with every other area of the game, quality shots stem from good foundations at address, this is a principle you will see repeated throughout our beginners golf guide, and I really want to stress this point in my beginners guide to bunker play. One of the most common mistakes I see is people setting up very open with their feet, hips and shoulders aiming well left of the target.
This promotes a steep angle of attack that causes you to dig the club into the sand through impact. Often the speed in the head gets lost and the ball fails to clear the lip.
Instead, I like my pupils to be open, but not too much.
At address, start by taking a wide stance that is a little open to your target. The ball position should be slightly forward of centre (this helps you create a shallow angle of attack to help you take the right amount of sand) and again, the clubface should be a fraction open to your stance. You should now feel powerful, athletic and ready to go.
Crucially, try to strike the sand about an inch before the ball. This is the only shot in the game where you don't have to hit the ball before the ground. Understanding this essential element is imperative and it actually gives you more margin for error with the contact. If you can strike the sand consistantly an inch or so before the ball, your bunker distance control will help you get up and down more often.
Slightly open at address
As I’ve already explained, you need to be open at address, but not too much. A great drill that will highlight the perfect address and swing path is to make a line in the sand aiming just left of your target.
At address, set your body parallel to this line but aim the clubface at the target. As you can see from the image the ball pops up directly on line with the pin, with plenty of loft.
You can use this line in practice as a helpful reference. Also, notice how I maintain my knee flex through impact - this is crucial for the shallo path you are looking for.
Set and reset
If you’re having problems with your bunker basics, it’s worth trying this simple, yet very effective, movement. Set your wrists on the way back and then reset them on the way through.
If you get it right, the club will kiss the sand through impact. The technique of releasing the shaft through impact will help you use the bounce of the club, ensuring the clubhead exits the sand quicker than the ball. So as you set up to play the shot, think ‘set and reset.’
Complete the swing
One of the biggest issues that golfers face from sand is that they’re often only hitting the ball a short distance, which can cause a tentative approach.
However, you need to commit to what you’re doing and let the swing flow with an almost relaxed freedom.
Take a look at my finish position. This is only a shot of around ten yards, but because the sand absorbs a lot of the energy of the clubhead, I know I can let the swing flow without losing control of my distance.
Make sure that you swing through to a full finish, because if there’s anything that ruins a good bunker shot it’s a short, jerky stroke. As long as the club is accelerating through impact, you will not lose control of the ball.
There are a host of drills that you can try to improve your bunker play but if you can cement the essentials we have discussed here, you will become a much better bunker player.
Tom Clarke joined Golf Monthly as a sub editor in 2009 being promoted to content editor in 2012 and then senior content editor in 2014, before becoming Sports Digital Editor for the Sport Vertical within Future in 2022. Tom currently looks after all the digital products that Golf Monthly produce including Strategy and Content Planning for the website and social media - Tom also assists the Cycling, Football, Rugby and Marine titles at Future. Tom plays off 16 and lists Augusta National (name drop), Old Head and Le Touessrok as the favourite courses he has played. Tom is an avid viewer of all golf content with a particularly in depth knowledge of the pro tour.
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