10 ways to become great at long bunker shots
Many golf courses these days are peppered with bunkers everywhere, which presents an extra challenge for players to overcome.
While most golfers worry most about escaping greenside bunkers, let’s not forget about mastering long bunker shots (which includes fairway sand), which are just as important in helping keep your scores low.
Sure, any bunker on the course is often difficult. But, like everything in golf, seeing success requires the right understanding and technique.
That’s why I’m giving you 10 things to work on in order to improve your long bunker shots.
Do this to improve your long bunker shots
Regardless of your skill level, you can become a master at long bunker shots. By taking my tips below and starting to apply them to your game, you’ll hit better shots and give yourself more opportunities to shave strokes off your scorecard.
1. Know your yardage
Every golfer should know when to switch from sand first (blast) to ball first (fairway bunker). Once you know this maximum distance, then you’ll be able to make great decisions.
For example, when I make all of my adjustments pre-shot to maximize shot distance, I know that the farthest my ball will travel is 40 yards in the air. This is helpful for my course management, because I know that anything farther than 40 yards will require a change in my strategy.
2. Taking less sand isn’t a great plan
When you’re hitting a blast shot, always hit the sand before the ball. This will help avoid the nightmare flyer that goes way too far and over the green.
When you want your blast shot to go farther, taking less sand is risky, as your missed shots will be unpredictable and often unplayable.
3. Add the pluses that will make the ball go farther
If you’re hitting a blast shot from a greenside bunker at a shorter distance, you’ll need to understand when to make adjustments to your distance control. Once you dial in this cause and effect, you can make the necessary adjustments — no matter what the situation is.
4. Ball position should be forward
If you’ve determined that you’re hitting a blast shot and plan on hitting the sand first, always be sure that your ball position is forward of center. Many golfers who tend to skull their bunker shots often have their ball position too centered.
5. Hold the club at full length
Don’t choke up on your club’s grip when hitting a long bunker shot, and, instead, hold your club at the top of the grip in your regular full swing position.
Not only will this help spray plenty of sand, but it will help you hit the ball farther as well. The longer the lever, the more power delivered.
6. Less loft – clubface square (not open)
Using a less-lofted wedge is one of the simplest ways to efficiently hit longer bunker shots. A gap wedge is a great example of this.
Your gap wedge — which is typically 50-52 degrees of loft — will help your ball carry farther in the air, and will also tend to roll out a bit more than your sand or lob wedge.
Many golfers are told to open the clubface across the board. If you think about this logically, when you open the face, you increase the loft and the bounce. Sure, the bounce is great, but when you increase the loft, the ball will travel higher and shorter — which isn’t the right play when you want to hit a longer shot.
If your clubface is square with your gap, sand, or lob wedges, it has enough bounce to glide. So you don’t need to open the face to engage the bounce, since it’s already built in.
7. Keep your weight more even and allowed to shift
Where should your weight be on a greenside bunker shot? It all depends.
Keeping your weight forward and staying still will make the ball travel shorter. So if you’re looking for a greater distance, it may not make sense — unless you’re capable of generating extremely high clubhead speed.
If you want more distance for a longer bunker shot, allow your weight to be more equal at address.
By doing this, it will mimic your regular full golf swing, and also allow you to naturally shift — which will help create the desired increased distance.
8. Take a more shallow path
For greater distances, allow your back and forward swing to be more shallow. A great tool to use in order to create this path is an alignment stick.
For longer bunker shots, your clubhead should never get on the outside of the alignment aid that you’re using, and should be in a more circular motion.
Always remember to avoid the straight back and steeper backswing path, which can create more spin, but less speed or distance than what you need on these longer bunker shots.
9. Remember your speed
Swing pace will certainly help you control distance in the greenside bunker.
A slower swing, even if it’s relatively full, will produce a shorter distance. But by adding a bit of pace to your golf swing, the sand and the ball will generate enough energy to travel the longer distance required for this type of shot.
As you get more familiar with the swing fundamentals required for this longer bunker shot, allow your weight to be either more neutral or even more shallow.
By doing this, it will allow you to pivot on your forward swing, leading your back heel to come up (and stay up) like it would on a full swing. This will also help avoid incorrectly falling back and trying to lift the ball — which not only spoils proper contact, but often decreases distance as well.
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