This bunker tip from a Top 100 teacher was one of the best I’ve ever received

Golf instructor Kellie Stenzel hits bunker shot on golf course

Kellie Stenzel takes a full swing in the bunker.

Marc Serota

Late last year, I took my first work trip in more than two years to GOLF’s Top 100 Teacher Summit at Pinehurst. It was hugely fulfilling, not only because I had the chance to see so many colleagues in person for the first time in so long, but also because I got to play three days of golf — a previously unheard of boon for this mama of two!

My first round was an afternoon spin on Pinehurst No. 2 alongside GOLF Top 100 Teacher Kellie Stenzel, and let me tell you, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better cart companion — especially when you’re shaking off some Covid rust.

While my tee-to-green game was okay, I still found myself in plenty of bunkers. Bunkers tend to be my kryptonite, I’m not sure why. Some days, I’m fine. But other days, they get in my head and I either whack away until I finally shank the ball out, or I continually fail to extract it until I give up. In Pinehurst, it was the latter. After one particularly unsuccessful bout in a deep greenside trough, Kellie gave me a hugely helpful tip that I hope can help you, too.

“When you’re in a greenside bunker with a high, medium or even a low lip, you want to play the ball more toward your forward foot,” Kellie told me. “That way, you can make your regular swing and the club will naturally enter the sand before the ball. You want to hit the sand before the ball, under the ball and after the ball.”

It seems obvious, but what Kellie was telling me was contrary to what I tend to do in the bunker, which is to majorly open my stance and clubface, and try to shallow out my swing to get the ball up and out. The idea of simply changing my ball position and taking a regular swing was a most welcome one compared to my former method.

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“It’s not a lifting motion,” Kellie said, mentioning that practice swings in the sand can be counter-productive, because you aren’t getting the feeling of digging into the sand through impact. Instead, you’re swinging through air, and up — a no-no in the bunker. “When you swing through, as you’re turning and you’re pivoting, the weight moves forward, which keeps that club into the sand in a long divot. You want to get the club down and into the sand, and keep it there.”

The idea of pivoting in the bunker was also a new one for me — it comes naturally on shots from the fairway but for some reason I’ve never allowed myself to swing that way in the bunker. Once I did, the ball popped out like magic.

If you, too, are struggling from the sand, give Kellie’s advice a try: ball slightly forward, and take a regular swing. I think you’ll be as amazed as I was that there’s very little you have to change to hit a good shot from the bunker.

Need help unriddling the greens at your home course? Pick up a custom Green Book from 8AM Golf affiliate Golf Logix.

For more golf tips from Kellie Stenzel, click here.

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As a four-year member of Columbia’s inaugural class of female varsity golfers, Jessica can out-birdie everyone on the masthead. She can out-hustle them in the office, too, where she’s primarily responsible for producing both print and online features, and overseeing major special projects, such as GOLF’s inaugural Style Is­sue, which debuted in February 2018. Her origi­nal interview series, “A Round With,” debuted in November of 2015, and appeared in both in the magazine and in video form on