Nothing strikes more fear into the heart of a golfer than a skulled greenside bunker shot. The ball goes screaming across the green with the potential to break a clubhouse window, your confidence, and your scorecard.
It makes you fearful to hit your next bunker shot, and sets off a vicious cycle. But with a few simple tips, we can make sure you stop the cycle before it even begins.
1. Understand Contact
I truly believe that if you are going to be a good greenside bunker player, you have to understand that the club should enter the sand before the ball, and stay under the ball until it exists beyond the ball.
You do not need or want to lift the ball out of the sand. You want to cut a long path into the sand with your wedge, and accept that your clubface will never technically touch the ball.
2. Have great posture
Great posture is a very important part of getting your golf club down to the ground on a consistent basis for every shot. And considering that you need to get the club down under the ball to avoid skulls, good posture becomes extremely important.
Start by bending from your hips and letting your hands fall naturally directly underneath your shoulders.
3. Hold the club full length
Knowing that you need to get the club into the sand, and keep it there, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to choke down on the club. Gripping down would make the club shorter and less likely to take the sand you need. It shouldn’t be used as a technique to hit your golf ball shorter, either. No matter the shot, grip the club at full length.
4. Use the club’s bounce
Every wedge has a rounded bottom; this is the bounce of the club, and it helps your club glide through the sand.
Set the club into the sand square, and use the bounce as it’s designed — it’s there to help you. With a club as high lofted as a wedge, it may look open, but use the lines on your grip to check and make sure the face is square.
5. Avoid forward shaft lean
The bounce of the club will help your club glide through the sand. But the more you lean the shaft forward, the more that will promote the leading edge of the club digging into the sand too much, increasing the likelihood of a chunk.
To avoid this, make sure to keep the club shaft more centered in your body, with the grip pointed towards your belly button.
6. Proper ball position
Since you want the club to enter the sand before the golf ball, you can naturally accomplish this by placing the ball more forward in your stance. By placing the ball more forward, this will place the ball beyond the natural point of where the clubhead wants to enter the sand. One of the most common causes of skulled bunker shots I see is playing the ball too far back in your stance.
7. Dig your feet into the sand
Digging your feet into the sand won’t just help you look like a professional. It will help you hit shots like one, too.
When you dig your feet into the sand, it lowers your entire swing arc. I like to see your feet dug into the sand to the point where I can no longer see the soles of your shoes. If you struggle to take enough sand, try digging.
8. Perfect your pivot
On your forward swing, allow your trail heel to come up like it would on a regular full golf swing.
The pivot of your body will create speed to the club, which you’ll need to move the clubhead through the sand throughout your shot.
9. Scrape Drill
One of my favorite drills to learn to keep the club in the sand is the scrape drill.
From address position, without making any backswing at all, practice scraping the wedge in the sand on a slight curve around your body.
Scrape the sand when you do this and feel the downward pressure of the clubhead as it stays low to the ground. When you do this you may feel your trail heel wanting to come up like when you pivot.This scraping feeling can help train your body to learn to keep the club in the sand, rather than the incorrectly trying to lift the ball.
10. Practice without a ball
If you can get really good at taking your full swing and throwing sand out of the bunker with your club, you’ll be a great bunker player. So practice it!
Train yourself to make the proper motion by taking the ball out of your practice. Take swings and attempt to hit a tee, or shells and pebbles, or just nothing but the sand itself. You’ll start to have an understanding of how to use the loft and move the sand, which will help you when it’s time to reintroduce the ball.
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