Back to basics

It’s time to put your bunker fears to rest. By now you’ve understood why we need to hit the sand first and where we need the club to bottom out. I’m going to provide some additional fundamentals for great bunker play. Let’s dig in.

How bunker play works

  • Use the bounce
  • Open the club face
  • Lean the shaft back
  • Don’t dig

Use the bounce

If you’re like many amateurs, you probably believe the loft on your sand wedge is enough to get out of the bunker. However, if you truly want to let the club do the work, you’ll need to use the bounce.
Looking at the image, you can see the bounce is the angle between sole of the golf club and the ground. The higher the leading edge is to the back of the sole the more bounce a club has.
The bounce is designed to prevent you from digging into the turf or sand. An easy way to remember is that bounce helps your club bounce off the ground.

Open the clubface

In order to make use of the bounce, setup to the ball with an open clubface. Basically, you want the clubface to be pointing at the sky, adding loft. This can be intimidating at first, but remember the bounce is your friend.
To do this, you need to set the club open first and then take your grip. Many amateurs make the mistake of setting up normally, and then twisting their hands to open the clubface. Doing this compromises your grip and makes your bunker shot more difficult.

Lean the shaft back

To help you to create more loft and expose the bounce, you need to have the shaft leaning back at address.
Position your hands slightly behind the ball, so the butt end of the grip is pointing toward your back shoulder.

Don’t dig

With an open clubface and shaft leaning back, you’ve created the foundation for a successful bunker escape. That being said, all can go wrong if you dig in.
Think of a bunker shot as skipping rocks. You want the sole of the golf club making contact with the sand and skimming across the surface. Ideally, you’ll take sand just before the ball, with the deepest part of the divot being in front of the ball.

A Master Class

In this video, Luke Donald, former world number 1 and short game extraordinaire, explains these concepts in detail.

From Start to Finish

Now that you have the proper setup, I want to talk about one of the most important aspects of your bunker game. In the next article, I’ll discuss the finish and why it’s crucial to getting out of the sand consistently.