With the recent wet weather in the north west there is no surprise that many of the local courses have been closed and the few that have stayed open have struggled with wet ground conditions, mats, winter greens and bunkers marked as GUR
Have you managed any practice over the winter? Ok so you may have kept your swing in check with a weekly visit to the range, the odd game here and there but what happens when you turn up for the opening competiton only to find yourself in a bunker for the first time in 6 months!
Now is a great time to start thinking about a little short game work to prepare for the year and especially important are those bunker skills. When someone comes to me looking for improvement I always like to find out about their short game and I have noticed a common theme when I ask people about bunker play.
“How’s your bunker play?” Response ” Yes its good I get the ball out almost every time”
Now I guess the primary objective is to escape the sand but with the correct method you will be able to raise your expectations and start thinking about how close you can get the ball to the hole. There are crucial elements that need to be right before you can master the greenside bunker shot.
The first requirement to execute this shot is LOFT as this is essential to get the ball to come out high and land softly, we need to open the face and align it to the right of the target. Opening the face in this manner will not only add loft but it has a dual benefit of increasing the bounce angle which allows the club to travel through the sand easier without the risk of the leading edge digging in. Now the clubface is aligned to the right we need to adjust our body alignment, if we didn’t the ball would miss the target to the right. So as a general rule align your body as far to the left as the ball would miss the target to the right.
To ensure we strike the sand before the ball we have to play the ball forward in the stance which will help ensure correct contact. I would recommend a ball position that is level with the inside of the left heel. If the ball is placed too far back in the stance it increases the risk of striking the ball first and I’m sure we’ve all experience that greenside bunker shot that travels 100 yards instead of 10! Having the ball forward in the stance will also promote the correct angle of attack which is important in controlling the distance. A steep angle of attack increases the risks of poor contact and makes consistent distance control almost impossible.
The number one mistake I see amateurs making in the bunker is they feel they have to help the ball out, the players weight moves back and towards the right foot during the down swing in an attempt to lift or scoop the ball up and out. I like to see the weight favouring the left side at address maybe 60%-40% but the key to consistent contact and the club entering in to the sand at the right point is to control the low point of the swing. If the weight moves back during the swing then the low point will be too far behind the ball which will reduce in fat and even thin shots because the club can bounce. The biggest problem I encounter is that player hit too far behind the ball so controlling the low point can be achieved by controlling your weight position. Set up with 60% weight favouring your left side and maintain that feeling all the way through the swing as this will help ensure perfect,sand first contact which is essential.
With a little work you could be hitting soft floating bunker shots that ever Rory McIlroy would be proud of! If you would like any help learning the correct technique in the sand then please click here