The_coach series: #15 Greenside Bunker Play

Greenside bunker can be an interesting place to be (or rather not to be).  I have been a bit lucky with my greenside bunker play.  Generally I can get out of greenside bunkers – though I might struggle to judge the distance.  I can occasionally thin the ball and leave it in the bunker or send it flying over. The English weather also means our bunkers can be soft and fluffy one day and rock hard the other.  At this stage of the game, I need to improve my technique to address 80% of the situations, so I posed the question to the_coach

The_coach’s view>>

I advise you stand a little ways open with feet hips & shoulders, with the ball off the inside of heel, as your not aiming to hit the ball, but the sand a couple inches behind so that point where the club enters the sand is better if it’s around opposite your sternum. Good bunker players swing shallow, picture a flat-ish u shaped swing, rather than a steep v shaped one. (you only need a steep swing if the ball is plugged)

You want a smooth 3/4 length swing, no hit at the bottom. Pick where you want the ball to land, brain works better with a definite target rather than just a get it out thought. Swing through to the finish not where the ball is as the finish.

How to set up in a Bunker

How to execute the bunker shot

Me>> The set up looks good, but how do you differentiate between shots when you have a lot of green to work with v/s when you dont have much green.  The difference for me between playing when I have a lot of green to work with rather than little is the say I hold the shaft.  When I don’t have much green, I will have a flatter swing as compared to when I need the ball to carry.  What would the the_coach suggest?

The_coach’s view>>

If you’re asking what I personally do at where I am in the game if you like. If I were say looking to play a shot where my landing point on the green was say 60 feet away, then personally I might square both my stance up a ways & also square up my 58º to the ball/target line.

If say I was in a bunker some 40 yards from the green with some fairway or rough before the green & my landing point was some still 40+ feet on the green also, I may even go down to my 52º but open up the face angle slightly as this club has less bounce in order to get the distance.

If say I was in a bunker greenside & I had 10′ or 15′ (or less) only to my landing point, personally I would lay my 58º back & open, by back I mean the shaft would be slightly further away at the handle so leaning backwards from target a little ways, my stance would be wider, slightly more flex in the knees, I would also have a more open stance, all this to get more height, so the descent is steeper so stops quicker.

It really depends where you are in the game in terms of say skill level. If you can’t always get out of a bunker first time every time, then you need to be more circumspect in your choices of how you approach things.

By that I mean you first find a reliable set up & swing motion that gets you out then stick for a while with that basic bunker shot form, in set up & technique, so you at least make sure you have a putt as your next shot, rather than leaving the ball in, or bellying it straight over the green & ending up racking up some big numbers that will derail your round. Far better to have the goal of getting out & having say two putt for a bogey & just dropping one, working this way sometimes you’ll get lucky & the 1st putt will drop & you escape with a par.

Trying to get too much finesse by constantly changing either stance to the shot or face angle is probably going to make life a lot more difficult & lower the odds of a big number too often.

When you can get out first time everytime somewhere on the green consistently is probably the best ways to go & when you get to be able to do that as a matter of course, then you can start (on the course in play anyways, experiment in practice if you want, but before you do make sure you really know where to get back to if all the experimentation makes it all go a good ways pear shaped in practice) to experiment with more open face angles, open or square set ups.  Very easy if you’re not careful to tie yourself up in knots, in what is, given a normal lie a fairly easy shot, as you don’t even have to hit the ball! To get better at this game from the higher end of the handicap range you need to concentrate on eliminating the mental errors & technical errors so you don’t rack up the big numbers.

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