It’s as though, golf’s not a tough enough sport…the founders of this brilliant game seemingly thought?
“Maybe we should put a bunch of sand pits all over the place”! Haha!
There are many aspects within this great game of golf to become proficient at. Mastery goes into your T-ball game, your long & short irons and of course putting.
Bunker Shots for Beginners
Sand trap practice
Getting proficient with sand play in golf is likely the most overlooked aspect of the game. Your proficiency with the golf swing always remains the highest priority followed closely by hours spent on the putting green.
A distant third can be sand trap practice… often this aspect gets overlooked altogether.
Bunker shot basics
The particular bunker shot covered here is going to be the bunker shot in its most basic and simple form. There are many higher skills to learn with bunker play. This article will cover the very most basic skill to remove the golf ball from the bunker in one swing.
Make sure...DO NOT hit the ball
First of all, it’s important understand that a well-executed bunker shot is when the golf club doesn’t impact the golf ball at all.
On a perfect bunker shot the golf club head itself, enters the sand slightly behind the ball. The golf club head enters slightly behind the golf ball then continues slightly underneath the golf ball.
Hitting a fairway shot heavy or fat
We’ve all experienced being in the fairway when your club head gets stuck in the ground behind the golf ball when swinging at the ball. This is commonly known as a heavy or fat golf shot. This is a result of the club head entering in the ground too far behind the golf ball. A layer of grass and dirt then gets stuck between the golf ball and club face… the golf ball virtually goes nowhere.
This heavy shot in the fairway would’ve been a perfect shot in the sand trap! You’ve swung hard at the ball but it goes a very short distance because you’ve hit it heavy.
How posture effects contact
Generally speaking, when you hit a heavy golf shot in the fairway you’re not postured up to a proper height within your set-up. It’s very easy to get a little lazy with your posture in the fairway and this results in those heavy shots. Again, the club head enters too far behind the golf ball. As a result, a layer of grass gets between the golf ball and club face.
The Perfect sand shot is a heavy golf shot
Knowing this…you can create a very simple bunker shot… you in effect have to hit the ball slightly heavy. As a practice exercise, take your set up in the sand trap with your club head slightly behind the ball & not touching the sand. Feel in your setup position that you’re standing at a height that you will catch the ball clean and not heavy. When you’re in this posture, feel like you’ll catch the ball clean.
Now sink in your knees only slightly. Sink in your knees only slightly, meaning, the slightest bit more knee bend. This slight bit more knee bend means you’ve lowered you’re posture. This lowered posture means the club head will enter behind and under the golf ball. BINGO!!
Sink with your knees for a simple bunker shot
When you take on a slight bit more knee bend, you’re now set up to hit the golf ball heavy. The club head is now destined to hit slightly behind and under the golf ball. This simple adjustment in posture will enable you to swing normally while taking a fairly full swing.
Swing long & maintain club head speed in the bunker
With sand shots it’s important to always swing with a long swing using more speed than you think.
Remember… if there is no contact between club face and golf ball. The club head must be traveling with some speed and length to get the ball out of the sand trap.
Length of swing in the sand trap
The length of swing varies of course on how far away your landing spot or target may be. In general terms, it’s a good idea to practice a fairly full swing both back and through the ball.
For visualization purposes imagine your back swing length continues to where the club shaft points straight up to the sky, about 3/4's of a full swing or even a full backswing. Then on the follow-through side…the golf club swings through the ball to a full finish…it’s absolutely essential to get to a full finish on the follow thru.
Finish your swing in the sand
This is one of the two critical errors made when attempting to get the ball out of the sand. Remember the golf club is entering the sand and not making contact with the golf ball. When the golf club enters the sand there is an immediate slowing down of the golf club as a result of how much sand your digging into.
It’s your job to ensure the sand does not slow down the golf club so much as to stop the club shortly after it passes the golf ball. The club head must pass thru the sand/impact area and continue on to a full finish.
Maintain swing speed in the Sand trap
The second critical error is not maintaining club head speed through the impact area when club meets sand. You must maintain club head speed through the impact area so the golf club can get to a full finish. Even though you apply full swing length you can adjust you’re effort level down to 50%. In essence you’re applying a full swing at half the effort.
Bunker shot technique
The simple bunker shot technique then:
1) requires you to apply a slight bend to your knees.
2) Take a three quarter length or full length backswing
3) Maintain club head speed through the impact area.
4) Carry the speed through thru impact so the club head gets to a full finish position
5) Apply a full swing at 50% effort
Best bunker shots
For your best bunker shot keep it simple. Don’t dig your feet into the sand to start…this in most cases will make you hit the ball way too heavy and the ball not come out of the sand.
When you dig your feet into the sand you’re often lowering your position too much. Only a slight bend in your knees and a full swing allows the club to enter the sand slightly behind and under & ball, this simple posture adjustment will produce amazing results.
Swing harder than you think in the sand
It’s important to swing much harder than you think… keeping in mind you’re not making direct contact with the golf ball. A common myth is to swing twice as hard for that length of shot when you’re in the sand.
Swing 10 times as hard for that length of shot or even more. If you sink even a little deeper with your knees you’ll take more sand… the more sand you take the harder you can swing. The more sand you take the shorter the ball will go.
Practice sand trap shots
It’s important to maintain a fairly full swing, particularly a full follow-through in the sand trap. Always move the club head through into a full finish. You can try with varying effort levels 40%, 50% or 60% effort, see how it affects the distance the ball will travel.
Try and play around with varying degrees of knee bend and effort levels to see the different distances the ball will travel. When you start bending your knees too much you’ll notice the ball won’t get out of the sand. The golf club will be entering the sand too far behind the ball.
With only the slightest amount of knee bend and a full swing, the golf ball will get out of the sand trap and go a fair distance. If the ball goes too far bend knees slightly more.
As you add more knee bend and the same full swing, the golf ball will get out of the sand trap but with the little less distance.
Add yet even more knee bend with the same full swing, the ball MAY get out of the sand trap but go very short distance.
Adding yet more knee bend with the same full swing, the golf ball would not get out of the sand trap.
Once you find the proper knee bend and apply a full swing, the ball will come out if the sand trap with ease.
You can then adjust how far you want the ball to go based on how much you bend your knees.
Keep it simple in the sand trap
Only a slight knee bend from a standard set-up position, a three quarter length backswing and a full finish maintaining speed through impact will get you out of the sand once and for all.
Happy golfing friends!