WINNING SHOT #3
THE SOLID BUNKER SHOT
In club match play golf, so many holes are thrown away through poor bunker play. You don’t have to be brilliant from sand to keep yourself in the hole; but if you can just get the ball out to a holeable distance – say 10-12ft – you can keep the pressure on your opponent.
When you work on your bunker technique, start by lowering your expectations. Focus on getting competent at a standard length. Even one of the best, Phil Mickelson, tells us he only practises 12-yard bunker shots, and that’s a great example. While you do this, work on a low-tari strike which involves more speed and more sand. This gives you a greater margin for error ... and more confidence that you can pull the shot o.
HEAT OF THE BATTLE PAUL AZINGER, 2002
One-down to Niclas Fasth on the final day of Ryder Cup singles matches and bunkered on the Belfry’s 18th, Azinger’s race looked run. But then a moment of brilliance saw him hole out and leave the Swede having to hole a long putt for the win he must have thought was his. Not surprisingly in the circumstances, he missed.
NEED FOR SPEED
Elite golfers take a thin, shallow sand divot that creates spin and control. If you are a weak bunker player, pulling o that strike can seem intimidating. Taking a slightly deeper sand divot is more comfortable, but it does mean less energy is transferred from club to ball. Counter that by creating more speed and hitting the sand a touch harder.
1. SET-UP: WIDEN YOUR STANCE
Even though we are going to work on a technique that means taking more sand, we still need a shallow base to the arc of the swing. Promote that by widening your stance. Stand square, and play the ball opposite your lead chest. Flare your lead foot to help lock your lead knee in position.
2. BACKSWING: FREEDOM WITH STABILITY
Before you start the swing, check your grip pressure is light – no more than two or three out of 10. This helps your wrists to cock fully in the backswing, important for creating that extra speed. Avoid lateral movement by feeling your lead knee retains its position on the way back.
3. STRIKE: HIT THE SAND WITH SPEED
Aim to strike the sand two or three inches behind the ball. Your ball position and the U-shaped action you encouraged at setup will stop you getting too steep, leaving you to focus on creating the speed that will get the club through the sand. Picturing enough firepower to send the sand onto the green is a good image to have.
4. EXIT: BUTT BRUSHES THIGH
Commit to making a full finish; it helps generate the speed you need to get the ball out. But within that, work towards a feeling swinging left through impact, the butt of the club almost brushing the thigh as you swing through. This reinforces the feeling of your lead leg anchoring the swing, and keeps loft on the clubface.