These four drills will help develop your understanding of greenside bunker shots and how to play them
1 The ladder drill
This concept is one that’s frequently applied in chipping, and it helps you focus on your landing area and how the ball runs out. This isn’t about aiming for the pin, rather focusing on different landing areas. It’ll help you develop your distance control as well as your feel and touch from the sand. Start as short as possible, then aim to land each ball past the previous one. Use a club or golf tee to mark your landing zones, then see how many you can string together.
2 The gate drill
When I’m assessing someone’s bunker shots, I’m looking at spin, distance control, strike and line – this is the line test. This drill, using two alignment sticks to form a ‘gate’, is going to help you judge whether you’re hitting it straight. From a coaching perspective, I watch out for swing direction and swing path. Aim to hit as many balls as possible through the gate.
3 Right hand only
The bunker shot is controlled by the right hand, and this is an excellent drill to help you understand exactly what that means.
Grip the club with your right hand, keeping your left hand on your stomach all the way through the swing. Your right hand should be set in the backswing and releasing in the through-swing, which means keeping loft on the club as you hit through the golf ball in the sand.
This drill will encourage the right release and get the bounce doing the job it was designed to do when it makes contact with the sand. You don’t have to hit the ball, but once you move on to doing so, you’ll be surprised by how well you can play the shot without your left hand. This drill can be quite eye-opening.
4 Half-coloured ball
Many of the old-fashioned ways of teaching how to play a greenside bunker shot centred around opening the clubface and then swinging out to in, across the ball. As well as imparting left-to-right sidespin, this method brings a number of destructive shots into play, including fat and thin strikes. I prefer the more modern way of teaching, where we’re looking to hit the ball with zero side spin.
I use a Sharpie to colour half the ball in, leaving the other half white. Visually, you’ll be able to gain a better idea of the spin you’re putting on the ball and then make adjustments to create neutral spin.
Shot on location at Lumine Beach & Golf Community, Spain