I once heard the Scottish golfer Colin Montgomerie give some tips on chipping and one of the comments he made went something like “one of the first rules of chipping is make sure your next shot is a putt”. This simple objective I’m sure makes sense to all of us and in some ways I think it applies even more to greenside bunker shots. I am not for a minute suggesting that we should not be more positive about trying to get our shots as close as we can but like all areas of the game to do this requires us to invest in practise time to hone the skills and confidence that are underpinned by good technique. With greenside bunker shots your technique has to have certain things in place before it will work and be effective enough to get the ball out of the sand. Even if we may duff a few chip shots, for example, it is often the case that it moves the ball sufficiently towards the target that the next shot will be marginally easier. Leaving the ball in the bunker will often compound the mistake, not to mention the total sapping of confidence that can also be a consequence of this result. So our first objective is maybe to get the ball out of the sand.
Here are a couple of things you can consider that may help you with your sand shots.
This is just an image to create before you grip the club. Imagine you have a reasonably full glass of champagne resting on your clubface at address. Now take your normal grip when the club is set in this position. Try to imagine the club is in this position as it comes through impact. This will help you to keep the face of the club open through the shot which will let you use the bounce or sole of the club effectively through impact. In other words it will help to slide the club off the sand and stop it digging into the sand too much.
The Chest Basket Drill
One of the most common things that can happen in bunker shots is that the golfer’s upper body will race ahead of the swinging motion of the arms which leads to and flick or digging motion with the clubhead to try to compensate. Ideally we want the swing of the arms to co-ordinate with the rotational torso in the downswing/follow through. A little drill that help that may help give you the feeling is to get a small empty range basket and place it between your arms. Try and become aware of the simultaneous or co-ordinated movement of the swinging arms from what feels side to side and the rotation of your torso allowing this to happen. Key point here is that there is no up and down movement from the torso just rotation.
2/3 is enough
It is important to be committed to the bunker shot but on a number of occasions this seems to be misinterpreted as – force the ball out of the sand with an aggressive swing. This leads on to the effect I mentioned earlier where in transition the body quickens up and gets out of sync with the arm swing and we get a forceful digging action through impact. I think a good way to think about this is – all you need is 2/3rds of a swing length and 2/3rds of swing pace. If you have the club position correct at impact the bounce or sole of the club will help to get the clubhead move through the sand smoothly to the natural finish of your swing so you don’t need to force it through to this position.