Bunker Play: It's Not Rocket Science
07 Jan 2010
by Pat O'Brien

see also: Pat O'Brien: The Short Game Blog


If you've ever had a sense of dread wash over you upon seeing your ball in the bunker, then this article is for you.  I'm sure we all have felt some trepidation  about bunker play at some point.  We call all remember leaving balls in the bunker or watching your ball sail over the green from the dreaded skull shot.

It's time to take a step back and return to basics.  Before I comment on the pictures, I want to refresh you on some key points about setup.  I am a huge believer in the importance of a good setup.

The main things I look for are:

*I want your grip in the fingers so the palms, forearms and wrist joints all stay relaxed.  It is easier for the club to hinge properly when tension is absent.

*I want your arms to hang closely to you side so they feel light and your chest stays relaxed.  Your upper body can then respond correctly to the swinging of the club.

*I want your weight to be from your shoelaces back to your heels.  Your lower body will shut down if your weight is forward of your shoelaces.

Obviously, you dig your feet in to quiet your lower body on the backswing and get your center of gravity under the ball in the sand.  You do not need to add tension to your lower body to prevent it from moving. There is no try in golf.

*Finally, wherever the buttons on your shirt are is where the bottom of your swing is.  Therefore, you play the ball closer to your left heel on a standard lie and the club will automatically enter the sand where it should, assuming you do not add tension to your motion and lunge at the ball.

Now, to the pictures:  There are primarily to shot shapes to bunker play.  On a shorter shot, picture the swing being more linear (straight line picture.)  To achieve this, simply hinge your wrists immediately on the takeaway. Gravity will drop the club through the ball and it will finish more toward the target. Remember to keep the face open.

Pobsandpic1  Pobsandpic2

On a longer shot, the swing is more circular.  My stance is a little more squared, and I am going to allow the club to swing up and around as it was designed.  The image of throwing sand over your right shoulder is my favorite. Your wrists will hinge when they need to, just remain tension-free.

Pobsandpic4  Pobsandpic3

Bunker play is not rocket science.  Breathe and understand that thanks to Gene Sarazen, the sand wedge was designed to do all the work if you let it.

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