The dreaded bunker--hitting into it can cause heartburn for even seasoned players. But there’s no need to fear when you’ve got the proper swing technique and mental approach to bunker play. The next time you hit it into the sand, there are fundamentals to getting up and down with no problem.
Stance and Ball Position
One of the most important aspects of hitting a solid bunker shot is making sure to get enough--but not too much--sand between the club and the ball in order to lift it out. To do this, position the ball slightly to the left in your stance (for right-handers). This will naturally send your club through the sand instead of first making contact with the ball, according to PGA pro Kellie Stenzel. Loosen your body to create a more fluid swing, since many golfers tend to tense up because of the pressure and abnormal circumstances of a bunker shot.
Keep Your Backswing Shallow
One of the difficulties of a bunker shot is most players' tendency to use their club the same as they would with a pitch, coming down steep on the ball. According to professional instructor Tim Mahoney, that’s the wrong approach if you want to get it anywhere close to the pin. Instead, you need a more shallow sweep of the ball. Bring the club back, paying special attention to your right shoulder. Focus on bringing your right shoulder back behind your right ear. This motion will help create a more wide and shallow swing plane, causing you to scoop the sand (and the ball) rather than chopping at it like a pitch shot.
Get on Your Knees
Another effective way to help shallow out your shot is to do some practice shots from your knees in a practice bunker. With your lower body out of the equation and your clubface closer to the ground, this position forces you to bring the club back and through at a more shallow plane, and will help train you to do the same when standing up. Kneel down almost a club length away from the ball and practice hitting it out. Focus on how your upper body is moving to get the club through your swing and down to the ball. Take that same motion and apply it to your swing while standing up. Keep your lower body quiet, the same as it was when you were kneeling, and you’ll be swinging more shallow and making better contact with the sand.