Before you attempt a bunker shot you need to assess these three “L’s” in this order: Lie in the bunker, lip of the bunker and loft needed to clear it, and the length of shot.
First and foremost is the equipment needed to play a proper bunker shot. Sand wedges come in different lofts and bounces. Loft is easy to understand – it is the trajectory of the club.
The typical sand wedge is 56 degrees, but you can get a sand wedge that is 54 degrees all the way to 60 degrees. I would recommend the 56-degree wedge unless you have real steep lips on the bunkers you play.
The degree of the sand wedge will also help you with distance control.
Bounce is a confusing term to most golfers. Basically it is the back edge of the sand wedge, which should enter the sand and not the leading edge like you do when you hit shots off the grass.
The bounce you choose has to do with the way you tend to hit wedges off the grass.
Some golfers are “diggers” and take big divots with a steep angle of approach into the ball. They should get a sand wedge with more bounce and a wider sole.
If you are a “picker,” someone who takes shallow divots or no divot at all, I recommend a sand wedge with a medium bounce and a narrow sole on the bottom of the club
A big reason golfers have difficulty in the sand is their lack of technique. Listed below is a good routine to use when you are in a bunker with a good lie:
Open your clubface before you grip the club. Opening the clubface allows you to use the “bounce,” which is the back edge of the club.
Use a weaker grip with the back of your target wrist pointing at the target.
Open your stance and dig feet into the sand to get good balance, and bend your knees.
Ball position should be slightly forward in your stance.
You need an earlier wrist cock and a steeper backswing, more upright.
Backswing should be 1/2 to 3/4 long with width.
Club should enter the sand 2 to 3 inches behind the ball.
Take a shallow divot of sand and send the sand onto the green with the ball.
To vary the length of the shot you can finish high for short bunker shots and finish out to the target for longer shots.
Dr. Jean Harris is an LPGA Master Professional at Sun City Hilton Head. firstname.lastname@example.org; www.golfdoctorjean.com