Beat Those Bunker Fears
By Paul Charman GP Teaching Professional
God knows I’ve tried to work on my greenside bunker play. I feel I’m going right by the book, but I still tend to thin at least one in four shots straight over the green. Is there a failsafe tip you can give me?
Bill from Irvine (12 handicap)
Since I first picked up a golf club, one phrase above all still rings in my ears, ‘Keep your eyes on the ball.’ Sound advice from tee, fairway or rough – until we end up in the dreaded bunker. Every month you read the latest version of a tried and tested teaching formula. The fundamentals remain the same – open your stance, soft grip, keep the clubface open, focus on a point just behind the ball, hit down into the sand, remember to execute a full follow through. Bill, it sounds to me as if you might be trying to hit a specific point in the sand and still trying to maintain your focus on the ball – that’s like trying to hit double top while staring at the bull’s eye. The following exercise is an attempt to get used to hitting the sand, not the ball. And it works.
- Pick a spot in a practice bunker and use a rake to make a mark a few feet long in the sand. Then take your normal stance and make a swing, ensuring you strike the line precisely - the club should exit the sand some four to five inches later. Repeat the process five or six times in a row until you reach the end of the line.
- Repeat the process of making the rake mark in the sand. Now this time, place a few balls an inch closer to the hole along the length of the line towards the target. Address the target and play each shot from the bunker making sure your focus is on the line and not the ball.
- Next time you’re out on the course, you should be in the perfect frame of mind to focus exclusively on that imaginary line behind the ball, rather than scrambling your brain with indecision. Trust this drill and you will see a vast improvement in splashing out of the sand.
- You should always make a smooth positive swing through the sand and always follow through. This is only a practice drill – drawing lines in bunkers while out on the course might not go down too well with your playing partners.
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