Most amateurs struggle with bunker shots and view them as difficult as they approach them all wrong. Their negativity and nerves play a critical role in why they struggle. So below I have outlined my top 10 tips for better bunker play, follow these and you will be a master in the sand.
1. My number one tip for becoming a better bunker player is to use the bounce on the sole of the club; start by putting the ball forward in the stance, leaning the shaft backwards so you're exposing that bounce and making sure that there's loft on the club face throughout.
2. Take a full swing because you want to hit the ball as hard as you can, I want you to create speed and that's why you put the ball forward in your stance, open the blade and expose the bounce: it allows you almost to glance the ball. Remember we want to drive the ball up, not forward.
3. We do not want to make direct contact with the ball, but take a shallow sand divot that will 'throw' the ball out on to the green. The glancing impact is the result of hitting the sand with an open face.
4. We want to create a divot that is as much in front of the ball as it is behind. Most amateurs swing it way too inside and tend to catch the sand way too far behind the ball, so the 'divot' starts way back but finishes only just in front of the ball.
5. It doesn't really matter how far back the club first makes contact with the sand – the key is that the divot is the same at the front of the ball as behind. In reality really good bunker players have more of a divot in front of the ball than behind it.
6. Don't forget, the takeaway needs to be smooth and shallow, the last thing you want to do is dig into the bunker and take big, deep divots.
After impact, let the club go with the follow through, but re-hinge your wrists, keeping the loft on the clubface. You don't want the clubface to rotate
7. I like to throw the ball high with a lot of spin and land it most of the way to the pin. Obviously, the safer shot is to have it roll out a bit more, but the better technique you have, the more you will feel you can take thin, shallow divots and hit it high and soft so that when it lands, it stops pretty quickly.
8. Set your body angles to follow the slope e.g. If you're on a down slope make sure your spine is at right angles to the gradient to help you swing down the slope; don't ever try to lift the ball up. It's the same principle with an up slope or side slope. Basically, you've got to judge the situation, weigh everything up... and don't forget, sometimes just getting out of a deep bunker is a good shot!
9. Be confident, positive and commit yourself to the shot in hand.