Bunker Technique

How your setup position can set you up for success or failure.

Red line = Toe line / Blue line = Club head path / Yellow line = Start line of the golf ball

The video above shows four of the best players in the world playing a bunker shot from the same, or very similar, bunker on the practice ground of a tournament. There will be a lot of commonalities with their impact factors to produce high level, consistent bunker shoots each time which I will go into later but the glaring difference is their setup positions. Two of them setup with feet square to the target line and the other two setup with their feet open to the target line. In all four videos the start line of the golf ball is the same which means we can assume their swing direction and club face positions are very similar but how they achieve this is different.

Which setup is right for you?

The quick answer is, it doesn’t matter! Whether you setup square or open to the target if you are comfortable and producing good, consistent results keep doing what you’re doing. If you have tested both setup positions and one just feels better and produces better shots then that is probably the one for you.

Here is my reasoning to support an open setup for the majority of your bunker shots.. Simplicity!

Take note of the red and blue lines in the video, for the guys that setup square those lines do not match (they aren’t parallel), which means their swing path is working against their setup position. For the two that setup open to the target the red line and the blue line are parallel to each other which means their swing path is working down the same line as their alignment. To me this is a much easier way to hit bunker shots as it makes one variable (swing path) very easy replicate time and time again.

Now, I would say that for whatever reason bunker play is one the strongest parts of my game, regardless of how much (or little) I am playing golf. I feel so comfortable playing bunker shots that it is very rare I get ‘worried’ about being in one (wish I could say the same for the rest of my game). I have always been an open stance bunker player as that is how I learnt to play them when I was 13 years old, the only time I setup more square is when I am trying to play a flatter, more releasing bunker shot and even then I will still be slightly open.

Impact conditions needed to hit good bunker shots.

  • Shallow angle of attack
  • Club face that is more open than the swing path
  • Consistent ‘low point’ of the swing arc
  • Acceleration

That’s it, these 4 points are all you need to have to consistently hit one of the most daunting golf shots for most club golfers. Obviously it isn’t that simple and achieving these every time is incredibly difficult but this isn’t a big list and if you can get consistent at achieving these it will pay dividends for your scoring and general mindset on the golf course, everyone hates leaving a shot in the sand and that can snowball very quickly.

This isn’t meant to be a hugely technical post but below are some of the key points needed to achieve the above impact conditions each time.

  • Body alignment left of intended target
  • Club face right of intended target ( the ball will start 80% closer to the club face than the swing path)
  • Wider stance
  • Ball position forward of centre (this is relative to where you are looking from)
  • More weight on front leg
  • More knee flex
  • Dig feet into the sand to lower you down and create a solid base
  • Swing down the line of your feet (left of target)
  • Make sure to keep face open through impact
  • Allow the club head to overtake hands and bottom point of the swing (this feels like a scoop)
  • Imagine the ball is sitting on a tee under sand and you are trying to hit the tee under the ball
  • Try to hit the sand with the back edge of the sole (bounce) not the leading edge (this is dictated by the sand type)
  • Accelerate!
  • Have a full finish every single time you hit a bunker shot
  • Use the length of backswing and amount of sand you take to dictate the distance of the shot

Getting competent and consistent in bunkers is incredibly difficult, mostly because the only time we get to practice them is when it matters out on the golf course. If you are struggling with your bunker shots take the time to find a practice bunker and work on some of the points above. Find what works for you and put in the repititions.

Feel free to ask any questions at all and if you’d like to find out how we can improve your golf from anywhere in the world with online golf lessons.

Happy golfing!

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