The choice between a green side bunker and heavy rough can be the difference between par and double bogie depending on which side of the coin you fall on. Occasionally, I find myself aiming for a green side bunker after hitting an errant drive into the trees. For those of you that have seen my game, you know that I like to play the Little Mill chimes at least once during a round of golf. Okay, maybe three or four times. I guess I like to play music. The reason I will shoot for a bunker is simple. I do not have a direct line to the green and my options in thick rough will limit my control of the next shot. I am comfortable in the sand and feel that I will be able to execute a shot that gets me near the pin even if it is cut close to the bunker. For others, their chances would be better left to a flip of a coin as to whether they simply get out. There is no quick trick. But once you get it you will be aiming for the bunker.
There are several key elements to playing a successful shot from a green side bunker.
1. The alignment is open to the target compared to a full swing from the fairway. This means for a right handed golfer the feet will aim as much as 20-30 feet (15-20 degrees) left of the target for a mid length bunker shot.
2. The ball position is forward as it relates to the target line, positioned just inside the front foot.
3. The club face alignment is open aiming almost in the mirror opposite of the feet and body. For a right handed golfer the club face is aimed well right of the target. The club face alignment changes slightly depending on the condition of the sand.
4. The grip should be choked down on the club making it shorter. And the arms should hang lower making the hands feel slightly closer to the body. The butt end of the club will point toward the font leg.
5. THE LOWER-BODY WEIGHT MUST BE HEAVY ON THE FRONT FOOT. That is the left foot for right-handed golfers. And the right foot for left-handed golfers.
6. The feet should be settled into the sand for better traction. While testing the sand and building a stance is forbidden under the rules, there is still a lot to be learned when settling the feet into position.
1. If we can visualize a full swing from the fairway as having a 'U' shape. A green side bunker shot is executed more in the shape if a 'V'. The swing is initiated more with the hands than with the body. In fact, one good reason the stance is so open to the target is to help stabalize the lower body and to reduce the amount of weight that moves away from the target. Compared to a full swing from the fairway the club head will feel like its being picked up as the swing starts. This is a factor of the open stance. As a good bunker player I feel like the downswing is somewhat left of my target (I swing right handed), mainly because it is steeper than other swings.
2. Hold the lower body extremely firm so that a heavy amount of weight remains on the front foot. The weight must stay on the front foot and drive even further toward the target. THIS IS THE NUMBER ONE FAULT OF THE AVERAGE GOLFER. If the weight hangs back the club will either dig leaving the ball in the bunker or the club will bounce off the sand striking the ball thin sending it flying over the green. Most good bunker players feel that the lower body is very stable with little turn. More hands and arms than the standard full swing.
3. The eyes should focus slightly behind the ball. The amount behind the ball is generally determined by the condition of the sand. Packed sand requires impact to be a little closer to the ball. And fluffy sand requires impact be a little further behind the ball. The difference is typically one to five inches.