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Golfing Tips - Bunkers

How to Play Bunker Shots

The fairway bunker shot can be an intimidating shot for many inexperienced golfers. For starters, when playing out of fairway bunkers, it is wise to take one to two clubs more than normal. Begin by setting up normally, with your feet slightly dug in for stability and the ball positioned more toward the middle of your stance. Next, grip down slightly on the club for greater control.

Right before you begin your backswing, lift your chin off your chest. That raises your center of gravity and increases your ability to hit the ball first, which is crucial in executing the shot. Swing at 70 percent of your normal speed and there’s a good bet you’ll hit a clean, solid shot.

So, hitting a shot from a fairway bunker poses no great problem if the ball has a good lie. (Well, I am really just trying to build your confidence. I could say, you are in a bunker, you're score just went up three strokes!!!)

Long or middle irons as well as 3, 4, and 5 woods can be used with confidence in this situation.
Take a open stance, wider than normal. Work your feet into the sand for better balance. Play the ball back 1" to 2" to assure that the club hits the ball before the sand.

Choke down on the shaft.
Close your eyes (just kidding)

From an open stance, aim slightly to the left.
Swing Normal Speed

On long fairway bunker shots, try a 5 wood in preference to a long iron. Don't try to overpower this shot. Restrict your body turn and swing easy.

Now, if it is a BAD lie, then you need to play the course. Grab your club you are confident with, between a 7 and SW. Observe the course. Realize that you are not Tiger Woods. Realize the average golfer will clunk it out about 75 yards. Aim for a safe fairway shot to get you back into play. Shoot for the MIDDLE of the fairway, not left or right, 75 yards 'down bunker'.

Most importantly, follow through on your swing. Most weekend golfers, whether near the green or in a fairway bunker, STOP their swing on impact. Golf is simple. You ALWAYS need to follow through. Again, swing easy and follow through.

Greenside Bunkers

The most common mistake weekend players make in the greenside bunker is allowing their lower bodies to get too active. If you shift your weight or make a turn with your lower body, your swing’s shape and impact position will never be the same from one swing to the next—you’ll never know whether you’ll leave the ball in the bunker or skull one 35 yards across the green.

Proper bunker technique requires that you place your weight forward—and leave it there throughout the swing. Here’s a great drill to engrain this feeling. Go to a practice bunker and hit 25 bunker shots with your right (for right-handed golfers) heel in the air—only your right toes should be dug into the sand for balance.

 This will position the majority of your weight forward to begin your swing. If you try to shift your weight back to your right side as you play the shot, you’ll feel the pressure in your right toes and you’ll have to fight to keep your right heel from lowering into the sand. It might feel as though you’re actually shifting your weight forward in a reverse pivot, but you’re not—you’re just not used to the feel of the proper bunker technique.

As you learn to keep your weight forward and quiet your lower body on these greenside bunker shots, you’ll begin to notice the ball flying the same distance and on the same trajectory again and again. Once this happens, you’ll start to develop some touch and begin to think about not only getting the ball out, but also about getting it close.

Poor bunker players have a far-too-active lower body. If you make a turn or weight shift, your swing's shape and the club's impact position will change from swing-with inconsistent results.

To quiet your lower body bring consistency to your greenside bunker game, practice hitting sand shots with your right heel raised. Your swing's shape and club's impact position will be the same-shot after shot.

Michael Hamilton is an accomplished golfer, and editor of Golf Tips Weekly Newsletter. His most recent book can be found at:

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