Greenside Bunker Play by Jay Morelli

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The greenside bunker shot is the one that most recreational players fear. It is not that hard to get the ball out of the bunker. Hitting ball close to the hole like the professionals on the Tour is another matter.

The greenside bunker shot very often is called the wrong name. When you hear the word “explosion” or “blast” shot you think of moving a yard of sand out of the bunker. That is not how the shot should be played. You should remove a fairly shallow divot of sand out of the bunker. Remember if the sand doesn’t come out the ball doesn’t come out. You need a fairly full swing to get the cushion of sand and the ball out of the bunker.

If the ball is lying cleanly in the bunker:
1. Position the ball slightly forward, the stance should be slightly open and the clubface laid back,
2. Hit about 1 ½ to 2 inches behind the ball and 3: follow through.
To vary the distance vary how hard you swing, just as you would in the grass. Short bunker shot equals short swing. Long bunker shot equals long bunker shot long follow through. Don’t vary how far you hit behind the ball. That makes it much too complicated.

If the ball is depressed, in a hole, a footprint or is in the classic fried egg in the bunker: 1. Position the ball toward the back foot with a square stance, positioning the ball toward the back foot will automatically steepen the swing. 2. Swing the club head straight down behind the ball. The downward action of the club head and the loft of club will pop the ball into the air. Because the downswing is so abrupt you may have little or no follow through.

Above are two different techniques to be used when you two different types of situations, one when the lie is clean and one when the ball is sitting down in the sand. It is very, very important that you learn to “identify” the difference. Take some time to see if the ball is sitting down in the sand. If the ball is sitting even slightly down in the sand and you employ the first technique you will catch the ball too clean and the ball will sail over the green. If the ball is sitting clean in the sand and you employ the second technique the club head will go under the ball and it will stay in the sand. “Identifying the lie” is a product of experience but a key part of being a better bunker player.