Fear Not The Bunker, Senior Golfers.
When you hole out a bunker shot, it is the GREATEST feeling (in golf) but the bunker shot can be a golfer’s worst nightmare as well. So let’s learn how to make the sand our friend. If we can remove the fear with the correct practice, fear will become confidence and confidence breeds success. So let’s do that now.
Have No Fear.
Fear Not ‘The Sand’ but become the Master of the Sand.
You can spend the money for a few lessons from your pro and that is fine as long as they are instilling confidence and not fear of getting out. We must eliminate the doubt of the bunker shot. Easy to say but how do we do that? The main reason golfers have problems getting out of the bunker is because of fear of leaving the ball in the bunker. We are defeated before we even swing the club. What we need to do is get past that fear and if we learn the proper way to hit even the easiest shot out of the bunker, that is one less thing you will have to worry about in your golf game.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.
Aside from my golf tips, practice is the best way to master that dreaded bunker shot. Spend some time in the practice bunker hitting all types of lies. Learn how the bounce on your club works and how to use it properly. Do you know what degree of bounce is on your sand wedge, pitching wedge, and lob wedge?
If not ask your pro. what they are. Once you know the bounce of each club then you can start to practice to see how bounce affects your shots.
Here is a drill that will work miracles on your sand game.
Draw a straight line (perpendicular to target line) about 3 feet long in the sand with a second line starting at the end of the first line but gradually going out on a slight angle (think 1/2 V shape) until the line is three inches behind your first line. Practice entering the sand on the angled (back) line with the bottom of your divot being 3-4 inches in front of the entry point.
Practice doing that until you can consistently hit the angled line. Now place golf balls about 4 inches apart just on the front edge the first (straight) line that you drew in the sand. Starting with the ball nearest you, hit the sand at that point behind the golf ball.That shot should travel 15-20 yards, move down the line hitting the angled line on each ball. See how they all travel different distances?
MASTER THE SAND.
This is how to eliminate the fear of bunkers. If you can spend 30 minutes practicing that drill, the next time you are in a bunker, your brain will take over and hit the sand in the correct place.
This drill is one that I have taught to my golf buddies and many other golfers. It works every time but you must dig it out of the sand.
It is exciting to watch one of my buddies that could not get out of a bunker to save his life, all of a sudden, he is full of confidence and has no fear of bunkers. You will do the same thing with just a few minutes of correct practice.
FORGET WHAT YOU SEE THE PRO’S DO.
Too often, recreational golfers try to mimic what the pros do in the bunker. Golf pros spend hours practicing bunker shot. Most amateurs do not have that luxury, but a few minutes a week will work wonders as long as we practice correctly. Stop making the shot harder than it really is. Take a bit wider stance so your hips can move freely, swing with your shoulders instead of all arms much like a short pitch shot and strike a few inches behind the ball as discussed in the previous paragraph.
KNOW THE SAND.
Different lies and sand conditions affect a bunker shot more than putting the right swing on the ball. Soft, fluffy sand calls for a contact spot further behind the ball. After some rain, a bunker can become hard and compact. This is where knowing the bounce on your different clubs will make a huge difference. If you try a normal bunker shot, your club could bounce off of the hard sand, make solid contact with the ball and send it flying over the green. In this case, use a club with less bounce so it will dig in behind the ball and not bounce into the golf ball. The ball will come out with less spin, so allow more distance before the hole for the ball to land. This is something you should practice when the sand is wet and firm but do not fear the sand.
LIES, LIES, LIES.
The lie of the ball can be your best friend or worst enemy. Your ball can be in the bunker, without room to actually stand in it for a shot. In this case, widen your stance and bend your knees drastically. Avoid bending at the waist because doing so will not allow you to use your upper body in your swing. Swing with your arms and shoulders with your feet still. Let the club slide under the ball like a normal bunker shot.
If your ball is plugged in the bunker, you have some decisions to make. If half of your ball is showing, you can still get out in good condition.
Play the ball back in your stance, pick your club straight up and slam it down right behind the ball.
If the ball is completely buried you may have to take your medicine (an unplayable) or if you have practiced this shot, you know, it will still come out but it takes a lot of speed and you need to allow for lots of roll.
DO NOT QUIT ON A BUNKER SHOT.
Fairway bunker shots are among the hardest in golf. Too often, golfers think they must always use a sand wedge in the sand. For the long bunker shots, use any club that will clear the lip on the bunker. You can hit hybrids out of fairway bunkers as long as you can clear the lip. I play the ball in the middle of my stance so I can ensure ball first contact. Practice will show you where you should play the golf ball. This shot is played with what I call still legs. All the movement should be from the hips up. Play the ball in the middle of your stance so you can contact the ball first.
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