I counsel lots of golfers. Some of them are professionals, some are highly ranked amateurs and juniors. Others are weekend warriors hoping to win a few more dollars and maybe the club championship.
While most pros do not mind hitting out of bunkers, some golfers hate being stuck in the sand. It is obvious that they become angry, frustrated and anxious when they land their ball in the sand.
In order to compile some useful tips for weekend golfers who struggle with bunker shots, I spent some time with one of the finest teaching professionals I know. Jon Manos is a PGA professional who teaches near my office in BergenCounty, New Jersey. Jon, who has his own golf school at the Closter Driving Range, is very adept at breaking down the various aspects of the golf game and providing golfers with simple ways to improve the wide range of shots that comprise a balanced golf game.
According to Jon, “If the sand were spray painted green, everyone would be fine. " In his view, the bunker shot is really no different than the shot that golfers refer to as a pitch. The color of the sand, the texture and the depth of the bunker seems to intimidate many golfers.
If you want to hit your bunker shots with more consistency and with more accuracy, here are a few simple tips to help you master the physical and mental aspects of the bunker shot.
1. Imagine that you are trying to get the sand in front of the ball and behind the ball onto the green. This is a great way to help you visualize the feel and trajectory you need on your shot.
2. Keep your knees flexed and remain in a crouch throughout your shot.
3. Don't make the mistake of trying to help the ball out of the bunker with your shoulders.
4. Move your front foot back two inches from your normal pitching stance.
5. You must choke down on the club. This will give you more control.
6. The bunker shot is a three quarter swing.
7. In general, try to take a divot which is one inch deep when you are in a bunker.
8. Use your sand wedge for the majority of your bunker shots. Once you master the sand wedge in the bunker, you can experiment with other wedges, your eight iron and your nine iron to accommodate various lies and distances from the pin.
9. Imagine that the ball is sitting in the center of a dollar bill and take a dollar of sand when you swing at the ball.
10. Swing your club in the direction you want the ball to travel.
11. Keep your hand pressure the same as you do on your normal pitch shot. Many players have a tendency to hold the club too firmly in the sand.
12. Don't dig your feet into the sand. This will make the bunker shot more difficult for you.
13. Some pros use an open stance when they want to hit out of a bunker. Jon does not think this is right or necessary for the average golfer.
14. Practice this shot often. You will probably find out that it is not as difficult as you think it is. In fact, some golfers love to play out of the sand because they feel the shot is easy, since they can miss the ball and hit a great shot.
In addition to the mechanical skills required to execute a good sand shot, golfers need to be calm, confident and focused when they confront bunker shots. It is useful for golfers to be skilled in self-hypnosis so that they can get themselves into the right frame of mind to successfully execute the bunker shot and other challenging shots. Remember, you need to control you emotions and your mind to play consistent golf.
Jay P. Granat, Ph. D. is a psychotherapist and the founder of http://www.stayinthezone.com
He has written several books and developed several programs to help people perform to their fullest potential at sports, at work and at school. Dr. Granat, a former university professor, has appeared in The New York Times, Good Morning America, AP, ESPN, Golf Digest, The BBC and The CBC. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org . His books include Zone Tennis and Get Into The Zone In Just One Minute.
He is also the author of How To Get Into The Zone With Sport Psychology And Self-Hypnosis, How To Lower Your Golf Score With Sport Psychology And Self-Hypnosis, 101 Ways To Break Out Of A Hitting Slump and Bed Time Stories For Young Athletes. Golf Digest named Dr. Granat one of America's Top Ten Mental Gurus. He was recently featured in a documentary film on long distance running. Dr. Granat writes a weekly column for three newspapers.