One of the common mistakes of amateurs is trying to swing harder or faster to get their swing speed up in the bunker. And the common result of this you’ve probably experienced is digging your club into the sand, chunking the shot.
Or the times you do make solid contact with the ball instead of chunking sand first, the result is your golf ball flying over the green into the rough or bunker on the other side.
While you do need clubhead speed to get your wedge through the sand, forcing speed isn’t the answer as illustrated above.
The key to good bunker shots is finding a balance between rhythm and speed. You also still need to do the basics: Take a wide stance, dig your feet in, hit the sand before the ball—you’ve probably heard all of that before.
In addition to technique, you also need to be focused mentally and have the right swing thought running through your mind during set up.
Golf Resource: Foy Golf Academy Practice System + Practice Plans
What should your swing thought be prior to hitting a sand bunker shot?
The swing thought that works for me is, “Get the club to the ball before the hands.” That thought helps me create clubhead speed in a way that doesn’t make me overswing and lose control.
Once you start to find a good balance of rhythm and speed, we need to get you consistent. Try the following technique:
Hit a few bunker shots and look at the sizes of the marks you’re leaving in the sand. They’re likely to be all different lengths. Instead, think about taking a divot that’s always the same length and focus on entering the sand in the same spot every time.
To get the ball out of the bunker and land it softly on the green, the clubface has to remain open through impact so it skims through the sand and doesn’t get stuck.
This will help reduce the amount of bunker shots you’re digging. If you close the face, it’s more likely to dig or hit line drives that don’t make it over the edge of the bunker (especially in tall, deep bunkers where high trajectory is needed).
Sand Bunker Drill – Stop Digging
A good drill to help you keep the face open during the bunker shot is to put some sand on the club face during set up. Then take your backswing keeping the face open so the sand stays on the face and doesn’t slide off.
Once you get to the top of your backswing, throw the sand over your shoulder.
If you find that the sand is sliding off of the face before reaching the top of the backswing, it tells you that you’re closing your club face.
A successful swing is one that keeps the face open the entire takeaway and return to the ball on the downswing.
An open face, proper rhythm and speed, and making contact an inch or two before the ball will result in clean, consistent divots that don’t cause chunked shots.