Golf Tips - Chipping out of a Buried Lie in a Bunker

By Joe Sullivan

I was flipping through the TV the other day and came across some golf highlights. Naturally, I stopped to take a look. What I saw surprised me. It was a tour professional committing the same mistake from a greenside bunker which amateurs are notorious for, and that was taking a big, long swing from a plugged lie.

It was pretty clear that this shot was shown because it was a blooper. It was. The ball went about two feet and rolled back to where the pro was standing. I wish I could have had a chat with this guy before he took the shot.

When your ball is buried (fried egg) in the bunker, you do not want to swing super long and follow through. The idea is to pick your sand wedge up abruptly, swing down steep, stick your club in the sand, and leave it there. What will happen is your ball will pop out. It won't have any spin on it because of the lie, but the chance of it getting out of the sand are much better than if you were to follow through.

Why is this so...? You want a very steep angle of attack and no follow through on this shot because it allows for the club to get more underneath the ball. With some of the ball resting below the surface, you need to compensate to get underneath it. That is where a short, steep, punchy type of swing works best.

A typical bunker shot calls for an open stance, an open clubface, and a nice shallow swing while taking a little bit of sand. That will not work with a plugged lie, regardless of how hard you swing. Your club will be approaching from too shallow an angle. You will hit the sand to the RIGHT of the ball, instead of hitting the sand UNDERNEATH the ball. Thus, your club will just bounce, or deflect into the ball. Worse yet, you will plow too much sand into the back of ball and it will go nowhere, just like the pro I saw on TV. You need to get below the ball somehow.

Here's what I recommend from a buried lie in a greenside bunker:

  1. Set up with a bit squarer stance.
  2. Square the clubface a bit also. This will allow for the leading edge to enter the sand first.
  3. Pick the club up steeper, and then swing down steeper and stick the club in the ground. Hit about 1-3 inches behind the ball. You can swing hard, just don't follow through. You won't be able to follow through if you make the correct swing, because you will be coming down too steep. That's good!

This is not a shot that you will face a lot, but I still think it is worth practicing. Go to a practice trap and step on a couple balls to bury them a little. Then hit some shots. Experiment a bit. Especially get the feeling of that up and down "chopping" motion, and that no follow through release. By doing so, you will find that this shot is not really that hard to get out of the bunker. *

Columns ©1999 Joseph K. Sullivan and GolfLink Inc. All rights reserved.

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