The Right Swing Sequence to Get Out of a Bunker

The Right Swing Sequence to Get Out of a Bunker

Do you know the real difference between this shot and all the others in golf? We are now standing on brown. All day long we stand on green. Green grass, green fairway, green tee, green green. All of a sudden it is brown, and that tells us right away that this shot is a little bit different. My question to you is how many differences are you making in your setup to accommodate the fact that you are now on sand and not on grass?

Two Things to Change to Hit Out of a Bunker

I only change two things: where I play the ball; and the motion of my golf swing to reflect the fact that the club is going to hit the sand, not the ball. Let me show you what I mean. As I walk in to play this shot, if I was playing this on grass, the ball would be just forward of center and my clubhead would rest directly behind the ball as you see it now. But my intent here is not to hit the ball as I do on grass; it is to hit the sand.

Letting the Golf Club Fall

So I simply pick up my club, move me to my right, thus having the ball towards my left heel. I then let the golf club fall simply towards the ground, not on it; I am not allowed to touch it. Then I make a normal golf swing. A normal finish. And I get a normal result, but you don’t hear the result like you normally do. Normally you hear club, ball, ground results. Here it is club, sand, ball. In essence the sand moves the ball. Regretfully there are other sounds in a bunker. This is the one that many of you are making.

How did that shot make sense? You just heard the club hit the ball, but you also heard the club hit the sand. The problem is that the club hit the sand way back towards my right foot, traveled through it and then as is was on the ascent it ran into the ball. That is what we call the dreaded dropkick-skull, no good, you can not learn from it, you can not play with it and it is a whole lot of work trying to get rid of it. I am going to show you how real quickly.

How to Practice Hitting Out of Bunkers

When you walk in to a greenside bunker shot and you draw a line right where the ball was and you straddle the line. Then you move the ball forward to your front heel. The objective is to hit none of the ground to my right side. Now to illustrate that I am going to bring in this board and put it right up against the line. I am going to set up with the ball towards my front heel.

The clubhead hovering about three inches behind the ball. Now listen. Did you hear the club hit the board? Neither did I. But here is what I hear when I watch you. Same set up, same intent, regretfully, a different sound. So if you want to be a better bunker player, and I know all of you do, then what we need to do is find a way to get the club to hit up there where the ball is, not back here where we don’t want it to hit.

An easy way to do this is to put something flat behind your golf ball and practice with it there and learn how to miss the noise maker. Miss it. Listen. Perfect. Listen. Perfect. Listen. Oh my god. To hear a great shot, not an oh my god, just put that ball off your front heel, learn to miss the board by hitting the sand in front of it and enjoy these bunker shots because they really are not that difficult.

About the Instructor
John Elliott, Jr.
John Elliott, Jr.
St. Andrews Golf & Country Club
3N441 Route 59
West Chicago, IL 60185
Tel: 630-231-3160

John Elliott, Jr., is listed as one of Golf Magazine's Top 100 Teachers and Golf Digest's #39 instructor in the world. He is the head professional at the Country Club of Ocala in Ocala, Florida.


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