As many of us take the clubs out of the attic to start our preparations for the season ahead, whether you’re heading to the Algarve or your local club, it is always a good time to have a few thoughts in our minds when we start our practice, here we have a great piece from PGA Professional Paddy Devine of Royal Dublin Golf Club with some tips on bunker play, always a difficulty for us amateurs!

The importance of adjusting your set-up for a bunker shot is underplayed quite often by the weekend golfer. There are a few adjustments that MUST be made. Move the ball position forward just inside the left heel (like you would with the driver). Open the face of your sand wedge and try to keep your hands behind the ball. This should give you the feeling that the back of the clubhead would be laying flat against the ground if you were to rest it down on the sand.

Finally, widen your stance (again similar to driver width) and wiggle your feet into the sand to establish a solid base. These set-up tips are a must if you want to consistently escape from the sand. Without these adjustments you will thin, shank and dig a lot of your shots and only occasionally escape in one shot. Be aware that the set-up required for a bunker shot goes against every other shot and therefore it will feel strange initially. However with some regular practice you will become more confident this way.

Now you have a solid set-up and foundation, you can learn the action required to escape every time. You must hinge the left wrist quickly in the backswing (right wrist for a LH golfer). You want to attack the sand (not the ball) steeply initially to ensure you slide under the ball. If you have opened up the clubface and kept your hands behind the ball at address the club will slide and not dig too much.

Keep the momentum going through impact and finish the swing by turning your chest to the target. A lot of poor bunker players stop at impact or try to ‘lift’ with their hands or upper body. Remember the club head must slide UNDER the ball. ‘Lifting’ will cause you to thin the ball.

Practice making contact with the sand without a ball to give you the feeling of the shot. Remember when you successfully execute a greenside bunker shot you don’t actually make contact with the ball. There is a cushion of sand between the ball and club face. This allows you to be aggressive on a short shot yet not hit it too far.

With a little know-how and a lesson or 2 with your local PGA Professional, bunker shots need not be guesswork. In fact it is my favourite shot to practice and different every time. Best of luck in the coming season!

Yours in golf,

Paddy Devine
PGA Professional
The Royal Dublin Golf Club

E-mail: [email protected]
Phone: 00353 1 8336477