Bunker play tends to be one of the most feared shots by the weekend golfer. If you ask a PGA Tour player they will likely tell you it’s one of the easiest shots. Now, I know that you know this already. So, the question is: why is there this discrepancy in the difficulty of this shot?
The fundamental component that determines the success (or lack of success) from a greenside bunker is “low-point control”. Contact too far back will likely lead to the ball staying in the bunker. Too close to the ball will see the ball fly over the green into whatever abyss awaits on the other side. That’s where the FEAR of these greenside bunker shots stems from. It’s a big swing to make the ball travel a short distance.
So, there’s good news and bad news when it comes to bunker shots. The good news: there is a wider margin for error contact-wise than any other shot in golf. The bad news: if the error is made outside of the accepted range the penalty is great (the abyss over the green).
A tour player obviously has the highest level of low-point control, but the weekend golf can execute these bunker shots well too! But, when the weekend golfer enters the sand their low-point control disappears. Why is that? It’s their shirt buttons! A tour player moves their shirt buttons (sternum or spine) towards the target/lead foot at address. They also keep their shirt buttons (weight) forwards throughout the shot. The weekend golfer sets up like a fairway shot with their shirt buttons away from the target and maintains that throughout the shot. This moves the low-point too far behind the ball and results in hitting too far behind the ball and leaving the ball in the bunker or avoiding the sand and blading the ball over the green into the abyss.
Remember, shirt buttons forward and stay forward! Now, you have the ability to land the club in the correct spot. However, it still takes a little practice. Draw two lines in the sand about one shoe width apart. Imagine the ball sitting on the font line. Now, work on landing the club in between the lines. As long as your shirt has buttons, there is nothing to fear from a greenside bunker!