Shave Strokes with Confidence in the Short Game
When players come to me for help with their game, I ask them: what part of their game is struggling? Their response most of the time is, “well I’m not getting enough distance or I’m not hitting it close enough to the hole.” Then I ask: “how many times did you get up and down and when you failed to get up and down was it because you had a long putt or was it because you missed a short putt?” More often the answer is “I had a long putt coming back.” Then my next question is: “what type of short game shots give you the most trouble?” Most responses are that they struggle with shots out of the sand.
Most players that struggle in the bunker lose all confidence, and fear hitting their approach shots into the sand. Most players I see have a poor technique for their bunker play. All it takes is a proper technique and practice to gain the confidence back, and get up and down more often from the sand.
First off, the proper technique can be achieved with a simple drill that should be practiced a couple of days a week for 20-30 minutes in each practice session. To set up this drill, draw one line in the sand to where you want to hit your shot and the other where your ball position off is your lead foot. The lines should make a big cross.
Now, draw a third line (the blast line) on a parallel path to the ball position line about 2 inches behind the ball. This is where the club should enter the sand. Next, go ahead a take some swings and really try to hit the line behind the ball with a full swing. The club head should travel down into the sand and under the ball, allowing the sand to blast and loft the ball up onto the green.
The bunker shot is probably one of the easier shots in the game due to the fact that the club head never comes in contact with the ball. Often times when watching PGA Tour golf on TV, you hear announcers say that a player would rather miss the shot in the bunker than having to hit a shot from the thick heavy rough due to the fact that it is an easier shot.
One thing to keep in mind is that you should never decelerate your tempo as you make your downswing. Keep a smooth consistent tempo to allow for a better result. Of course you are going to encounter some downhill stances, uphill stances and buried lies in the sand. The thing that you are going have to manipulate in the swing is your setup, meaning, getting your shoulders parallel to the terrain and changing your ball position in your stance. You may have to hit the sand harder but keep a smooth tempo on the backswing and downswing.
The best way to learn how to hit these types of shots is practice. Keep putting the “blast line” behind the ball and practice each kind of shot. Also keep in mind that the more sand you take in the swing, the shorter your shot will be, and the less sand you take the farther you will hit the ball.
Hopefully with these few adjustments, you can gain back all the confidence you lost with your bunker shots and shave strokes off your score with practicing the proper technique out of the sand, consistently.