Golf enthusiasts often find themselves challenged by the myriad bunkers strategically scattered across modern courses. While escaping greenside bunkers is a common concern, mastering long bunker shots, including those from fairway sand, is equally crucial for maintaining low scores. Let’s delve into the expert advice provided by Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Teacher Kellie Stenzel on conquering long bunker shots, offering you invaluable insights into enhancing your game.
1. Know Your Yardage
Understanding when to switch from a sand-first (blast) approach to a ball-first (fairway bunker) strategy is fundamental. By establishing your maximum shot distance—such as 40 yards in the air—you empower yourself to make strategic decisions based on your course management needs. Knowing your yardage not only refines your decision-making process but also instills confidence in executing the right shot at the right time.
2. Taking Less Sand Isn’t a Great Plan
In long bunker shots, hitting the sand before the ball is crucial to avoid unpredictable and unplayable shots. Taking less sand during a blast shot may lead to nightmare flyers that overshoot the green. Stenzel emphasizes the importance of consistency and precision in executing this technique. By consistently prioritizing sand first, golfers minimize the risk of erratic shots and gain greater control over the ball’s trajectory.
3. Add the Pluses That Will Make the Ball Go Farther
Adjustments to distance control are essential when executing blast shots from greenside bunkers. Understanding the cause-and-effect relationship allows you to fine-tune your approach and make necessary adjustments for optimal results, regardless of the situation. Stenzel’s insight into adding the pluses that enhance shot distance provides golfers with a nuanced understanding of the intricacies involved in achieving consistency in longer bunker shots.
4. Ball Position Should Be Forward
Proper ball positioning is key to a successful long bunker shot. For blast shots, where hitting the sand first is the goal, ensure that your ball position is forward of center. Stenzel highlights the common mistake of centering the ball position, leading to inconsistent and less effective shots. By placing the ball forward, golfers establish a solid foundation for executing a successful blast shot, ensuring that the club interacts with the sand at the right spot for optimal results.
5. Hold the Club at Full Length
Maintain a full-length grip on your club when executing a long bunker shot. Avoid choking up on the grip and, instead, hold the club at the top in your regular full swing position. This technique not only ensures a generous spray of sand but also contributes to hitting the ball farther by leveraging the extended lever for increased power. Stenzel’s emphasis on club positioning and grip provides golfers with a tangible strategy for maximizing power and control in longer bunker shots.
6. Less Loft – Clubface Square (Not Open)
Choosing a less-lofted wedge, such as a gap wedge with 50-52 degrees of loft, is a strategic move for longer bunker shots. Stenzel dispels the myth of universally opening the clubface, emphasizing that a square clubface with your chosen wedge provides sufficient bounce without compromising shot distance. By understanding the relationship between loft and bounce, golfers can make informed decisions on club selection, ensuring that the club’s design complements the desired shot trajectory.
7. Keep Your Weight More Even and Allowed to Shift
Weight distribution plays a crucial role in determining shot distance in a greenside bunker. Stenzel advises golfers to keep their weight more even at address for longer bunker shots, mimicking the natural weight shift in a regular full golf swing. This adjustment facilitates increased distance without sacrificing control. By aligning weight distribution with shot objectives, golfers can strike a balance between power and accuracy, essential for successfully navigating longer bunker shots.
8. Take a More Shallow Path
To achieve greater distances, adopt a more shallow back and forward swing. Stenzel recommends using an alignment stick to maintain a circular motion and avoid a straight back or steeper backswing path. This technique ensures the right balance between spin and the necessary speed for longer bunker shots. Understanding the importance of swing path allows golfers to fine-tune their technique, optimizing the mechanics for longer shots and mitigating potential pitfalls that can arise from improper swing paths.
9. Remember Your Speed
Controlling distance in a greenside bunker is closely tied to swing pace. Stenzel emphasizes the impact of swing speed on shot distance, highlighting the need for a faster swing to generate the energy required for longer shots. A well-paced swing ensures that both the sand and the ball contribute to the desired distance. By incorporating speed management into their skill set, golfers gain greater control over the outcome of longer bunker shots, enhancing their ability to execute shots with precision and consistency.
As you become more familiar with the fundamentals of the longer bunker shot, allow your weight to be more neutral or even shallower. Stenzel encourages golfers to pivot on the forward swing, lifting the back heel as it would in a full swing. This adjustment prevents the common mistake of falling back and attempting to lift the ball, ensuring proper contact and maximizing distance. Stenzel’s insight into the importance of pivoting adds a nuanced layer to the technique, emphasizing the need for dynamic weight transfer and balance, key elements for mastering longer bunker shots.
In conclusion, mastering long bunker shots requires a combination of technique, understanding, and strategic decision-making. By incorporating these ten expert tips into your practice regimen, you’ll enhance your ability to navigate long bunkers, ultimately giving yourself more opportunities to lower your scorecard. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced golfer, the journey to becoming an expert at long bunker shots is marked by continuous improvement and a commitment to refining your skills on the course.