The bunker shot is one of the most feared shots by higher handicapped amateurs. By following just a few basics you too will soon be playing them like the pros. First, open your stance to the left about 20°. Second, open the clubface to give it more loft. This allows the club to slice through the sand and third make a full swing and make sure you follow through. Don't leave the club in the sand. Follow these tips and you'll never worry about bunkers again.
Most three putts are caused by poor approach putts, always leaving yourself with 11/2 to 2 metre second putts. Eventually the pressure of always having to hole these long second putts takes its toll and the result is a three putt and another wasted shot. To better judge the distance of your first putts watch the hole while you are taking your practice strokes. This will give you a feel for how hard you have to hit it. You will see your scores drop overnight by not wasting shots with needless 3 putts
The most common mistake I see in pro-ams with chipping is people trying to lift the ball off the ground with their hands. The loft is on the club to lift the ball in the air. Open your stance, put most of your weight on your left side, and keep your hands in front of the clubhead throughout the entire shot. Don't let your left wrist cup in an attempt to lift the ball. High handicappers could save countless strokes a round by improving their chipping.
Long Bunker Shots
We've all heard it many times before, the long bunker shot of 40 metres and over is the hardest shot in the game. A simple tip to make these no more difficult than a short bunker shot is to use an 8 or a 9 iron. Forget about your sand wedge. The same basics apply. Open your stance 20°, open the clubface, make a full swing and make sure you follow through. You'll amaze your playing partners with how easy you handled the toughest shot in golf.
The setup is the hardest thing in golf to master. You can make the best swing in the world but if you're not aiming where you want to go you have to make other compensations in your swing to hit it on line. A tip that was made popular by the great Jack Nicklaus is to stand behind the ball and pick a small mark on the ground about a metre in front of the ball. Now the first thing you do is to line the clubface up with that mark and and then finish taking your stance. It is much easier to align yourself with something that is only a metre away as opposed to 200 metres down the fairway.
When playing into the wind the wind is going to magnify any mistake or mishit. That's why you will always see the pros practicing into the wind whereever possible. The secret about playing into the wind is to take an extra club, move the ball back towards your right foot about 10 cms "this will help you hit it lower" and swing easy. The harder you try to hit the ball into the wind the more spin you put on it and the easier it is to lose control. It's not how far you hit it into the wind but how much control you have.
Into the wind
It is common myth that sand wedges are only for playing out of bunkers. I see many people trying to play pitch shots with mostly wedges but sometimes 8 and even 9 irons. Professionals use sand wedges for pitching almost all the time. The reason being it is a very versatile club, one which you can use in most situations simply by changing ball position and opening or closing the clubface. You also develop a feel for using just one club and not chopping and changing with each different shot. Next time you go out to practice, try your sand wedge from around the green you'll be surprised how many new options you'll have.
Drive for show and putt for dough is an old adage that still holds true today. Most players use the reverse overlap grip while putting. This type of grip keeps your wrists much firmer as there is no need for any wrist break during the putting stroke. Stand with your toes square to the line and play the ball just inside your left heel. Also make sure you have your eyes directly over the ball so you can look straight up and down the line. Now without using any wrist break just rock your shoulders and arms while keeping your head down and still. Listen for the ball to go in.
How many times have you raced to the first tee while your partners are already there tapping their toes anxiously. A rushed greeting, tee it up and whack, straight into the trees. Chip it out duff it into the bunker, 2 more shots out of the bunker, 3 putts and before you know it an 8 on the first and you've ruined your round and your day. Give yourself a chance by hitting a few balls before you play to loosen the muscles necessary to swing the golf club. If you still can't find the time to hit a few balls then swing 2 golf clubs together. The added weight of the extra club will help loosen you up. No professional sportsperson plays or competes without some form of warm-up. You should be enjoying your day on the course so warm-up first and give yourself a chance.
Nothing sets the mood better than a sweetly timed drive down the middle of the fairway. The driver is the longest club in the bag so you have to widen your stance by a few cms. This will give you a more solid base to swing from. The ball is teed up so you want to catch it slightly on the upswing. You do this by moving the ball forward in your stance opposite the instep of your left foot. Now keep your grip light and take the club back low and slow. Good rhythm and timing is the secret to consistent driving.
Hitting the ball fat or heavy is normally the result of swaying off the ball on the backswing and then not moving your weight back to the left side on the downswing causing you to hit behind the ball. If you're having trouble swaying off the ball try to keep your right knee firm but flexed and in the same position throughout the backswing as well as keeping your weight on the inside of your right foot. To help you get a feel for this put a ball underneath the outside of right foot and hit some shots. This will give you the feel you need to stop swaying off the ball and help you hit more solid iron shots.
Take enough club
I have been asked many times what one piece of advice would I give amateur golfers and it is definitely, take more club. Everyone remembers the time they hit that perfect shot and how far the ball went. The ploblem is they think that it is how far they should hit the ball all the time. I would like a dollar for every time I have watched an amateur partner in a pro-am hit a perfectly good shot only to see it come up short of the green. This normally results in a bogey then he stands wondering what's wrong with his game when all that was wrong was he didn't use enough club. Forget your ego. It's better to take one more club and be putting for birdie than chipping from the front of the green.