Get Out In One Swing
When it comes to greenside bunkers, the problem with most golfers is plain old fear. They see their ball down in the sand, and they might as well be staring into a pit full of snakes. And their swing confirms it: Short, tight, quitting at the ball.
How you handle your fear is a personal thing, but be aware of your heart rate and the tension level in your hands and arms. For the swing itself, focus on one thought: Hit the sand, and follow through (see photo).
Play the ball forward in your stance, just inside your front heel, to make sure you catch the sand first. Then swing back about three-quarters, and accelerate the club down and through. You want the club to hit the sand two to three inches behind the ball, but don't get stuck on that thought. Just imagine you're throwing a patch of sand onto the green with the ball in the middle. To do that, keep the club moving.
Not sure what to think about over your tee shots? Here's a great one: Finish your turn. Focusing on a good windup will keep you relaxed and help you control your tempo. I see a lot of players whipping the club back too fast or, even worse, whipping it down before they get anywhere near the top. A good goal is to try to turn your left shoulder behind the ball. If you do that, you've made a good rotation--and you're ready to swing down.
BUTCH HARMON, a Golf Digest Teaching Professional, runs the Butch Harmon School of Golf at Rio Secco, in Henderson, Nev.