You probably already know the basics of hitting a greenside bunker shot: Dig in your feet, play the ball forward of center in your stance, open the clubface before gripping the club, and make contact with the sand an inch and a half behind the ball. But certain bunker lies require a little extra effort to get the ball on the green. I'll show you a few of my favorite "feel" drills to help you escape when your ball is on a steep upslope, a downslope, or in wet sand. Practice these drills, and then remember the feels when you play. You'll be the best bunker player in your foursome.
TOSS SAND OVER YOUR SHOULDER [#image: /photos/55ad9781b01eefe207f7a9b3]|||Severe Upslope|||
With the ball on an upslope in a bunker, the common mistake is to swing as if it were on a flat lie. That causes the club to bury in the sand after impact, and the ball barely moves. Instead, angle your body so your shoulders, hips and eyeline are parallel to the slope--digging your back foot into the sand more than your front foot will help. Play the ball more forward in your stance, and make sure you still hit behind it (above, left). Don't stop at impact: Swing through the sand to a full finish. A great drill is to make swings on an upslope in the sand without a ball. Try to throw some sand over your left shoulder (above, right). This will ingrain the feeling of swinging up the slope, rather than sticking the clubhead into it.
TAKE A WALK
Just like on the uphill bunker shot, you have to match your shoulders, hips and eyeline to the slope--digging in your front foot more than your back will help. Play the ball in the middle of your stance, and hinge your wrists early in the backswing. Then swing the clubhead down the slope, contacting the sand behind the ball (right, top). Miss any one of these steps, and you'll likely skull it over the green. To get a feel for this shot, practice on a downslope, swinging through the sand without a ball. As your club contacts the sand, release your back leg, as if you're about to walk down the hill (right, bottom). This will help keep your clubhead going with the slope.
3. WET SAND
BLAST THE POKER CHIP
The heaviness of wet sand prevents you from playing a standard bunker shot. Instead of a U-shape swing, you need more of a V, where the clubhead enters the sand closer to the ball and takes less sand (below, left). Set about 70 percent of your weight on your front foot, and position the ball just forward of center in your stance. Open the face of your wedge slightly, and hinge your wrists abruptly going back. To help you master this shot, drop a poker chip or similar object in wet sand, and practice hitting it out (below, right). Because of the chip's light weight and low profile, you can't hit too far behind it or dig too deep and still get it out.
TAKE A CLINIC EVERY MONTH
To see Jason Guss and other top teachers demonstrate their best tips, sign up for the Golf Digest Clinic video series. You'll get an hour of instruction from a new teacher monthly. Guss covers the short game. Price: $9.99 a month, and you can opt out at any time. Click here to get started.
JASON GUSS is lead instructor for the Rick Smith Golf Academy in Gaylord, Mich.