Getting into the correct posture, and maintaining that position through impact, is important to hitting a good bunker shot. But in many cases, holding that posture (knees significantly bent, hips and shoulders open to the target) is difficult for amateurs who have weak muscles in their thighs, hips and butt.
"They don't just need stabilizing strength to hold that position. They also need strength to swing the club correctly from this awkward stance," says Mark Verstegen, founder of the Athletes' Performance training centers and author of Core Peformance Golf.
Here are three exercises Verstegen says will help make you a better bunker player.
1. Lateral Squat, Low
Get into a semi-squat stance (knees bent, hips back) with your feet well outside shoulder width. Shift your weight from side to side by bending into one hip and knee while straightening the other leg. Keep your chest up, hips back and toes forward throughout. Do two sets of 10 reps each way.
2. Quadruped Oblique Crunch
Start on your hands and knees, back flat. Touch the left side of your head with your left hand. Rotate your upper body so your elbow points skyward, and hold for two seconds. Rotate your torso toward the ground (elbow pointing at your right knee); hold for two seconds. Do two sets of 10 reps on each side.
3. Mini-Band External Rotation
Place a stretch band around your legs, just above the knee. Standing in a semi-squat position, move your knees inward and outward while keeping your feet flat on the floor. Do 10 reps in, 10 out; two sets. (Note: Two Mini Flat bands are $10 from coreperformance.com.
SORE? IT COULD BE ARTHRITIS
If you're really sore the morning after golf, but the pain subsides when you hit the gym or play golf again, you might have the same disease as Phil Mickelson: psoriatic arthritis.
As many as two million Americans suffer from it, says Dr. Gary Solomon, a New York City-based rheumatologist. It's often misdiagnosed as tendonitis (inflammation of the tendons around a joint) and shouldn't be confused with osteoarthritis (damage to the cartilage in joints from overuse).
"With psoriatic arthritis, the tendons, joint and cartilage might be normal, but the tissue around the joint is inflamed. You're uncomfortable when resting. But when the area gets warmed up, it feels better."
If this sounds like you, go see a doctor. The good news is the pain is treatable with medication. Mickelson, for example, takes Enbrel.
START A GOLF GYM
Experts at the World Golf Fitness Summit in Orlando in November agreed three must-haves are 1) resistance tubing; 2) a physio ball; and 3) some lightweight dumbbells. "You can get a lot done with just that," says Golf Digest fitness expert Randy Myers. You can find this equipment at power-systems.com.