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Chase the Slope - Downhill Bunker Shots
David Whelen

Downhill trap shots are among the toughest in the book. But if you practise hitting pitch shots from a similar lie, you will quickly get a feel for the technique involved in playing them successfully.

Study the sequences over this article and I think that you will notice a striking (sic) similarity in the technique that is required to pitch a ball off a downhill lie and to recover from a similar lie in a green side bunker.

In each case, the secret is to adjust your set up position so that you counter the slope. Then its a matter of swinging the club down the line and through impact, chasing the ball forward.

Adjust your set-up, 'neutralise' the slope

The first thing you have to remember when you find your ball on a down slope - and this applies whether on grass or on sand - is that your set-up must strike a chord with the lie of the land.

You must prepare your body to go with the slope. Don't fight it. In taking your stance, make sure that your body weight falls comfortably on to your left side, and position your body accordingly, until your spine angle is perpendicular to the slope. In so doing, you prepare your body to swing in balance and in sympathy with the slope.

Weight remains on left side, swing follows slope

In the swing itself, the key is to leave your weight where you set it at address, and to focus on creating the swing with the arms and shoulders, hingeing the wrists naturally to set the club in the backswing and then releasing the club beneath the ball and down the slope beyond impact. That's the key.

Think about swinging the clubhead down the slope after the ball has gone and 'chase' it forward. As long as you do that, you will strike the bottom of the ball and loft it into the air. A down slope tends to deloft the clubface, so be prepared to get a little more run than normal on landing.

Think in terms of swinging the club down the slope after the ball has gone - 'chase' it forward.

Follow the same rules in the sand

Fear is the biggest problem for most amateurs when faced with this awkward lie in the back of a bunker. But if you practise hitting pitch shots off a down slope, as described above, you will develop both the technique (and confidence) to get the ball safely on the green. Follow exactly the same rules. First, adjust your set-up so that your weight falls on your left side and your spine is perpendicular to the slope. Play the ball just back of centre and open the face of

your sand-iron before finalising your grip. Then, once you are comfortable, focus on creating a fluent swing with your hands, arms and shoulders, keeping the lower body passive. As with the pitch shot, your weight stays where you put it at address and your overriding swing-thought through impact should be to 'chase the ball'. Release your right hand and swipe the clubface through the sand and down the slope as far as you can. At the finish, your body angles should again reflect the fact that this shot has been played off a down slope - i.e. leaning to the target, weight on the left side.

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