Downhill bunker shots - Chase it on out
by Kevin Smeltz
Any time you find yourself in this sort of position in a greenside trap, the only way to make a controlled recovery is to settle your weight firmly on your forward leg and then keep it there as you utilise a good wrist and arm action to avoid the back lip and then ‘chase’ the clubhead down the slope through impact.
One of the most important aspects of hitting this shot is the proper positioning of the ball. That might seem obvious but almost more than any other shot I see players placing the ball in the wrong position. Far too many players play the ball back in their stance.
Keep in mind, also, that this shot will fly on a much lower trajectory than a standard shot from a level lie – factor that in to your visualisation of the shot and where you intend to land the ball on the green for a safe recovery. After that, it’s all about developing the technique that enables you to ‘chase’ the clubhead down the slope, as I am here in this main image.
The crossover of the wrists confirms the full release of the clubhead all the way through the sand and on into the follow-through. Note that my focus remains on the impact zone in the sand – my head has been still throughout. Study the sequence and you can see that the stance/body position has been consistent from the set up until well after impact. That’s one of the secrets to playing this type of shot and making precise contact with the sand.
Go with the flow: the most important lesson on any sort of uneven lie is don't fight it.
The onus is on you to adjust your stance/posture in such a way that you work with the conditions. So, in this case, settle the front foot into the sand for stability, and then plant your weight on that left side...
With your body stable, the key going back is to hinge your wrists sufficiently that the clubhead works up steeply to avoid the back lip.
Note that I have gripped well down the shaft – that assists you in working the club up quickly. There is barely any bodymotion here – it's hands and arms.
With the wrists essentially pre-setting the club in that early move (2), the upper body can then take over to complete the backswing.
This three-quarter position is as far as you ever need to go. My weight remains supported on that left leg – there is no shifting of weight in this swing – the left thigh braced for balance.
Approaching the ball, your focus must be 100% on the point in the sand at which you intend to deliver the club.
Clearly, the upper body is rotating to clear the path for the hands and arms to swing the clubhead down the slope – 'chase' the club down into the sand and beneath the ball.