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The Wedge Guy: 5 indisputable rules of bunker play
Let’s try to cover the basics of sand play – the “geometry and physics” at work in the bunkers – and see if we can make all of this more clear.
First of all, I think bunkers are among the toughest of places to find your ball. We see the tour players hit these spectacular bunker shots every week, but realize that they are playing courses where the bunkers are maintained to PGA standards, so they are pretty much the same every hole and every week. This helps the players to produce the “product” the tour is trying to deliver – excitement. Of course, those guys also practice bunker play every day.
All of us, on the other hand, play courses where the bunkers are different from one another. This one is a little firmer, that one a little softer. So, let me see if I can shed a little light on the “whys and wherefores” of bunker play. I’ve always challenged the old adage, “bunker shots are easy; you don’t even have to hit the ball.” I challenge that because bunker shots are the ONLY ones where you don’t actually try to hit the ball, so that makes them lie outside your norm.
Let’s start with a look at the sand wedge; they all have a sole with a downward/backward angle built into it – we call that bounce. It’s sole (no pun intended) function is to provide a measure of “rejection” force or lift when the club makes contact with the sand. The more bounce that is built into the sole of the wedge, the more this rejection force will affect the shot. And when we open the face of the wedge, we increase the effective bounce so that this force is increased as well.
The most basic thing you have to assess when you step into a bunker is the firmness of the sand. It stands to reason that the firmer the texture, the more it will reject the digging effect of the wedge. That “rejection quotient” also determines the most desirable swing path for the shot at hand. Firmer sand will reject the club more, so you can hit the shot with a slightly more descending clubhead path. Conversely, softer or fluffier sand will provide less rejection force, so you need to hit the shot with a shallower clubhead path so that you don’t dig a trench.
So, with these basic principles at work, it makes sense to remember these “Five Indisputable Rules of Bunker Play”:
- Firmer sand will provide more rejection force – open the club less and play the ball back a little to steepen the bottom of the clubhead path.
- Softer sand will provide less rejection force – open the club more and play the ball slighter further forward in your stance to create a flatter clubhead path through the impact zone.
- The ball will come out on a path roughly halfway between the alignment of your body and the direction the face is pointing – the more you open the face, the further left your body should be aligned.
- On downslope or upslope lies, try to set your body at right angles to the lie, so that your swing path can be as close to parallel with the ground as possible, so this geometry can still work. Remember that downhill slopes reduce the loft of the club and uphill slopes increase the loft.
- Most recreational golfers are going to hit better shots from the rough than the bunkers, so play away from them when possible (unless bunker play is your strength).
So, there you go – the five undisputable rules of bunker play.
As always, I invite all of you to send in your questions to be considered for a future article. It can be about anything related to golf equipment or playing the game – just send it in. I need your input to keep writing about things you want to know.
The Wedge Guy: Making the short ones
One of the most frustrating things in golf has to be missing short putts. I’m talking about putts under six feet for the most part here, but particularly those inside of four. You hit a great approach to set up a short birdie…and then miss it. Or you make a great pitch or chip to save par — or even bogey — and it doesn’t go in.
When we face any short putt, several things happen to get in the way of our success. First, because we feel like we “have” to make this, we naturally tense up, which mostly manifests in a firmer hold on the putter, maybe even the proverbial “death grip” (appropriately named). That firmer hold is generally concentrated in the thumbs and forefingers, which then tightens up the forearms, shoulders and everything else. So the first tip is:
- Lighten up. When you take your grip on the putter, focus on how tight you are holding it, and relax. Feel like you are holding the putter in the fingers, with your thumbs only resting lightly as possible on the top of the putter. To see the difference, try this: while you are sitting there, clench your thumb and forefinger together and move your hand around by flexing your wrist – feel the tension in your forearm? Now, relax your thumb and forefinger completely and squeeze only your last three fingers in your hand and move it around again. See how much more you are able to move? Actually, that little tip applies to all your shots, but particularly the short putts. A light grip, with the only pressure in the last three fingers, sets up a smooth stroke and good touch.
The second thing that happens when we have a short putt is we often allow negative thoughts to creep in… “Don’t miss this”…“What if I miss it?”…“I have to make this”…all those put undue pressure on us and make it that much harder to make a good stroke.
So, the second tip is:
- Chill out. Just allow yourself a break here. You have hit a great shot to get it this close, so allow yourself to believe that you are going to make this. Relax, shake out the nerves, and think only positive thoughts while you are waiting your turn to putt. And you know what? If you do miss it, it’s not the end of the world. It’s just one shot. So chill out and have fun…and make more short putts.
Finally, we often tend to get so focused on “just make a good stroke” that we get all wrapped up in mechanical thoughts. Forget those. Focus your vision intently and completely on the target. Most short putts are pretty darn straight, or maybe just on or outside the high side. My favorite thought on these putts comes from a favorite movie, The Patriot.
- Aim small, miss small. Early in the movie, Gibson’s character took his two very young sons and several rifles and went to rescue his older son. He coached them to “Remember what I told you?” and the son replied “Yes sir. Aim small, miss small.” That’s great advice on short putts. Instead of focusing your eyes on the hole, pick a specific spec of dirt or grass in the back edge, or inside one lip or the other – on whatever line you want the putt to start. Don’t just look at the hole…focus intently on that very specific spot. That intensifies your visual acuity and allows your natural eye-hand coordination to work at its very best.
So, there you have the three keys to making more short putts:
- Lighten up
- Chill out
- Aim small, miss small
I hope this helps all of you make more of them.
More from the Wedge Guy
- The Wedge Guy: Are you making the game too hard?
- The Wedge Guy: What’s in a name?
- The Wedge Guy: Method or feel?
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Dec 18, 2018 at 10:36 pm
I like the analysis here…there’s not enough of an emphasis put into staying in the shot with the torso.
If you clear well with the lower body and stay in the shot with your spine angle you can have this sort of look.
Well done and great selection of videos!
Dec 18, 2018 at 3:59 pm
Check out the swing teachings of TN Hall of Fame golfer and former PGA tour player Bobby Greenwood.
Dec 17, 2018 at 8:58 am
to me this is about having passive arms and hands, using the pivot and turn to swing the club. the guy who has EE they show is pulling the club down and swinging with his hands and arms.
Dec 15, 2018 at 5:02 pm
Total and utter bollix wrapped in a whole load of mierda is all I heard in the first 2 minutes of this video.
Wow. You mean to say that the arms are attached to the body via the shoulder and the clubs are attached to that, in his hands, and something has to happen for us to be able to hit the ball? Amazing. I never knew we even had to swing the club or anything for the ball to move.
What an idiotic analysis
Dec 15, 2018 at 7:21 am
I think to achieve what he calls the ‘trail side strike’ is a function of a) being able to clear the hips, early, a long way to the left, and b) being able to maintain posture ie. being bent over from the hips. Both of these moves are almost unique to young female and male professionals and high level amateurs. I would contend 85% of the GolfWRX membership (including myself) are physically incapable of making these moves.
Dec 16, 2018 at 1:50 pm
@mark, and you would be wrong.
‘Side on’, golf swing is easier to do than trying to hit with the hands or by straightening the right arm. The latter two, require timing that is impossible to repeat consistently, by any golfer.
Recognizing what is happening and teaching the method to achieve it are very different.
Dec 14, 2018 at 5:59 pm
Is this a repackaging of the Most Powerful Move in Golf?
Dec 14, 2018 at 4:23 pm
Juat another guy saying everyone else is wrong, I’m right.
Dec 14, 2018 at 6:18 pm
If EVERYONE else is telling you to get your arms in front of your body(sagittal plane)
and to square the clubface with your hands(muscles are in the forearms)
then YES, they are wrong.
Dec 14, 2018 at 12:16 pm
Can you elaborate what you mean by high left arm and keeping your trail side underneath and behind?
Dec 14, 2018 at 12:18 pm
And you mainly showed driver swings. Is this an iron thing as well?
Dec 16, 2018 at 9:16 pm
Elevate your left scapula at address and leave it there through the swing. Presto… your left arm is elevated and you have increased the range of motion, sufficient for a full shoulder turn in BS and sufficient range of motion increase to allow wide open lower body while upper body is impacting the ball , “side on”.
ref. The Hogan Manual of Human Performance: GOLF, 1992
Dec 14, 2018 at 11:48 am
This may be right, but I foresee a lot of shanks for those trying to add this to their swing…
Dec 14, 2018 at 9:34 am
Martin is by far the strongest teacher not recognized in the world!! Probably political BS because he verbalizes things differently than what we are inundated with across all media’s. If you really want to get better at golf emerce yourself with as much information Martin echoes!
Ken Kapcia, PGA Professional
Dec 14, 2018 at 8:32 am
Maybe one of the best instructional explanations I’ve seen in a looong time …..
Dec 20, 2018 at 5:14 pm
Explanation of what?
Just adds more confusion to existing abyss of BS confused with golf instruction.
To transmit maximum power transmission (mechanics), slack needs to be taken out.
So much for counter winding, left arm high etc etc. It all boils down to taking out slack from the transmission of power. Its no different that the rollerchain drive on a bicycle.
The tension and slack has to be correct to maximize power transmission.