Most golfers consider the 20- to 40-yard greenside bunker shot the game’s most difficult. This situation can have you penciling in a double-bogey in no time. Why are these shots are so hard? Because you must be incredibly precise, striking the sand right next to the ball instead of a couple of inches behind it, as you would with a shorter bunker shot. This closer-to-the-ball contact creates an explosion strong enough to propel your ball all the way to the pin. Just one problem: At impact, your margin for error is tiny. If you hit too far behind the ball with a sand wedge, you won’t create enough energy to go the distance. And if you make contact with the ball first…well, good-bye, Mr. Spalding.
The good news is that in shallower hazards, you have options. Try a safer, easier technique, a shot you already have down pat. Hit it fat! The chunk-and-run is popular on Tour, because it’s a much less dangerous way to make the ball travel long distances from sand. Take a less-lofted club and “chunk” the shot, hitting several inches behind the ball. This deadens impact and creates less backspin, which in turn lets your ball run all the way to the pin once it hits the green. Oh, and your margin for error at contact is now huge, which makes this a pressure-proof play.
Here are the key steps:
1. ADJUST YOUR SETUP
Grab your 8- or 9-iron and settle into your normal bunker address. Barely open the face—just enough to keep the clubhead from digging into the sand (but not so much that it can slide under the ball).
2. MISS BIG
Make your backswing about half as long as normal. As you swing down, aim for a spot a good four or five inches behind the ball. Your goal: Chunk the shot on purpose.
3. PUSH IT
Don’t slide the club under the ball as you do in your regular technique. Instead, use the club to “push” the sand toward the target, so that the ball exits the bunker ahead of the club. For a 20-yard chunk, stop your follow-through when your hands reach waist height. For a 40-yarder, swing to full finish.
4. WATCH IT RUN
Because your impact point is so far behind the ball, there’s not enough friction to create more than just a smidgen of backspin. If you do it correctly, the ball will hit and then run like a scared rabbit across the green and close to the hole. Experiment a little. Try it with a 7-iron. With some practice, you’ll be chunking your way to a new best score.