Situation: You hit your approach shot into a greenside bunker, and your sand play is the weak link in your game.
Common mistake: Because you’re a poor bunker player, your goal is to simply get the ball anywhere on the green, but “anywhere” is usually Threeputtville.
The right play: Use your pitching technique to re-learn how to escape bunkers with a shot that you can play with some control.
1. Locate a spot in the sand two inches behind the ball and treat that as the middle of your stance. Aim directly at the flag and open the clubface slightly to add more bounce. Move your hands ahead of the clubhead, and shift your weight so that it favors your left side.
2. Before you swing, determine the amount of power it’s going to take to get the ball to the hole. A good rule of thumb is that the ball will fly roughly a third as far as a normal pitch shot. So if you have a 20-yard bunker shot, treat it like a 60-yard pitch shot.
3. Make your normal pitch-shot swing, but remember not to flip the ball up — trust the open face to produce plenty of loft. Hit your spot in the sand about two inches behind the ball with the sole of your sand wedge (where the bounce is), not the leading edge.
4. Keep your hands ahead of the club at impact and swing through the shot so that your hands finish high, with your arms extended out toward the target. If you can throw sand out of the bunker, your ball also will fly out and toward the flag.