Some golfers can admit to the fact that the main reason they are a high handicapper is because of bunkers.
If it’s still taking you more than one swing to get out of the bunker, it’s time to make a change in your game. Not all high handicappers can stick the ball close to the pin, but getting out of the bunker in one swing needs to happen every time.
Here are the best bunker drills you can use to increase confidence and performance and hit your target score.
1. Big Backswing Drill
One of my favorite drills for teaching high handicappers to get out of the bunker in one shot is the big backswing drill. When players hit their shots into green side bunkers, they often fear their ability to get the ball out of the sand.
With this fear comes a lack of confidence, which brings about a swing that includes some deceleration.
If you want to hit a good bunker shot, you must have plenty of acceleration and a big enough backswing. In addition, the finish should be high and complete.
How To Do The Big Backswing Drill
The big backswing drill is truly a simple drill that you can do in any greenside practice bunker. Take a few golf balls and your favorite current sand wedge down to the bunker. Put the golf balls in a spot in the center of the bunker, not on a slope.
Ensure that your setup is perfect and you are lined up toward your target.
Instead of taking a small backswing and trying to lift the ball out, take a big backswing and hit about an inch behind the ball. Continue that backswing speed through impact and get to a higher finish.
The first few times you do this, it may feel a bit awkward and inconsistent.
More than anything else, amateurs need to learn the mental side of playing these greenside bunker shots.
Learning to take these big swings with an open face and hit the sand behind the ball will only help you become a better player around the greens.
2. Line In The Sand Drill
Perhaps the most common bunker drill for high handicap golfers is the line in the sand drill.
The idea behind this drill is to teach players what the weight distribution, set up and overall mechanics of a greenside bunker shot look like.
Keep in mind this is not a drill for the fairway bunkers.
All you will need is a practice bunker, your wedge, and a few golf balls for this drill.
How To Do The Line in The Sand Bunker Drill
Find a practice bunker where you can work without any other golfer nearby. Setup with a golf ball in the sand and then draw a line back from that golf ball that extends a few feet. This is going to be your practice line.
Setup to this line as if it were the golf ball. You should have a slightly open face, and the ball should be a bit forward or center, closer to your lead leg.
In addition, it makes sense to have a little extra weight on the left side. Don’t exaggerate this feeling as it could end up in delofting your wedge. Simply put about 60% of the weight on the left leg.
Once you have your grip, stance, and set up in place, start taking swings where you do not hit a ball. Instead, you make a perpendicular line across impact with your wedge.
If you do this right, your line in the sand will look like a stack of lowercase “t’s.” This shows the club going into the sand before the line and coming out after the line. A quick session of this will ensure your mindset is right for the next bunker your ball ends up in.
My favorite way to do this drill is to take three swings using the line and then hit one ball. Continue this pattern until it starts to work!
3. Variation of Golf Clubs
The sand wedge is the club selection of choice for most golfers looking to get out of a hazard. However, it should not be the only club that you use. Different clubs have loft and spin characteristics that can help you manage the lie and the location of the pin.
The most common clubs to consider using out of the bunker include:
- Sand Wedge: best overall, typically around 56 degrees of loft, good ball flight, and mid to high spin.
- Lob Wedge: perfect for high lofted shots when the pin is too close, and there isn’t much room to work with.
- Gap Wedge or Approach Wedge: best for the longer greenside bunker shots where you can’t open the face quite as much.
- Pitching Wedge: when there is no lip on the bunker, and you have to go across the green, the pitching can get the trick done.
- Putter: yes, some golfers use a putter out of a greenside bunker. Make sure the lip is lower and the sand is more compact.
You have quite a few tools in your bag to get a golf ball out of a bunker, and learning these may help this part of the game feel a little less overwhelming.
How To Use Variation In Club Choice Drill
Find a practice bunker where you can vary the distance you have to the pin. Take three or four golf clubs with you into the bunker. It’s always best to vary the shots you hit, so it is more like golf course conditions.
I recommend taking three shots with the lob wedge, three with the sand wedge, three with the approach wedge, etc.
Repeat this process until you feel as though you have more than one solution for hitting out of a bunker.
When a player feels stuck with just one shot, it brings up a lack of confidence. Eliminate this by giving yourself more than one tool.