Choosing the Best Club for Greenside Bunker Shots – Part Two
by John D. Hobbins, Greenside Golf Academy
If you find yourself in a greenside bunker, there are a variety of clubs you could choose to get your ball out. The key here is knowing which one to use, and you could choose any of your wedges including the pitching wedge. The distance from the ball to the landing area will be a factor.
Other factors include:
- the lie of the golf ball
- the texture of the sand
- the amount of roll you want after the ball lands
- the height necessary to clear the lip of the bunker
Once you select the club, you’ll need to determine how much backswing and through swing are necessary. These two elements will help you control the distance.
Bunker shots are one of the few in golf that don’t necessitate club-ball contact. To find the correct ball position relative to your feet, determine the low point in in your swing. Your ball position should be 2″-4″ forward of this low point. You can find the low point in your swing during your practice sessions.
As you execute your forward swing motion, strike the sand at the low point. The energy absorbed by the sand will lift the ball out of the bunker and onto the green.
The distance you want the ball to go is a huge factor in the club choice you’ll need to make. For example, longer bunker shots require more carry and a club with lower loft is recommended: The pitching wedge would be used for the longest shot and the lob wedge for the shortest shot.
An important characteristic of every wedge is the amount of bounce on the sole of the club. Bounce is simply the angle on the bottom sole of the club from the back edge to the leading edge. Wedge manufacturers offer heel and toe grinds for greater playability
I tend to use more bounce on new sand that appears fluffy (high bounce) and less bounce on a tighter and more compact sand (low bounce).
I utilize four wedges in my short game:
- Pitching Wedge with 46 degrees of loft
- Gap Wedge with 51 degrees of loft and 6 degrees of bounce
- Sand wedge with 56 degrees of loft and 12 degrees of bounce
- Lob Wedge with 60 degrees of loft and 8 degrees of bounce
A proper set-up will help you achieve the desired result (see my April 3 blog post).
An example of a great bunker player to study
I have followed and filmed PGA Tour Professional Tom Pernice Jr. for years. Tom is recognized as having one of the best bunker games on any professional tour and he’s a phenomenal short game player.
His coach/instructor is James Sieckmann — known as “Sieck” to his friends — who is in my opinion the best short game coach/instructor on the planet. I have been to Omaha and worked with “Sieck” and will do so again. [As an aside, I would like to say that the nicest people in America live in Omaha, Nebraska].
In the video below, Tom Pernice Jr. discusses how he plays various clubs. Keep in mind that Tom has made his bunker game one of the best on tour. Watch closely and follow Tom’s advice and your bunker shots will improve.
In the next blog posting I’ll talk about how to play these shots and what you should consider when making decisions on which shot to play.
Should you care to share this with your friends feel free to do so, and encourage them to subscribe to the Greenside Academy Blog. If you have any suggestions for future topics please let me know.