Lesson Tee: Jeff Coston

Don’t get trapped in the bunker, there are ways to get out

I was giving a lesson in the bunker to one of my female high school students. She has taken ownership of her game, practice technique, wedge play, putting and yes bunker play. We stepped in that bunker and she showed me what she had. Her execution made me smile. Brooke Brannigan, well done!

Bunker play, if ever considered, is an after thought. Golfer’s of most levels consider the bunker a trap. Mentally, due to lack of practice and understanding, they are trapped. The bunker can be an opportunity. Lets look at a few ways to step out of being trapped in the bunker and into better bunker play.

One essential key to better bunker play is using the bounce of the sand wedge effectively. Splash the sand with the flange or bounce in the leading edge just like striking an iron shot off the grass. An effective way to practice this is by drawing a line in the sand and practice striking in front of that line with the club bounce.

The more you open the clubface the more bounce is produced. Many golfers do not open the clubface enough in the bunker. Next, stand further away from the ball at address. This also produces more effective bounce. Lowering your hands at address will enhance the bounce also.

Lean your upper body to the left with 70% of your weight on your left side. Keep the buttons of your shirt on top of the ball at address and throughout the swing. Not to the right of the ball as in a regular golf shot. This chest/buttons on top of the ball or even left of the ball will help chipping and pitching also! These principles will enhance your bunker play.

Many times I place a 2 x 4 (wood board) in the bunker level with the sand. I have my students practice striking the board with the bounce of the club. (photo 1) Then I have them put some sand on that board; striking the board and splashing the sand. They do this standing further from the ball with a wider stance; lower hands and leaning left.

Finally, I have them put a golf ball on top of that sand on the 2 x 4. They strike the board; splash the sand and the ball softly lands on the green. This exercise helps train striking the sand with the bounce of the wedge.
When in the bunker we know the club head never actually strikes the ball. The force of the club through the sand propels the sand thus the ball on the green. I imagine a square around the golf ball. (photo 2) No matter the bunker shot, I take out the square of sand around the golf ball. Take out the square! Always! The bounce of the club takes out the square. That’s Jeff 3:3. Always the same point of entry. Always the same amount and depth of sand. Just more or less speed. Just more or less loft of the wedge at address. Always the same set up.

Just a note for experimentation. The wedge will always move the sand. The sand will give in to the wedge. Wet sand is not concrete, it will give. Get down and through the sand with the bounce of the wedge.

Jeff Coston is a 20-time Pacific Northwest PGA Player of the Year. He is a former PGA Tour player. He can be reached for appointment at Semiahmoo by calling 360-201-4590. Visit jeffcoston. com.