Harrington’s Superb Up-And-Down From The Bunker

Aaron Ungvarsky

Aaron Ungvarsky

PGA of America Professional, SwingU Instructor

Any golfer walking towards a ball in poor lie has a right to be frustrated, but what separates the pros from the amateurs is the next series of thoughts.

The amateur is going to become overwhelmed with what can go wrong and the stockpile of strokes they will collect on what should have been an easy hole. The professional however, will immediately get to work analyzing and working out what needs to go right, and the best plan of action to minimize the chances of mistakes and escaping with a low score on the hole.

The shot we see Padraig facing on the par-3 8th hole at Kingsbarns is a perfect example. The ball got a bad kick and ended up very close to the back lip of the bunker, leaving no room for a normal stance or swing. Here is what you can focus on executing when facing a similar lie instead of worrying about what can’t happen.

Get Level

  • This shot requires you to make a stance that sets your hips and shoulders as close to level with the downslope of the bunker. The fact that you will need to have your right leg (for the right-handed golfer) out of the bunker here actually helps! Place your right foot as far back as needed to bring your hips level with the sand and make sure to keep the stance square to slightly closed.

Stay Square

  • Normally, we look to open up the stance a bit in the bunker. With this shot we need a steep angle of descent to get down into the sand behind the ball and avoid the back lip of the bunker at the same time. A square or slightly closed stance makes it easier to lift the the club on the way back and chop down and through impact. If we were to be open, the chances are our shoulders would be higher than the slope of the bunker and we would hit a thin shot – not ideal!

Rehearse The Shot

  • After building what you think is an ideal stance, back your body up a few inches and take some practice swings. While doing this feel the out to in and slightly over-the-top swing into impact. Also, and most importantly ensure the backswing and downswing you want to make can clear the back lip of the bunker.

NOTE: remember not to hit any sand during the practice swings. The last thing many players forget is to add as much knee bend as possible to find the right level and to swing aggressively through the sand into the ball.

The awkward lie often leaves players feeling accomplished just making a swing and they forget they still need to move the ball out of the bunker and close to the flag if possible.