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What works for a tour professional won't work for the average female golfer because of her slower swing speed.
What works for a tour professional won't work for the average female golfer because of her slower swing speed. (Brandon Tucker/WorldGolf.com)

Bunker play tips designed especially for women or golfers with low club head speed

Kellie Stenzel, PGABy Kellie Stenzel, PGA,
Special Contributor

Do you struggle with your bunker play? This may be because you are being given the wrong information. The technique that a (usually) stronger man will use in a greenside bunker is often the kiss of death for most women golfers, who generally have a lower club head speed.

Have you been told to open your clubface? Open your body? Swing the club more up on the back swing? All of these suggestions work great for Vijay Singh and even Annika Sorenstam because these players generate tremendous speed. They don't work for the average female golfer, who cannot even begin to relate to this power game and would simply be happy to be able to get out of the bunker and onto the green most of the time.

Players with slower club head speed often struggle with bunker play. Because the sand acts as such a buffer between the club and the ball, it's necessary to generate a minimum of speed to be able to extract the ball along with some of the sand.

Bunker play tips

Set up so that you will be able to splash the sand:

* Hold your hands high on the grip of the club. By placing your hands toward the top of the handle, you maximize the length of your sand wedge, which will help it to be able to hit the sand firmly.
* Position your golf ball in line with the instep of your forward foot, just like a tee shot. Playing your ball more forward in your stance will help to position the ball later in the swing so that the club head will enter the sand before striking your golf ball.
* Dig your feet into the sand. Digging your feet into the sand also helps to lower the bottom of your swing and will help you to contact the sand before the ball and helps to ensure a nice long divot in the sand. A divot in the bunker is ideally 12 to 15 inches long.

The necessary adjustments for low club head speed players are:

* A square face at address. You will not want to open the face of the sand wedge since this will produce more loft and less distance and due to the fact that you do not generate a lot of speed for most bunker shots you will need all of the distance possible.
* A square stance. In other words, your feet should be parallel to the target line just as they are for a normal full swing. Due the fact that you will not open the club face to maximize the distance it won’t be necessary to open your stance.
* A little attitude with a full finish. Since the sand acts as such a buffer between the club face and the ball, it will be necessary for the low club head speed player to take what feels like a very full swing with a full finish. To ensure that the swing has all the speed that you are able to generate, you will lift your trailing foot so that your heel comes up as your body turns forward and as the foot rotates up to the toe.
* Change to a less lofted club for greater distance splash shots. If you don't generate a lot of swing speed you will find that your splash shot with your sand wedge won't travel far, maybe only eight to 10 yards. If this is the case you will need to change to a less lofted club, like a pitching wedge or a gap wedge, for your longer splash shots.

By having a plan that will work for your game and club head speed, you'll have more success. When you know how to handle a greenside bunker and you are less worried about going into one, you may be surprised how much less often you find yourself there.

- Kellie Stenzel, PGA, has been named by Golf Magazine as one of the Top 100 Teachers in America, and has been a Golf For Women Top 50 teacher since 1999. She has published three books: "The Women's Guide to Golf: A Handbook for Beginners," "The Women's Guide to Consistent Golf," and "The Women's Guide to Lower Scores." She is also rated by Golf Digest as one of the top teachers in New York.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Bunker shots

    Jeannie wrote on: Sep 6, 2016

    Thank you so much for these hints. I have been struggling recently with bunker shots and as I'm now 71 I don't think my club head speed will ever get faster. My husband tries to help but as you point out, his strength and speed are completely different. I look forward to trying this out.


  • bunker play for women

    beverley wrote on: Aug 23, 2009

    I will try these tips tomorrow in comp.the proof is in the pudding I have always opened my sand wedge but never felt easy about this method.


      • RE: bunker play for women

        colette wrote on: Apr 29, 2011

        I tried to get out the bunker today just tuck sw and pw put myself in bunkers still could not get out been playing golf 28yrs handicap 30 have bee 21 I am 77yrs and play 3 to 4 times aweek Iam not enjoying my golf anmore but i dont want to really stop playing beening on my own it gets me out I use to be able to get out so i don't know what am doing wrong had lesson of pro 12months ago was not good
        yours faithfully Colette