Bunker shots: There’s more than one kind of bunker on the golf course

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Bunker shots

Bunker shots. Brooke Henderson. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Bunker shots don’t need to be your enemy – they’re as much a part of most golf rounds as drives and chips and putts.

Bunker shots can befuddle even the most skilled golfers among us. Just consider Juli Inkster trying to escape that deep greenside bunker on the 16th hole at Lake Merced during the first round of the Mediheal Championship. We can all benefit from some tips when it comes to getting out of these pesky hazards.

I learned how to execute a basic bunker shot from Mr. Billy, an urbane Southern gentleman who had forgotten more about golf than I’ll ever know. One hot summer afternoon Mr. Billy took pity on me after he watched me flailing away at the sand, yet again. He took me to a deserted greenside bunker out on the back nine at my home course and in about 15 minutes cured my bunker shot yips.

Mr. Billy’s lesson

Mr. Billy had prepped the bunker for our instructional moment by making a row of 10 little mounds that ran across the middle of the bunker, parallel to the green. It wasn’t much of a bunker. Only a small lip and lots of fluffy sand. He gave me one instruction:

“Get in the bunker, line up with the first mound, and just hit the sand up onto the green. Take the whole mound of sand.”

I followed Mr. Billy’s instructions and sent a showering of sand up onto the green while he stood by and watched. All he said was, “Do it again.” So I stepped up to the next mound and sent more sand up onto the green. And again, and again, and again, until I’d demolished five of the ten little mounds.

When I attacked the sixth mound, a golf ball came out of the sand and landed on the green, along with the sand.

“Don’t worry about the ball. Just throw sand up on the green,” Mr. Billy told me.

It wasn’t exactly high tech instruction. There was no conversation about stance or keeping my hands in front of the club face, or not breaking my wrists, although in fact as I worked on getting the sand onto the green all those things began to fall into place.

When I’d demolished the tenth mound and had five golf balls sitting on the green Mr. Billy, who hadn’t broken a sweat, said “That’s how you get out of a bunker.”

With that wrap-up comment he turned and walked back to his office in the club house, leaving me standing in the bunker, dripping wet and covered with sand.

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