Bump and Run Bunker Basics

By David AllenNovember 7, 2009, 1:25 am
We know it's difficult to find time to practice during the week. When a Saturday or Sunday tee time rolls around, you're hoping to find some spark or productive swing thought that will help you break 100, 90, 80 or whatever your scoring goal may be.
With the weekend warrior in mind we created Bump and Run, a weekly Q&A with some of the game's top instructors. Each Friday, a teaching professional will occupy this space and answer questions directed at improving your game. This week it's Josh Zander, a teaching professional at Stanford University Golf Course and the Presidio Golf Club in Northern California.
Josh Zander head shotJOSH ZANDER
Teaching professional, Stanford University Golf Course, Palo Alto, Calif., and Presidio Golf Club, San Francisco


- Golf Digest's Top-20 Teachers
Under 40 (2007)
- Golf Digest's Top Teachers by State (2002-'09)
- 2003 Northern California PGA Section Teacher of the Year

 Web Site:

Stanford: 650-323-0944, Ext. 17; Presidio: 415-561-4661, Ext. 300

Zander, a former member of the Stanford University golf team, competed in the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links. He can frequently be found on the practice range at Stanford alongside one of the school's most famous pupils, Michelle Wie, or in the practice bunker trying to help one of his students escape the sand. Zander says amateurs would have a much easier time getting out of the bunker if they understood what the club, specifically the bounce, was designed to do.

'Every bunker shot is the not the same,' said Zander. 'Sometimes the sand is hard-packed, sometimes it's real fluffy or the ball is buried. You can't go about them all the same way.'

To submit a question to Zander or one of our teachers, please e-mail bumpandrun@thegolfchannel.com and check back every Friday to see if your question got answered. 

You made reference to the word bounce earlier. Just what exactly is bounce, and what is it designed to do?

Bounce is the angle between the clubhead's leading edge and trailing edge. If you hold the club up to eye level, so the shaft is straight up and down, you’ll be able to see how much lower the trailing edge is to the leading edge.

Understanding the bounce of the club is huge because if you know how the bounce works, and how it moves through the sand, then you can look at any lie and adjust accordingly. From a tight lie, you want to use less bounce so the club will dig; from a fluffy lie, you need more bounce because you want it to skid.

If you open the face more that will create even more bounce on the club than you currently have. A lot of clubs will have the degree of bounce written on them. For every degree you open the face you’re adding one more degree of bounce.

Every degree you lean the shaft forward, you’re decreasing the bounce by one degree. If the sand is really hard-packed – which is the case at many municipal courses – and you have a 60-degree club with seven degrees of bounce on it, what you want to do is lean the shaft forward at least seven degrees in order to get the bounce and leading edge on the same level. This way, the club will not skip across the hard-packed sand into the middle of the ball and skull it.

What is one of the biggest mistakes you see from amateurs out of the greenside bunker?

They get in the bunker and they open their stance 45 degrees, and then they open the clubface. Opening your stance causes an outside-to-in swing, creating a glancing blow. Opening the clubface increases the bounce, so if you’re in hard-packed sand you’re very likely to skull one, even if you make a good swing.

Zach Johnson blasts out of the greenside bunker.
Most PGA Tour players, like Zach Johnson, use a square stance from out of the bunker.
If you have a standard 56-degree sand wedge with 12 degrees of bounce on it, and you set up dead square with a square clubface, you’ll have 12 degrees of bounce. If you use the club the way it’s designed, it’s going to work pretty well for you. It’s when you start to get too fancy with it, opening the face way up and opening your stance, that you make it a lot more challenging than it has to be.

What causes the dreaded skulled shot?

Two things: No. 1, you have too much bounce on the club, which makes it skip off the sand into the middle of the ball; No. 2, the club is actually entering the sand too far behind the ball. If you take a divot out of the sand it’s usually six to eight inches long. After those six to eight inches the clubhead exits the sand, so if you hit a bunker shot that’s eight inches fat, the club is going to catch the ball on the way up. You’re actually skulling it by having hit too much sand before the ball.

Could you recommend a drill or tip to help amateurs overcome their fear of skulling the ball?

A great idea is to imagine a dollar bill under the ball. Let’s call it six inches long. Imagine the ball is in the middle of the dollar bill – you can draw the bill in the sand when practicing – and make the club enter two to three inches behind the ball, and exit two to three inches past it. If you can do this consistently, you’ll be in good shape.

One other thing people don’t understand is how much speed you need to hit good bunker shots. My formula is if you have a 10-yard bunker shot, you need to create enough speed to allow the ball to go 30 yards if you were hitting it from the grass. It’s about a 3 to 1 ratio. If I've got a 45-foot bunker shot, I look at it like, 'Okay, that’s 15 yards. How much do I want to fly the ball in the air? Okay, I want to fly it 10 of those yards. What’s my 30-yard swing from the grass?' I make a couple of practice swings through the air and that’s my swing. This formula is based on a decent lie in the sand. If you’re buried, you might have to swing a little harder; if the sand is firm, you don’t have to swing as hard.

Too often you see golfers leaving the club in the sand, out of fear of skulling the ball over the green. How does one stop this?

I always want my students to feel like their follow-through is longer than their backswing. It also goes back to how much you open the clubface. If you have 12 degrees of bounce on the club and you open the face another 15 degrees, that’s a ton of bounce. You could skull the ball or go right under it and hit it about a foot. If you squared up your stance, squared the face a bit, and swung in to in like a regular golf swing, you’d have a better chance of getting the ball out safely.

Let's get off the beach for one question. One of our readers writes in that he's starting to look up on his shots from time to time. He says it's causing him to lose 10 or more shots per round. How can he stop?

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Almost always when people say they’re looking up on a shot, it’s not so much that their head pops up, it’s that they’re changing their spine angle. If you look at any Tour player, their eyes are always following the ball; they don’t keep their head down past the shot. It may be down at impact, but then it releases with the shot.

If you keep your head down past impact, it locks your body up so you can’t turn and accelerate through the shot. Allow your head to release but maintain your spine angle

Here's a drill that will help you on your full-swing shots. Take your normal address position and place another ball down about two feet from the ball you’re hitting, or two feet outside of your target line. Make your normal swing, trying to get your left shoulder to point at the second ball on the backswing, and your right shoulder to point to it on the follow-through. You can do this without a club, too: Stick your arms out like an airplane, bend forward into your golf posture, and then point your left arm at the ball on your backswing, and your right arm at the ball in the follow-through. Stay in this imaginary two-foot zone and you'll maintain your spine angle and make solid contact.
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

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“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”