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Advanced Golf Lesson: The Plugged Bunker Lie

Hitting From a Plugged Bunker Lie
by David Lee

One of the many strange things about the brain is how it perceives things - and “plugged-lie” bunker shots are one of those issues that most people see backwards from the way they should. A ball buried in the sand can be hit from the bunker with no more effort than when the ball is sitting on a clean lie. Normal perception and instinct tells us that we need to “dig” the ball out of a buried lie. In reality, if the player tightens the arms in an effort to “force” the ball from a plugged lie, the tension increase in the arms diminishes the core rotation, reducing the foot-pounds that move through impact, and lessens the likelihood of getting the shot out of the bunker. Just as with a normal sand shot, proper technique requires that the arms start down in a state of pure dead-fall, and the turn of the body “excavates” both the sand and the ball from the bunker. In a typical trap shot, with the ball sitting on top of the sand, the club undercuts the ball to a greater degree, imparting more spin - and it stops quickly upon hitting the green. When the ball is buried, however, the undercutting effect is diminished, and the sand behind the ball pushes it out of the bunker with less spin. Since the carry-to-roll ratio is reduced, hitting from a buried lie actually takes less of a swing to cover an equivalent amount of ground.

When hitting any bunker shot, clean lie or buried, the most important thing to remember is to turn the body completely past the intended target on the follow-through. This is the “insurance policy” for having lesser ball compression due to the fact that in the impact zone, the club contacts the sand instead of the ball.

Remember that no greenside bunker shots require a weight shift, and are therefore played with as much weight as possible of the left side, even though the feet are set farther apart (than for a pitch) to ensure that the bottom of the swing-arc is beneath the ball. Oftentimes, when the ball is plugged in the face of a bunker, it is necessary to significantly open the stance in order to keep the weight on the front leg. This eliminates the need to “push” from the rear leg in an effort to clear the follow-through. If the ball is on an extreme uphill lie, play the shot with a less-lofted club to offset the unintentional loft increase created by opening the stance (and the clubface) to accommodate the slope. Otherwise, the shot may come up short of the hole. Opening the stance allows the player to turn as level as possible through impact.

Here is a video of this lesson.