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Hitting From Under the Lip of a Bunker

Learn how to get the ball out of the lip of a bunker.Stuck Under the Lip

Most of you reading this article are not in love with bunker shots. The majority of you fear them and a small minority of you may be o.k. with them simply because you know you can usually get them out. Very few of you however, if any, have the comfort of a tour pro knowing you can not only get the ball out, but you can control where it lands and how it spins. Bunkers simply are a challenging shot for the average player. Unfortunately, to add insult to injury, there are several really poor lies you can get in a bunker that can make getting the ball out extremely difficult.

Nothing More Than a Bad Break

In most cases, your ball will be sitting up nicely in the middle of the bunker (provided the players before you have raked the sand like they were supposed to when they exited). Other than landing in a foot print, challenging lies you may see include, uphill, downhill and sidehill lies, but even worse, buried balls and balls stuck under the lip. When a ball lodges under the lip it is simply nothing more than a bad break. We all get them and unfortunately there's nothing we can do about it, but suck it up, take our medicine and do our best to just get it out of the bunker somehow. This is definitely a situation where you don't want to try to be a hero, or even hit a perfect shot. The best you can do is get it out of the bunker on the first attempt. Keep things in perspective and don't get too caught up in getting the ball close to the pin. Focus rather on getting it out so you don't have to hit the shot a second time. Following these simple steps can make getting it out on your first attempt a no brainer:

  • Establish Good Footing - When the ball is under the front lip of the bunker you are usually going to be more braced and balanced with one foot out of the bunker and one foot in. However you have to do it, get your feet solid so you won't slip and comfortable so you can make a fairly full swing.
  • Align With the Slope - It is imperative that your hips and shoulders are running parallel with the slope. In the case of having the ball under the front lip of the bunker you would want to have your left side higher than your right side (for a right handed player). This is so that you will also swing along the slope. The last thing you want to do is lean left and swing down steeply into the up slope. This steep angle of attack will hood your clubface forcing the ball to shoot out low. We need a more shallow angle of attack in this case.
  • Open the Face - Not many players are comfortable looking down at a wide open face, but it's so important in the bunker. The first and foremost reason is that it allows us to use the bounce on the back of the clubhead to skip through the sand. In the case of being buried under the lip it also allows the loft we need to shoot the ball out vertically over the edge.
  • Swing Hard - On any bunker shot, not just this one, decelerating is the kiss of death. When you decelerate you will dump your club into the sand too early. This makes you hit the shot fat with too much sand and the ball will barely come out if at all. We need to stay aggressive and create speed that will help fire the ball up into the air.
  • Abbreviate the Finish - When dealing with a steep lip it's a good idea to leave your clubhead in the sand and not follow through. A sharp overhanging edge can wreak havoc on the tendons of your writs and hands if you slam into it aggressively. Just be careful to survey your situation and make a decision as to whether or not it's safe to follow through. Regardless, don't decelerate and stay committed all the way through the strike.

Proper Position is Half the Battle

Positioning yourself is half the battle as you can see. As long as you adjust your stance, clubface and body alignment to the awkward lie your chances of shooting the ball out of the bunker are pretty darn good. Don't let this trouble shot intimidate you. Get set up correctly and stay aggressive. Worst case is you'll have a longer putt than you desire, but at least you'll be out of the bunker.

The Situation:

Your ball has lodged under the lip of the bunker and you are trying to figure out how to get out.

The Solution:

Note that your set up is the most important part of getting the ball out when it's buried under the lip of a bunker. Follow the 5 steps I listed above by opening your clubface, establishing a solid footing, aligning yourself with the slope, swinging hard and abbreviating your finish. Keep in mind that your number one goal is to simply get the ball out and somewhere onto the green so you don't have to hit a second shot.

Maria Palozola

Maria Palozola is a member of the LPGA and has participated in multiple LPGA Tour events. She has provided instruction to thousands of students in the past 20+ years and has won multiple teaching awards from the LPGA, Golf Digest, and Golf Magazine including being ranked as one of the top 50 female instructors in the world.

Who is Maria Palozola?
- Top 50 LPGA Instructors in the World
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